- Mothers with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder may experience more pregnancy complications.
- Postpartum relapses may happen if treatment is discontinued during pregnancy.
- The pregnancy rates of women with a psychotic disorder have tripled in recent past decades.
- Reproductive health education and earlier treatment must happen to increase the chances of a fulfilling life.
It used to be that people with schizophrenia were not thought capable of living fulfilling lives, including raising children and starting families. But it appears this isn’t the case in recent times, with birthrates for women with schizophrenia tripling in the last few decades.
If you’re a woman who suffers from this disorder or if you are thinking about starting a family with one, what do you need to know?
Mothers living with schizophrenia disorders are more likely to be single mothers, relying on child welfare programs. Due to the cognitive impairments of the disorder and its instability, many women may be isolated from a social network that would, in turn, help the individual live and care for her child and family. Women with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder may be more reliant on governmental aid rather than the familial aid that would naturally come from a social support system.
Psychotic mothers are more likely to run into birth complications. There are health complications that may arise while treating the mental health condition itself. Mothers may seek to discontinue treatment for their psychotic disorder, such as withdrawing from antipsychotics, fearing harm to the newborn. Although antipsychotics aren’t necessarily a risk to a newborn baby, many women fear the lasting effects of the drugs on their children. If treatment is discontinued during pregnancy, mothers may be more at risk of experiencing postpartum psychosis. Psychotic mothers are also more likely to run into obstetric problems.
When researchers studied this demographic to assess the truth of these trends, 197 women with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder in Spain were used to test whether the trends of the reproductive outcomes were still true.
They found out that 39.1 percent of mothers with schizophrenia were single and were living with a “first-degree” family member (24.6 percent). Most (53.7 percent) of the women were receiving federal aid, and 81.1 percent of the mothers had an obstetric complication. Those who developed their disorder earlier in age were more likely to be single, and the researchers believe that it is due to the poorer prognosis, thus reducing quality of life earlier. Only about a quarter of the mothers experienced a planned pregnancy. Notably, the study showed that women with schizoaffective disorder versus schizophrenia were more likely to be mothers, even though the sample included 147 mothers with schizophrenia and 45 with schizoaffective disorder.
The study showed results against the trends as well, revealing only 2.2 percent required increased psychiatric care during pregnancy, and 9.9 percent required it postpartum. About 66.3 percent of the mothers received adequate social and family care, and 47.9 percent were cooperatively caring for their children with spouses.
The statistics only reveal the need for more proactive reproductive planning programs to prevent obstetric problems and unwanted pregnancies. The trend of able mothers having their own kids is only an upward one, however, and it is an indicator that advancements and early treatment for these conditions only improve the chances that people living with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder can live a fulfilling life.
Safont, G., Garriga, M., González-Rodríguez, A., Amoretti, S., Simón, O., Solè, E., ... & Bernardo, M. (2023). Maternity in women with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Spanish Journal of Psychiatry and Mental Health.