Disclosures: Van Meel reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
October 30, 2020
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Maternal psychological distress during pregnancy increases risk for asthma in children

Disclosures: Van Meel reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Maternal psychological distress during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for asthma development and lung function decline in children, according to study findings published in Thorax.

“Only a few studies have measured paternal psychological distress and they found that this is not associated with an increased risk of respiratory symptoms in early childhood, suggesting an intrauterine effect,” Evelien R. van Meel, MD, from the department of pediatrics, division of respiratory medicine allergology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues wrote. “To date, the associations of maternal and paternal psychological distress during pregnancy with asthma in later childhood and the association with lung function are not fully clear.”

Black Pregnant Woman
Source: Adobe Stock.

The population-based, prospective, cohort study included the parents of 4,231 children (51.2% female). Researchers obtained completed Brief Symptom Inventory questionnaires on parental psychological stress during and 3 years after pregnancy and in mothers at 2 and 6 months after pregnancy. Lung function measured by FVC and FEV1 was obtained by spirometry, and asthma status was obtained by questionnaire when the children were aged 10 years.

In total, 362 mothers and 167 fathers had clinically significant psychological distress during pregnancy. The mean age of the mothers in the study was 30.9 years and the mean age of fathers was 33.4 years.

Asthma prevalence among the child cohort was 5.9% (n = 213) at age 10 years. Maternal psychological distress during pregnancy associated with lower FVC (z score difference = –0.1 per 1-unit increase; 95% CI, –0.2 to –0.01) in their children. Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy were associated with lower FEV1 (z score difference = –0.13; 95% CI, –0.24 to –0.01) and FVC (z score difference = –0.13; 95% CI, –0.24 to –0.02) in their children. All maternal psychological distress measures during pregnancy were associated with increased risk for asthma (OR range = 1.46 [95% CI, 1.12-1.9] to 1.91 [95% CI, 1.26-2.91]).

The researchers did not observe the same associations with paternal psychological distress during and after pregnancy.

According to the researchers, further studies are required to explore underlying mechanisms in maternal and paternal psychological distress during and after pregnancy.

“Our results may indicate an intrauterine effect of maternal psychological distress during pregnancy on fetal lung development and respiratory morbidity rather than an effect of unmeasured genetic, social, behavioral or environmental factors,” the researchers wrote.