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Prenatal psychological distress influences risk of childhood recurrent respiratory infections

12 May 2019
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Maternal psychological distress during pregnancy increases the risk of recurrent respiratory infections (RRI) in offspring during early childhood, a recent study has shown.

The study included 204 children with RRIs (mean gestational age 39.6±1.6 weeks; 56 percent male) and 1,014 controls (mean gestational age 39.7±1.7 weeks; 53 percent male). Maternal distress symptoms were assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, Symptom Checklist-90 anxiety subscale and Pregnancy-Related Anxiety Questionnaire-Revised 2. Parental relationship quality was measured using the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale.

Univariate analysis showed that mothers of children in the RRI group had significantly greater symptoms of prenatal depression (p<0.001), pregnancy-specific anxiety (p=0.001) and anxiety (p=0.04), as well as lower satisfaction with parental relationship (p=0.008).

Similar trends were observed for higher postnatal depression (p=0.001) and anxiety (p=0.03) scores and lower satisfaction with the child at 2 years of age (p=0.003).

Multivariable adjusted logistic regression confirmed that prenatal scores in the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (odds ratio [OR], 1.24; 95 percent CI, 1.08–1.44) and Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale (OR, 1.32; 1.01–1.58) were significantly and positively associated with childhood RRIs.

The same was true for prenatal maternal anxiety as measured by the Symptom Checklist-90 anxiety subscale (OR, 1.40; 1.01–1.76) and Pregnancy-Related Anxiety Questionnaire-Revised 2 (OR, 1.28; 1.11–1.47).

“Our study showed that prenatal maternal distress should be considered as a potential risk factor for later childhood respiratory infections,” said researchers.

“As paediatricians, we should work to address maternal stress prenatally to enhance offspring health,” they added. “We need additional research to further understand the mechanisms and to develop targeted and efficient interventions”

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