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Depression-Asthma Link

by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH

Although seemingly unrelated, a pregnant woman’s mental health can affect her unborn baby’s risk of developing respiratory diseases later in life. Babies born to pregnant women suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression have a greater risk of developing asthma in childhood, according to researchers at Columbia University. The study is published in the July 2011 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

The study showed that approximately 70 percent of mothers who said they experienced high levels of anxiety or depression while they were pregnant reported that their children had experienced wheezing before the age of five.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide. Nearly half of people with asthma say that the condition keeps them from doing something they’d like to do.  Common asthma signs and symptoms include

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing or whistling sound, especially when exhaling  
  • Difficulty breathing that causes the skin between the ribs or in the neck to pull in tightly (called retractions)
  • Experiencing breathing difficulties with respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold

There are dozens of good reasons to seek treatment for depression, especially during pregnancy. Here’s one more. Treating your depression today might help your baby breathe better tomorrow.

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.