Depression and anxiety in moms-to-be has been linked to a heightened risk of asthma and poorer lung function in their 10-year-old children. The findings of a new research published online in the journal ‘Thorax,’ suggested that the risk of later life respiratory disease was likely programmed in the womb, rather than necessarily influenced by as yet unmeasured genetic, social or environmental factors. To establish this, the researchers drew on participants in the Generation R Study, a population-based prospective cohort study, that had been tracking life from early pregnancy onwards in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The degree of overall psychological distress, depression and anxiety experienced by each parent in the second term of pregnancy and three years after birth, was assessed, using a validated 53-item questionnaire (Brief Symptom Inventory).
The ‘Medical Xpress’ reported that depression and anxiety were assessed only in the mothers, at two and six months after the birth. In all, 362 (nearly nine per cent) of the mothers and 167 (just under four per cent of the fathers) were clinically depressed and/or anxious during the pregnancy.
The lung function of 3,757 of the offspring was measured when they were 10 years old, and information on asthma obtained on 3,640 of them. Almost six per cent (213) had asthma. Mothers’
overall psychological distress and symptoms of anxiety and depression during pregnancy were all associated with a 45 to 92 per cent increased risk of current asthma in their children, after adjusting for potentially influential factors, such as age, ethnicity, smoking during pregnancy, and pet keeping. And only mothers’ overall psychological distress during pregnancy was associated with one of three measures of lung power, the Forced Vital Capacity (FVC), which was lower in their children. FVC is the total amount of air exhaled during the FEV test. The children of mothers with depressive symptoms also had a lower FEV1, another measure of lung function.