Nav: Home

Study links depressive symptoms during pregnancy with lowered immunity in infants

March 03, 2020

A woman's mental health during pregnancy has a direct influence on the development of her child's immune system, according to a new study from pediatric researchers at the University of Alberta.

Previous research indicated a link between a woman's mental state and the development of asthma and allergies in children, but this is the first study in humans to identify the mechanism at work.

"Our study shows that what happens to the mother during pregnancy could affect the levels and function of the cells that produce immunoglobulin in children," said Anita Kozyrskyj, a pediatric epidemiologist and a leading researcher on gut microbes.

The researchers examined health records of 1,043 mother-infant pairs who are participating in the CHILD Cohort Study, which is following the health of thousands of Canadian children into their teens.

The mothers filled out regular questionnaires about their mood during and after their pregnancies, asking, for example, whether they felt sad or overwhelmed. Stool samples from the babies were examined for the presence of intestinal secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), an antibody that plays a crucial role in immunity.

"This immunoglobulin is really important in the microbiome for developing oral tolerance to environmental antigens," said lead author Liane Kang, who carried out the research for her MSc and is now studying medicine at the U of A.

Mothers who reported symptoms of depression during their third trimester, or persistently before and after the birth, were twice as likely to have babies with the lowest levels of immunoglobulin A in their gut. The mothers' symptoms did not have to be severe enough for a clinical diagnosis of depression. No link was found with postpartum depression.

The results held true even when variable factors such as breastfeeding and antibiotic use by the mothers and babies were taken into account.

"We know that women who have psychological distress are less likely to breastfeed and interact with their children," said Kang. "Antibiotic use could also impact how the infant gut microbiome is developing."

"Despite all these factors there was still a link between depression and lower immunoglobulin A in the infant."

Kozyrskyj noted that the lowest levels of immunoglobulin A were found in infants between four and eight months old, when they would normally begin to produce their own immunoglobulin.

"The largest impact of depression in the mothers was seen in this startup phase of the child's own immune system," she said.

The researchers said lowered immunity places the babies at risk for respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, as well as asthma and allergies, and may also lead to elevated risk for depression, obesity and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes.

Kozyrskyj posited that higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol may be transferred from depressed mothers to their fetuses and interfere with the production of cells that will make immunoglobulin after birth. She suggested more research is needed to understand this link between the maternal microbiome and infant immune development.

Both researchers said their study indicates that more mental health supports are needed for pregnant women.

"New mothers are going through a very different stage in their life where they have to take care of another human being, and there are a lot of stressors that come with that," said Kang.

"These findings should not be used to blame mothers," said Kozyrskyj. "Maternal mental health does not occur in isolation."
-end-
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Allergy, Genes and Environment (AllerGen) Network of Centres of Excellence.

University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Related Depression Articles:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.
Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.
Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.
Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.
A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.
Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.
Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.
CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
More Depression News and Depression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.