Babies born to mothers who undergo severe stress during pregnancy are likely to face a higher risk of developing brain disorders like schizophrenia, says a new study.
Researchers at the University of Manchester studied data from 1.38 million Danish births occurring between 1973 and 1995.
They found that the risk of schizophrenia - a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder - and related illnesses was around 67 percent greater among the offspring of women who lost a relative during their first trimester, reported the online edition of BBC News.
However, the researchers found no evidence that a loss of a relative at any other time during the pregnancy or in the six months leading up to a pregnancy had any effect on the unborn baby.
In addition, the association between bereavement and schizophrenia risk only appeared significant for people without a family history of mental illness, the study found.
Past studies have shown that stress in pregnancy increases risk of low birth weight and pre-maturity.
Some studies have also suggested that abnormalities in brain structure and function that are associated with schizophrenia may begin to form in the earliest stages of foetal development.