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Allergic Babies May Result From Stressed Out Mom

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, May 19, 2008 11:38 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Allergies, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Living Well, Drug Products

Boston researchers found that markers for stress in pregnant women could be found in the blood of their newborns.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ pregnant woman at WIC in Virginia/ US. Department of Agriculture


If stress isn’t good for adults, it doesn’t seem to do a developing fetus any good either.

A new study shows high levels of stress experienced by a pregnant women may be more likely to create allergies or asthma in her baby.

The babies have more IgE in their blood than babies born of low-stress moms.  That is an antibody found in allergic reactions.

The study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, looked at 315 expectant mothers who lived in an urban environment.

The mothers were asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine their level of stress during pregnancy.

Included were items about finances, home, feelings of safety and security and the quality of their relationships. In addition, the dust mite level was assessed in their bedrooms.  Dust mites are invisible bugs that live off human waste and are an allergen.

The moms with the highest number of stress factors had babies with the most IgE in the cord blood. In the animal world a mothers’ stress level increases the effects of allergens on developing babies.

Dr. Rosalind Wright, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and her colleague and another author of the study, Junenette Peters collected the data. 

Peters tells the Washington Post, "A mom who had three or more negative events would have a 12 percent increased chance of having a baby with elevated cord blood IgE," Peters added the association is not entirely clear-cut as other risk factors must be considered. 

They plan on following the children up until the age of five to see if they end up with allergies and asthma.

"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,"Wright said in a statement.

University of London research has found that children who are mistreated, sexually abused or rejected at birth had double the levels of inflammatory markers in their blood, even decades later.  The body’s immune response is marked by inflammation that can be measured in the blood and can raise a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Another doctor commenting on the study says mothers should not get stressed out by the early results.

Stress busters include breathing deeply, getting outside to take in nature, rewarding yourself at the end of the day and letting go of that which you can’t change. For those who can, yoga and meditation may help you feel in control.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and presented at the American Thoracic Society in Toronto. # 

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