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Psychological distress in pregnancy ups risk of respiratory infections in children

09 Feb 2019

Children whose mothers have experienced psychological distress, such as anxiety and depressive symptoms, during pregnancy are more likely to contract recurrent respiratory infections (RRI) by age 2 years, a recent study has found.

Researchers identified 204 children with (mean maternal age 31.5±4.4 years) and 1,014 without (mean maternal age 31.1±4.3 years) RRIs. Maternal psychological distress and parental relationship quality at 34 weeks of gestation were measured using The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Symptom Checklist-90 anxiety subscale (SCL90/Anxiety), the Pregnancy-Related Anxiety Questionnaire–Revised 2 (PRAQ-R2) and the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale (RDAS).

Mothers in the RRI group reported significantly higher scores on all scales, suggesting that symptoms of depression (p<0.001), anxiety (p=0.04) and pregnancy-specific anxiety (p=0.001) were all elevated, while parental relationship satisfaction was reduced (p=0.008).

Postnatal distress levels were similar. Compared with mothers in the comparison group, those in the RRI group reported significantly greater depressive (p=0.001) and anxiety (p=0.03) symptoms, while relationship satisfaction with the child at 2 years of age remained lower (p=0.003).

Logistic regression analysis further confirmed that scores in the EPDS (odd ratio [OR], 1.24; 95 percent CI, 1.08–1.44; p=0.003) and RDAS (OR, 1.32; 1.01–1.58; p=0.003) at 34 weeks of gestation were significantly and positively correlated with offspring RRIs at age 2 years.

The same was true for the SCL90/Anxiety (OR, 1.40; 1.01–1.76; p=0.006) and the PRAQ-R2 (OR, 1.28; 1.11–1.47; p=0.001). The above relationships remained significant even after controlling for the number of siblings and the duration of breastfeeding.

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