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Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Date:3/18/2010

Strategies may be needed to promote well-being in pregnancy, researcher says

THURSDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- A stressful pregnancy may increase the risk that a baby will develop asthma, a new study finds.

The role of stress in asthma is not understood, but animal studies suggest that prenatal stress can influence the infant's immune system in the womb, the researchers noted. It is also known that asthma is most prevalent in inner cities, where minorities and disadvantaged people live in increasingly stressful circumstances, they added.

"This is the first human study to corroborate research from animal studies demonstrating that stress experienced by mothers during their pregnancy influences their child's developing immune system starting in the womb," said lead researcher Dr. Rosalind Wright, an associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"The work may point to the need to design interventions and strategies to reduce stress in pregnant women to both enhance the mother's well-being and to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses in their children such as asthma," she noted.

The report is published in the March 18 online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

For the study, Wright's team surveyed pregnant women in several cities, including Boston, Baltimore, New York and St. Louis. The women were mostly from ethnic minorities, and 20 percent lived below the poverty level.

In each of the 557 families, a mother or a father had a history of asthma or allergy.

All of the families completed a questionnaire that asked about the stress they lived with, such as domestic violence, money worries and violence in the community.

After the babies were born, Wright's group took samples of the umbilical cord blood. They used these samples to test reaction
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