Women, in their first trimester of pregnancy, who are exposed to intense pre natal stress, like the death of a beloved one, runs a high risk of bearing children who can develop Schizoprenia.
Schizophrenia, a disabling condition associated with abnormal brain structure and function, is increasingly believed to begin in early brain development. Environmental factors, including those occurring during pregnancy, and susceptibility genes may interact to influence risk.
'The common conception that a mother's psychological state can influence her unborn baby is to some extent substantiated by the literature,' the authors said.
'Severe life events during pregnancy are consistently associated with an elevated risk of low birth weight and prematurity,' they added.
In the study the researchers used data from 1.38 million Danish births occurring between 1973 and 1995.
During the study period, mothers of 21,987 children were exposed to the death of a relative during pregnancy, 14,206 were exposed to a relatives' serious illness during pregnancy and 7,331 of the offspring developed schizophrenia.
The risk of schizophrenia and related disorders was approximately 67 percent greater among the offspring of women who were exposed to the death of a relative during the first trimester.
However, death of a relative up to six months before or any other time during pregnancy was not related to risk for schizophrenia in the child, nor was exposure to serious illness in a relative.
'Risk associated with exposure to a well-defined, objective stressful event confined to the first trimester of pregnancy suggests a number of possible mechanisms,' the authors said.
Chemicals released by the mother's brain in response to stress may have an effect on the fetus' developing brain. These effects may be strongest in early pregnancy, when protective barriers between the mother and fetus are not fully constructed.