January 11, 2010 — The risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) among infants born to parents who have
received psychiatric inpatient care is significantly higher than in the general population. The risk is especially high if
both parents have been admitted for any psychiatric reason or if the mother or both parents have been diagnosed as
having an alcohol or drug disorder, new research suggests.
Roger Webb, MD, PhD, University of Manchester, England, and colleagues, report that of approximately 2.5 million
live births recorded in Sweden between 1978 and 2004, the risk for SIDS was almost 7 times higher than in the
general population if both parents had a history of any mental illness requiring hospital admission.
It was also almost 7 times higher than the general population if the mother had an alcohol or drug disorder, and it
was more than 9 times higher than in the general population if both parents had an alcohol or drug disorder.
The risk for SIDS among infants was also 2-fold higher than in the general population if either the mother or the
father had a history of hospital admission for any psychiatric illness other than an alcohol or drug disorder.
“Regardless of what group we are looking at, SIDS is a rare outcome so it’s important to recognize this, but clearly
these families require greater levels of support than other families, and part of this is talking to these women about
standard risk factors for SIDS, particularly stopping smoking during pregnancy, which we really need to encourage
these women to do,” Dr. Webb told Medscape Psychiatry.
The study is published in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
Relative SIDS Risk
For the study, investigators estimated the relative risk for SIDS in parents with a history of psychiatric inpatient care
vs the general population and compared the prevalence of risk factors in infants with and without a parental
psychiatric inpatient history.
They also explored how the Swedish risk reduction campaign against SIDS, introduced in 1992, modified risk factors
for SIDS. The 27-year birth cohort was then categorized into 2 periods — 1978 through 1991 and 1992 through
A total of 1531 SIDS cases occurred in the whole cohort at a rate of 0.6 per 1000 live births. Furthermore, in 11.2%
of all cases there had been at least 1 parental psychiatric inpatient admission before the birth, with almost half of this
group having been admitted for alcohol or drug disorders, the study authors report.
Specifically, 118 instances of SIDS occurred in association with maternal admission histories and 82 episodes with
paternal admission histories. The risk for SIDS was also highest among infants whose mothers were admitted with
an alcohol or drug disorder if the last admission was within a year of the birth of the infant and lowest if it was 5 or
more years previously.
In contrast, the risk for SIDS was higher among infants whose mothers were admitted for other types of psychiatric
illnesses 5 or more years before the birth of the child.
By: Pam Harrison, Medscape Medical News