Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Psychological Distress in Pregnancy May Raise Asthma Risk in Kids

Arvind Balaraman/Shutterstock
Depression in pregnant women and new mothers has long been associated with poor health outcomes in their children. Now a new study suggests that being burdened emotionally during pregnancy may also lead to increased risk for asthma among offspring up to five years after birth.

Researchers from Columbia University studied 279 inner-city African-American and Hispanic women during pregnancy. They recorded measures of psychological distress, including perceived physical health, sadness, poor self-esteem, anxiety, confused thinking, hopelessness/helplessness, and psychophysiological symptoms. Over the next five years, they asked the mothers if their children ever wheezed, a key symptom of asthma. About 70 percent of the mothers who reported high levels of anxiety or depression while pregnant said their child had wheezed before age 5. Adjusting for other potential influences on asthma like race, education, second-hand smoke, or the mother’s history of asthma did not change the outcome.

“Understanding how maternal depression affects a child’s respiratory health is important in developing effective interventions,” wrote the researchers in the July Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Read more on the connection between mental and physical health in Psychiatric News at


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