Being Stressed During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Asthma
Posted Nov 21 2008 4:32pm
Researchers have found that women who are stressed during pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma or other allergies.
The study by Harvard Medical School, which studied 387 babies, found higher levels of a chemical linked to allergy in the blood of children and stressed mothers. The study will be presented tho the America Thoracic Society.
It is believed that the risk of asthma and allergy is controlled by a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors. However, those involved in the study suspect the impact of those factors may also in some way be influenced by the environment a foetus is exposed to while still in the uterus.
The Harvard team examined the theory that stress during pregnancy can magnify the effect of foetal exposure to substances which can trigger allergy.
The chemical Immunoglobulin (IgE) was measured in the umbilical cords of the 387 babies involved.
Because even babies exposed to low levels of dust mites in the uterus showed elevated levels of IgE, the researchers concluded that stress was amplifying their allergic response.
Dr Rosalind Wright, one of the researchers said: “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 children’s developing immune systems, even during pregnancy.
“This further supports the notion that stress can be thought of as a social pollutant that, when ‘breathed’ into the body, may influence the body’s immune response similar to the effects of physical pollutants like allergens, thus adding to their effects.”
However, Dr Wright said that more work needed to be done to tease out further the effect of stress from other possible factors which may influence allergy risk.
Chief Mediacl advisor of Asthma UK, Dr Mike Thomas said, “The link between stress and asthma has long been recognised and, although it’s still not fully understood, part of the link may be due to the effects of stress on the body’s immune system.
“These preliminary findings are of interest and potential importance and further support the need for a healthy and balanced lifestyle during pregnancy, as it could lead to a reduction in asthma and allergies.”