Schizophrenia in pregnancy
Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that is associated with much stigma and misinformation. While some people with schizophrenia experience only one or a few episodes, for others it may remain a ongoing health condition. People with schizophrenia often also experience depression and/or anxiety.
How common is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is experienced by 1 in 100 people in the Australian population.
What causes schizophrenia?
There is no known single cause of schizophrenia but we do know about factors that make it more likely:
- Genetic factors — the risk increases to 10 in 100 if you have a parent with schizophrenia
- Biochemical factors — an imbalance of certain biochemical substances in the brain may be involved in development of schizophrenia
- Stress — stressful events often precede the onset of schizophrenia
- Alcohol and other drugs — harmful alcohol and drug use may trigger symptoms in people who are vulnerable to developing schizophrenia
What are the signs and symptoms?
The main symptoms of schizophrenia are:
- Delusions — false beliefs of persecution, guilt or grandeur, or being under outside control
- Hallucinations — these most commonly involve hearing voices
- Thought disorder — speech may be difficult to follow with no logical connection.
Other symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Lack of drive
- Thinking difficulties
- Blunted expression of emotions
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of insight.
Support in the antenatal period
Attending antenatal care is important if you have schizophrenia because relapse is common during pregnancy, especially if you have stopped taking medications. Your doctor or midwife can also give you information about nutrition and ceasing smoking, illicit substance use and alcohol intake in pregnancy.