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Study: Pregnancy Stress Could Lead to Asthma in Baby

Study says stress during pregnancy could lead to baby's asthma
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's no secret that stress can have an overpowering affect on the body, upping your risk for heart disease and depression, and negatively impacting your overall well-being. But when it comes to pregnancy? Forget about what it does to you — your baby can also suffer in more ways than you might imagine. To date, prenatal stress has been linked to everything from preterm labor and low birth weight to developmental issues.

And now, here comes a new risk to add to the list: Prenatal stress could cause your baby to develop asthma, too.

The link was recently discovered by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, who were studying allergen responses in mice when they noticed stressed-out moms tended to have little ones prone to allergy-induced asthma.

"Only the offspring of stressed mothers demonstrated increased asthma susceptibility compared with non-stressed mothers," the researchers later wrote in their findings. "We also demonstrated that a single episode of stress significantly elevated maternal stress hormone levels."

Here's the thing, though — the researchers are quick to note that glucocorticoids (also known as GCs) aren't all bad. They're naturally occurring stress hormones that are great for keeping inflammation in the body down. (Which is good news for those pregnancy cankles of yours.) But ironically, when they're released as a direct response to stress, GCs can actually cause inflammation in the body, and increase allergic responses to the environment, instead of protecting you.

According to the stats, asthma costs the average parent over $1,000 a year, and the entire U.S. a staggering $56 billion. In 2008, it led to 10.5 million missed days of school in total and well over 3,000 deaths the following year.

If all this news is only succeeding in stressing you out more, take comfort in this: There are many ways to calm and de-stress while pregnant. Your best (and most natural) bet? Don't miss your workouts — they'll help naturally release some of those stress hormones you're producing. And consider getting your inner yogi on. Researchers recently found that prenatal yoga does wonders for keeping depression at bay.

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