Asthma and Mom's Pregnancy Depression

Maternal depression may to be linked to asthma in early childhood

(RxWiki News) Typical American families run on the unspoken motto, "If Mamma's not happy, then nobody's happy." Can a depressed, expecting mom distress the health of her unborn child?

Maternal depression can lead to asthma-related symptoms in unborn infants, according to a new study from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

"When pregnant, focus on your mental health."

Marilyn Reyes, lead study author, explains that around 70 percent of mothers who reported high levels of anxiety or depression while pregnant also reported their child had asthma symptoms before age 5.

Reyes recommends further research to understand exactly how maternal depression affects an unborn child's respiratory health. Once that knowledge is available, perhaps effective measures can be taken to stop it from happening.

Rachel Miller, M.D., an allergist and this study's senior author, explains that the symptoms of pediatric asthma can range from a nagging cough, which isn't dangerous but can linger for days or weeks, to sudden and frightening breathing episodes that may require emergency room care.

While this sounds scary, Dr. Miller explains that with proper asthma treatment, symptoms are manageable.

Asthma symptoms include:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing or whistling sound, especially when exhaling
  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing that causes the skin around the ribs or neck to stretch tightly
  • Frequent colds that settle in the chest

This study included 279 pregnant, inner-city African-American and Hispanic women. The data was gathered before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after birth. The study findings add to a growing body of research that points to the prenatal period as a time when children are especially susceptible to developing asthma symptoms. It's the first study to report an association between maternal stress and asthma in minority populations.

These study results are published in the July issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Review Date: 
July 6, 2011