Asthma and Maternal Stress


New York City — April 22, 2011 — Many emotions can occur during pregnancy but if high demoralization is reported, it could impact the risk of your child wheezing, a common symptom of asthma, during childhood.

Demoralization denotes nonspecific psychological distress that may result in an individual’s inability to cope with stressful situations.

“This prospective study suggests that maternal mental health during gestation may be a key determinant in the characterization of specific wheeze phenotypes,” states Marilyn Reyes, lead author and Senior Research Worker for the Center. “Understanding how maternal demoralization may influence children’s health is an important step in developing effective interventions and alleviating the disproportionate burden of asthma and respiratory illness in urban minority populations.”

Researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) reported links between prenatal maternal demoralization and childhood asthma- like symptoms assessed prospectively using the Psychiatric Epidemiology Research Instrument- Demoralization Scale (PERI-D). This scale is a validated indicator of emotional well-being and burden of stress among minority and immigrant populations. Prenatal demoralization scores were significantly higher among mothers of transient (wheeze before age 3) and persistent wheezers (wheeze from 3 months to age 5) when compared to children without reported wheeze at age 5. While somewhat similar findings have been reported in non-minority populations, this study is the first to report an association between a stress indicator and wheeze in minority populations.

This study was published in the Journal of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology online April 15, 2011 and to be released in an upcoming print issue. The authors include Marilyn Reyes, Matthew Perzanowski, Robin Whyatt, Elizabeth Kelvin, Andrew Rundle, Diurka Diaz, Lori Hoepner, Frederica Perera, Virginia Rauh, & Rachel Miller.

The study at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, EPA, and several private foundations.

Read the study here.