A recent review of the literature suggests there is some evidence that prenatal nutritional deficits may be risk factors for the development of schizophrenia (Brown et al., 1996). One study found an increased incidence of schizophrenia 20 years after a wartime famine hit a large Dutch population in 1944-1945. While these findings suggest that food deprivation during the first trimester of pregnancy increased the risk of developing schizophrenia, it is possible that maternal stress also played a role. In fact, increased risk of schizophrenia has also been significantly associated with extreme maternal stressors such as wartime conditions, death of a spouse, unwanted pregnancy, maternal depression during midpregnancy, and natural disasters (Lobato et al., 2001). Other stressors during gestation that have also been associated with increased risk of schizophrenia include maternal alcohol and substance abuse and parental Rh incompatibility. Increased paternal age also appears to be associated with increased risk for schizophrenia. While the precise mechanism(s) remains unclear, it is believed that these stressors increase the risk for schizophrenia by causing adverse neurodevelopmental effects (Koenig et al., 2002).
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