The placenta of a pregnant woman absorbs more than just nutrition and oxygen, a new study has found.

Researchers, from the University of Pennsylvania, found that stress is transmitted to the placenta, altering the levels of a protein that affects brain development in the foetus. The authors of the paper, published online yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: “Maternal stress is a key risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism.”This is particularly the case for male offspring.

The study is an extension of previous work, which has found that the male offspring, of female mice exposed to stress, exhibited heightened reactions to stress. Other studies have found similar results in human male babies, and that those exposed to stress in the first trimester are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, the University of Pennsylvania press reported.

via Stress and Pregnancy | Schizophrenia.