The study published in PLOS Medicine revealed that infants born to parents with a psychiatric condition have a higher likelihood of preterm birth compared to those whose parents do not have such diagnoses. The risk of preterm birth is even higher when both parents have psychiatric illnesses.
The researchers analyzed data from live births to Nordic parents in Sweden between 1997 and 2016. They found that offspring of parents with psychiatric illnesses tended to have an earlier gestational age compared to those with non-diagnosed parents. Among babies born to parents without any psychiatric diagnosis, about 5.8% were born prematurely. However, a paternal diagnosis increased the rate to 6.3%, and a maternal diagnosis increased it further to 7.3%. The risk of preterm births rose to 8.3% when both parents had psychiatric diagnoses.
The study also highlighted that the risk was further elevated in cases where both mothers and fathers had multiple co-existing psychiatric disorders.
“Preterm birth can result in significant lifelong complications for the infant, and in my clinical experience, the mother has traditionally been held responsible for the events,” stated Michael Silverman, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn Mount Sinai and an author on the paper.
The findings indicate that children of parents with mental illnesses are at a heightened risk of being born prematurely, and both the mothers’ and fathers’ mental health play important roles in this risk.
“This new work demonstrates that the non-gestational biologic parent’s (the father’s) psychiatric history is also associated with the increased likelihood of obstetric outcomes traditionally attributed solely to the mother,” Silverman stated.
Preterm birth can lead to unfavorable health outcomes for newborns, and this research sheds light on the potential impact of parental psychiatric conditions on pregnancy outcomes. Understanding these associations is crucial for identifying at-risk populations and implementing targeted interventions to improve maternal and fetal health outcomes in cases involving psychiatric illnesses in parents.
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