Depression in Pregnancy Linked to Childhood Asthma

(Image credit: © Barbara Helgason |

High levels of anxiety, stress or depression during pregnancy may be associated with a greater risk of asthma for the baby, suggests a new study that focused on inner-city minority women.

Somewhat similar findings regarding an association between stress and asthma have been reported in previous studies, but this new study focused only on minority populations. Researchers from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health monitored 279 inner-city African-American and Hispanic women before they became pregnant, during pregnancy and after birth.

The findings showed that approximately 70 percent of mothers who told researchers they experienced high levels of stress, anxiety or depression while they were pregnant later reported that their child wheezed before age 5.

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

The study suggests that the prenatal period is a time when children are particularly susceptible to asthma-related risks.

"Understanding how maternal depression affects a child's respiratory health is important in developing effective interventions," said Marilyn Reyes, a researcher at Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health and the study's lead author.

The findings were published in the July issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.