Asthma Risk Begins in the Womb
Reported May 19, 2008
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — During pregnancy, a new mom is conscious of her eating, drinking, exercise and exposure to cigarette smoke for the health of her unborn child. But a less obvious behavior can also have lifelong effects on children. Moms stress during pregnancy raises a childs risk for asthma.
A pregnant womans stress can affect a developing immune system. And, although genetics play a role in a babys predisposition for asthma, there are other factors. According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, exposure to allergens during pregnancy is one. The other is the mothers prenatal stress level.
The team tested for a combination of allergen exposure and stress by analyzing blood from the umbilical cord. Even when the level of dust mite contact was low during pregnancy, if the mother had been overly stressed, the babys immune response was magnified from birth, raising the risk for asthma. The outcome was the same regardless of the mothers race, class, education or smoking history.
This research adds to a growing body of evidence that links maternal stress such as that precipitated by financial problems or relationship issues to changes in childrens developing immune systems during pregnancy, Rosalind Write, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Womens Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, was quoted as saying. Stress can be considered a social pollutant that, when breathed into the body, may influence the bodys immune response similar to the effects of physical pollutants.
The team noted the women tested were part of an urban population that is often at higher risk for combined exposure to stress and indoor allergens, but they believe the results support the view that maternal psychological well being as well as other environmental factors should be part of prenatal health programs.
SOURCE: American Thoracic Societys 2008 International Conference in Toronto, May 18, 2008