Stressed Pregnancy and Risk of Eczema

Research Spotlight: The Association between Maternal Stress and Childhood Eczema: A Systematic Review

Why Does This Matter?

  • Many pregnant mothers experience stress during their pregnancy
  • Eczema is currently incurable, and preventing eczema is a key step to avoiding the itchy dry skin

For many expectant parents, having a baby can already seem daunting, and for some, being stressed while pregnant can sometimes seem unavoidable. However, this stress may negatively impact the baby. Recent studies have suggested that stressed pregnant mothers can harm the baby’s immune system and possibly lead to eczema by causing allergies and inflammation, which are both indicative of the skin disease.[1,2] Though few studies have exactly delved into pregnancy’s stress leading to eczema, a recent review analyzed thousands of studies to explore the relationship between stressed mothers and eczema in their children.

Pregnancy, Stress, and Eczema

In the review, researchers examined thousands of studies about pregnancy, stress, and eczema, finding that being stressed while pregnant – and especially being stressed from work – significantly increased the risk of childhood eczema for the mothers’ children.[3-5] Similarly, multiple studies found that anxiety during pregnancy was a strong risk factor for childhood eczema.[6] Researchers also found that depression during and after pregnancy played a role in their child’s eczema. However, these findings were mixed: one study found that depression could lower the risk of childhood eczema, while another study indicated that depression increased this risk.[6,7] Interestingly, when expectant mothers experienced an adverse or painful life event, their baby’s risk for childhood eczema significantly increased, particularly when this life event occurred during the pregnancy’s second or third trimester.[8]

Key Points

Though relaxing has always been an important piece of advice for everybody, the review’s findings emphasize that stress during pregnancy can lead to eczema. Given that numerous studies have suggested a possible link between pregnancy stress and eczema, the review highlights the need for stress-reduction resources, such as education, health talks, and professional help. While current studies are still trying to understand eczema and stress further, lowering one’s stress levels is always in a pregnant mother’s best interest.

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References

  1. Pincus-Knackstedt MK, Joachim RA, Blois SM, et al. Prenatal stress enhances susceptibility of murine adult offspring toward airway inflammation. J Immunol.2006;177(12):8484-8492; PMID: 17142746 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17142746.
  2. Veru F, Laplante DP, Luheshi G, et al. Prenatal maternal stress exposure and immune function in the offspring. Stress.2014;17(2):133-148; PMID: 24417382 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24417382.
  3. Wen HJ, Wang YJ, Lin YC, et al. Prediction of atopic dermatitis in 2-yr-old children by cord blood IgE, genetic polymorphisms in cytokine genes, and maternal mentality during pregnancy. Pediatr Allergy Immunol.2011;22(7):695-703; PMID: 21539617 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21539617.
  4. Sausenthaler S, Rzehak P, Chen CM, et al. Stress-related maternal factors during pregnancy in relation to childhood eczema: results from the LISA Study. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol.2009;19(6):481-487; PMID: 20128423 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20128423.
  5. Larsen AD, Schlunssen V, Christensen BH, et al. Exposure to psychosocial job strain during pregnancy and odds of asthma and atopic dermatitis among 7-year old children - a prospective cohort study. Scand J Work Environ Health.2014;40(6):639-648; PMID: 25162986 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25162986.
  6. Braig S, Weiss JM, Stalder T, et al. Maternal prenatal stress and child atopic dermatitis up to age 2 years: The Ulm SPATZ health study. Pediatr Allergy Immunol.2017;28(2):144-151; PMID: 27801949 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27801949.
  7. Chang HY, Suh DI, Yang SI, et al. Prenatal maternal distress affects atopic dermatitis in offspring mediated by oxidative stress. J Allergy Clin Immunol.2016;138(2):468-475 e465; PMID: 27016803 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27016803.
  8. Hartwig IR, Sly PD, Schmidt LA, et al. Prenatal adverse life events increase the risk for atopic diseases in children, which is enhanced in the absence of a maternal atopic predisposition. J Allergy Clin Immunol.2014;134(1):160-169; PMID: 25117802 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25117802.