Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Prenatal maternal stress predicts asthma and autism traits in 6 1/2-year-old children

Date:
June 2, 2014
Source:
Douglas Mental Health University Institute
Summary:
A new study finds a link between prenatal maternal stress and the development of symptoms of asthma and autism in children. Scientists have been studying women who were pregnant during the January 1998 Quebec ice storm since June of that year and observing effects of their stress on their children's development (Project Ice Storm). The team examined the degree to which the mothers' objective degree of hardship from the storm and their subjective degree of distress explained differences among the women's children in asthma-like symptoms and in autism-like traits.

A new study finds a link between prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) and the development of symptoms of asthma and autism in children.

A team of scientists from The Douglas Mental Health University Institute and from McGill University has been studying women who were pregnant during the January 1998 Quebec ice storm since June of that year and observing effects of their stress on their children's development (Project Ice Storm). The team examined the degree to which the mothers' objective degree of hardship from the storm and their subjective degree of distress explained differences among the women's children in asthma-like symptoms and in autism-like traits.

Results reported in the journal Psychiatry Research show that the greater the mothers' objective hardship from the ice storm (such as more days without electricity), and the greater the mothers' distress about the ice storm 5 months later, the more severe their children's autistic-like traits at 6 years of age.

The team emphasizes that the children in Project Ice Storm are not autistic; the results describe normal variations among children.

These traits include difficulty making friends, being clumsy, speaking in odd ways, etc. The effect of the mothers' ice storm stress was especially strong when the ice storm happened in the first trimester of pregnancy. Interestingly, the children with the most severe symptoms had mothers who had had high levels of hardship from the ice storm but low levels of distress.

"We have found effects of the mothers' objective hardship from the ice storm (such as the number of days without electricity), or their degree of distress from the storm, on every aspect of child development that we have studied, said Suzanne King, PhD, the senior author of the paper. This is surprising, since the children in our study are mostly from upper class families and are generally doing extremely well in school and in life."

In May, the team reported in the journal Biomedical Research International that girls whose mothers had had high levels of distress after the ice storm were more likely to have experienced wheezing, to have been diagnosed with asthma by a doctor, and to have been prescribed asthma medication before the age of 12. There was no effect in boys, and there was no effect of the mothers' objective hardship.

These results demonstrate the power of a stressor in pregnancy to influence both the physical development and the mental health of the unborn child. Project Ice Storm continues to follow the children's development, including brain MRI scans at the age of 16 years starting in September.

"If the stress of the ice storm could have such large effects on these children, helping to explain why some are sicker than others or have more atypical development than others, added Suzanne King, how much greater would the effects be with an even more stressful event in pregnancy or in disadvantaged families with fewer resources? Our research is showing us how vulnerable the unborn child is to his mother's environment and her mood."

About Project Ice Storm

When the ice storms of January 1998 plunged more than 3 million Quebecers into darkness for as long as 45 days, the team seized the opportunity to study the effects of stress on pregnant women, their pregnancies, and their unborn children. It has been following a group of about 150 families, in which the mother was pregnant during the ice storm or became pregnant shortly thereafter, in order to observe the immediate effects of different levels and types of stress on the unborn children. It continues to follow these children who are now teenagers.

Among the team of scientists who conducted this study are Suzanne King, and Alain Brunet, from the Psychosocial Research Division of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and from the Department of Psychiatry, (Faculty of Medicine) at McGill University, as well as David P Laplante also from the Douglas Institute. The results of this work have been published in the journals Biomedical Research International (asthma, May 8) and Psychiatry Research (autism, June). Project Ice Storm is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Douglas Mental Health University Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Deborah J. Walder, David P. Laplante, Alexandra Sousa-Pires, Franz Veru, Alain Brunet, Suzanne King. Prenatal maternal stress predicts autism traits in 6 year-old children: Project Ice Storm. Psychiatry Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.04.034

Cite This Page:

Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "Prenatal maternal stress predicts asthma and autism traits in 6 1/2-year-old children." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140602104857.htm>.
Douglas Mental Health University Institute. (2014, June 2). Prenatal maternal stress predicts asthma and autism traits in 6 1/2-year-old children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140602104857.htm
Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "Prenatal maternal stress predicts asthma and autism traits in 6 1/2-year-old children." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140602104857.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins