Mothers placed under high levels of stress are not only compromising their own immune system but may also be harming their unborn child. A new study has revealed that one of the side effects of this could be development of asthma or allergies within the baby.
Doctor Rosalind Wright a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham Women’s Hospital supports the idea that “There is a lot of evidence to support the notion that negative experience that cause stress get into the body and disrupt immune function”.
Asthma and allergies within infants has increased within the inner city and lower income populations. The presence of known triggers (e.g. dust mites, pollen, and moulds) cannot explain the increase in asthma and allergies within infants in these environments. Doctor Wright and her associates believe that stress levels within pregnant women could be the hidden factor responsible for the increase.
Doctor Wright is involved in a study of 1,000 families measuring the level of stress within pregnant women and the amount of dust in their homes. So far the research team has tested 387 babies. The results from these babies revealed an increase in antibodies responsible for creating allergic responses in those babies whose mothers suffered from high levels of stress. These results were not affected by the amount of dust that was found within the homes of the mothers who suffered from high stress levels.
Researchers went one step further in order to confirm their results. They also factored in whether the high stress mothers were smokers and/or had a history of asthma or allergies. Their findings revealed that accounting for these added conditions did not affect the outcome of the study.
‘If mom is under chronic stress these changes may be more persistent and can even be transmitted to the baby”
The high levels of stress increase the amount of cortisol within the mother, which in turn is passed to the baby. Doctor Wright believes that babies exposed to the increase in cortisol are prone to developing asthma or allergies.
“So when the baby is now exposed to increased cortisol from the mother this may change the way their immune system develops”.
Doctor Wright suggests that family Doctors educate their pregnant patients on the risks attached to high stress levels while pregnant and the importance of reducing stress levels if not for their own heath, for the heath of their unborn child. – Jeff, Staff Writer
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