Stress during pregnancy may increase infant allergen sensitivity

May 20, 2008

The immune system of babies may be negatively impacted if their mothers are stressed during pregnancy, according to findings presented at the 2008 American Thoracic Society International Conference in Toronto.

The immune system of babies may be negatively impacted if their mothers are stressed during pregnancy, according to findings presented at the 2008 American Thoracic Society International Conference in Toronto.

The investigators studied levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) taken from umbilical cord blood of 387 babies during birth. The mothers completed a survey about various sources of stress, such as financial pressure and relationship problems.

Mothers under the most stress gave birth to babies with high IgE levels, despite exposure to low levels of dust mites in the home environment. These results suggest that the babies' higher sensitivity to allergens may have been influenced by maternal stress during pregnancy.

In a seperate study, published in the May 19 Medical Journal of Australia, results linked the incidence of ear infections among young children to passive smoking. The investigators stated that passive smoking may increase the adherence of bacteria in respiratory passages and negatively impact the immune system.