Depression in Pregnancy Connected to Childhood Asthma

Heightened levels of anxiety, stress, or depression during pregnancy might be connected to an increased risk of asthma for the baby.

Heightened levels of anxiety, stress, or depression during pregnancy might be connected to an increased risk of asthma for the baby, according to a new study centered on inner-city minority mothers.

"The symptoms of pediatric asthma can range from a nagging cough that lingers for days or weeks to sudden and scary breathing emergencies," said the study’s senior author, Rachel Miller, who is an allergist.

The study was performed at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, led by Marilyn Reyes (who is a researcher at the center) and her fellow colleagues.

Investigators followed 279 inner-city African-American and Hispanic women before they became pregnant, during pregnancy, and after giving birth. The results showed that roughly 70% of the participating mothers who informed the researchers that they experienced high levels of stress, anxiety, or depression while pregnant reported later on that their child wheezed before age five.

These findings are important because they suggest that a child can begin developing and suffering from asthma-related risks and symptoms during the prenatal period.

"Understanding how maternal depression affects a child's respiratory health is important in developing effective interventions," said Reyes.

The findings are published in the July issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.