Mental Health of a Pregnant Mother may Influence the Immunity of her Unborn Child

A new study from the pediatric researchers at the University of Alberta reveals that during pregnancy mental health of woman greatly influence the development of the infant immune system.

The previous studies in the same field linked women’s mental health with the development of allergies and asthma in children, but this new study is the first-ever evaluation to detect the exact mechanism that how women’s mental health influence a child’s immune system.

Anita Kozyrskyi who is a leading researcher on gut microbes and a pediatric epidemiologist said the findings of the study showed that every event that happens to mothers during pregnancy duration may have a great impact on the levels and functions of immune cells in children. It particularly affects those cells which synthesize immunoglobulin in the body.

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1043 pregnant mothers participated in the Child Cohort Study and researchers observed their health records.

Mothers are provided with a questionnaire which contains the questions about regular mood swing during and after the gestation period for example whether the mother felt sad or lazy during pregnancy. The presence of intestinal secretory immunoglobulin A (sTgA) was check in the stool samples taken from the babies. Immunoglobulin a (sIgA) is an antibody that plays a critical role in developing the body immunity.

Liane Kang who carried out the research for her MSC and a lead author of the study said that for developing the oral tolerance to environmental antigens these immunoglobulins are really important in the microbiome.

Babies whose mothers complain about the symptoms of depression in their third trimester and after birth usually have low levels of immunoglobulins A in their gut. The symptoms of depression were not as severe as to be diagnosed at the clinical level. No association is seen with postpartum depression.

Results become more accurate when variables factors such as antibiotics and breastfeeding that are used by babies and mothers were considered.

Kang further said that the woman who suffers from some psychological distress is less likely to breastfeed and interact with her child. Antibiotic use also greatly influences the development of gut microbiota of infants.

Besides all these factors still, there is an association found between the lower levels of immunoglobulin A in the child and depression of mother.

Kozyrskyi observed that low levels of immunoglobulin A in the infant were found between the 4 and 8 months of age. It is time when the child starts to synthesize his own immunoglobulin.

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Scientists said the low level of immunity in a child increases the risk of developing allergies, asthma, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. It may also put the child at the risk of having obesity, depression and autoimmune disorders later in life for example diabetes.

Kozyrskyi postulated that if the mother suffers from depression then the level of cortisol is high in her blood which may be transferred to the child. It may disturb the cell production that will synthesize immunoglobulin after birth. Researchers need to carry out a further investigation for understanding this link between the infant immunity development and maternal microbiome in a better way.

The study showed that if a mother receives mental health support during pregnancy then it will improve the immune system of the child after birth.