Pregnancy Connections with Autism and Schizophrenia

Pregnancy Connections with Autism and Schizophrenia

Digitized Fetal Ultrasound 4Th Month Normal Pregnancy

After an extensive literature study, Dutch researcher Annemie Ploeger hypothesises that both Schizophrenia and autism probably share a common origin.

The developmental psychologist demonstrated that both mental diseases have similar physical abnormalities which are formed during the first month of pregnancy.


As most of you may not know what exactly is Schizophrenia, here is the definition.  Schizophrenia (pronounced skit-suh-FREH-nee-uh) is a psychotic disorder or group of psychotic disorders that cause a patient to lose touch with reality. It is marked by severely impaired thinking, reasoning, behaviors and emotional instability and can cause violent behavior.

Schizophrenic patients are often unable to make sense of the signals they receive from the world around them. They are typically unable to filter sensory stimuli and may have enhanced perceptions of sounds, colors, and other features of their environment. They imagine objects and events to be very different from what they really are. If untreated, most people with schizophrenia gradually withdraw from the outside world.

Most schizophrenics, if untreated, gradually withdraw from interactions with other people, and lose their ability to take care of personal needs and grooming.

Protruding Ears and Peculiar toes

Ploeger has investigated whether there is a connection between disorders in the first month of pregnancy and the development of schizophrenia and autism. Interestingly, many physical abnormalities of autistics are also prevalent in schizophrenics. For example, both autistics and schizophrenics sometimes have protruding ears and peculiar toes. There are also differences: a large head and intestinal problems, for example, are typical traits occurring in autistics. From this, Ploeger concluded that the two disorders share a common origin. The same error that occurs very early in pregnancy develops into autism in one individual and schizophrenia in another.

20 To 40 Days After Fertilisation

Ploeger found that the period between 20 and 40 days after fertilisation, the embryo is highly susceptible to disruptions. In this period, there is a lot of interaction between the different parts of the body. If something goes wrong with a given part of the body, it greatly influences the development of other parts of the body. As people with schizophrenia and autism frequently have physical abnormalities to body parts formed during this period, Ploeger concluded that the foundation for these psychiatric disorders is laid very early during pregnancy.

The existence of a relationship between unhealthy behaviour during pregnancy and the subsequent development of schizophrenia and autism in the child was already known. However, little is known about the influence that the period between 20 to 40 days after fertilisation has.

Pregnancy medicine Softenon

Ploeger also acquired information about autism from a study into softenon use. Softenon is a drug against morning sickness that was administered to women in the 1960s and 1970s. Later it was discovered that severely disabled children were born as a result of this medicine. Autistic children were born in four percent of pregnancies in which softenon was used, whereas normally this figure is 0.1 percent. The women who had taken softenon between the 20th and 24th day of the pregnancy had the greatest chance of giving birth to an autistic child.


The same abnormalities during the early pregnancy could either develop into autism or schizophrenia and these psychiatric disorders is laid very early during pregnancy.   Ploeger advises women to stop risky behaviour such as smoking, medicine use and stressful activities before they even become pregnant. If you only start to live healthily once you know that you are pregnant, the basis for a disrupted development of your child could already have been laid.


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