The Link between Stress during Pregnancy and Infant Asthma

Stress is part of everyone’s daily life. We experience at work and at home for a variety of reasons and at various levels of intensity. However, just because we experience it frequently does not mean that it is healthy. In fact science has shown us that stress can lead to having health issues.

According to WebMD stress has been “linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease” (WebMD, 2013). When additional stress is added to an already stressing situation such as pregnancy the results can potentially have severe health consequences, both for the mother and the child. One potential health consequence for the infant is developing asthma.

Pregnancy can bring about health issues even in the healthiest of women. The results from these health issues affect not only the mother but the unborn child as well. Recently studies have shown that in addition to these health issues that may arise through the course of a normal pregnancy that adding stress to the situation can lead to increased risk of asthma for the child.

According to Ed Jones “Researchers have drawn direct links between a pregnant mother’s anxiety levels and the likelihood of her child being born with or developing asthma” (Jones, 2014). Jones goes on to state “Such is the impact of stressful circumstances that even a single episode of anxiety can be enough to significantly increase the unborn child’s likelihood of developing asthma” (2014). The results from the researchers demonstrate that there is a link between a child developing asthma and stress episodes that a mother may experience during pregnancy.

In addition to the study quoted in the Jones article, Medical Xpresscites a research study involving the effects of stress on mice during pregnancy. The researchers in this study utilized four groups of mice, 3 affected with different levels and kinds of stress and a fourth serving as a control group.

According to the researchers “Only the offspring of stressed mothers demonstrated increased asthma susceptibility compared with “non-stressed” mothers. We also demonstrated that a single episode of stress significantly elevated maternal stress hormone levels,” (MedicalXpress, 2014). This further demonstrates that stress during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of the child developing asthma.

It is clear from the two references cited above that increased stress during pregnancy can potentially lead to an increased risk in the child developing asthma. With that information available it is clear that pregnant women should try and avoid stressful situations if at all possible.

While not all stressful situations are avoidable, there are things that can be done to limit the overall stress a woman experiences during her pregnancy. These include taking to relax on daily basis, removing yourself from stressful situations whenever possible, avoiding high stress activities and finding a supportive partner or family member to support you during the pregnancy to help reduce stress. In addition to these BabyCenter has additional techniques and ideas in this article.

Ultimately it is clear that researchers have established a link between the stresses a mother experiences during pregnancy and a child’s susceptibility to asthma thereafter. In particular the idea that it does not have to be a prolonged stressful experience that it may only take one severe stressful experience during pregnancy to increase the child’s risk of developing asthma.