What happens to you before you’re born — or during the process of birth- can affect you all your life. The likelihood of schizophrenia developing has been linked to several prenatal (before birth) factors:
· The age of the birth father: One prenatal risk factor that’s been linked to schizophrenia is the age of the birth father. Children with fathers who are over the age of 50 are three times more likely to develop schizophrenia than children whose fathers are under 30 years old at the time of their birth. Some researchers have suggested that this may be the result of sperm mutations that occur with advancing age.
· Influenza: Studies have shown that children born to mothers who contracted the flu while pregnant (especially during the second trimester) also have a greater chance of developing schizophrenia.
· Starvation: Maternal starvation is linked to increased risk of schizophrenia in offspring. Starvation can occur either because of poverty or because of eating disorders such as anorexia.
· Stress: Recently, a large epidemiological study looked at stressors such as the death of a close relative or a diagnosis of cancer, heart attack, or stroke in a close relative as risk factors for having children who would develop schizophrenia later in life. Only one of these factors increased risk: The risk of developing schizophrenia or a related disorder was 67 percent greater among the children of mothers who experienced the death of a close family member during the first trimester than those who did not have that stress. The vast majority of fetuses exposed to these prenatal environmental stressors did not develop schizophrenia, leaving the perplexing question of why some did and others didn't still unanswered.