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Maternal exposure to death of a first degree relative during first trimester of pregnancy increases risk of schizophrenia in offspring

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Does exposure of pregnant women to adverse life events increase risk of schizophrenia in offspring?


688 146 women giving birth in Denmark between 1 January 1973 and 30 June 1995 and identified through the Medical Birth Registry. Civil Registration records and the National Hospital Register were used to link mothers to records of their close relatives to determine exposure to deaths, diagnoses of cancer, heart attacks or strokes in first-degree relatives. Offspring were followed from age 10 years onwards until diagnosis of schizophrenia, emigration, loss to follow-up, death or end of study (30 June 2005).


Population study, Denmark; recruitment January 1973 to June 1995.

Risk factors:

Exposure during pregnancy to death or acute myocardial infarction, stroke, cancer (ICD-10 diagnosis) in spouse, other child, father, mother or sibling. Exposure date was the date of death or of first hospital admission that led to diagnosis. Pregnancy was defined as date of last menstrual period and timing of event was classified as: before pregnancy (⩽6 months prior to pregnancy); first trimester …

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  • Source of funding: Tommy’s the Baby Charity and the Stanley Medical Research Institute.


  • Competing interests: None.