Perinatal maternal mental health is associated with both infections and wheezing in early childhood

Franca Rusconi, Luigi Gagliardi, Elisa Gori, Daniela Porta, Maja Popovic, Federica Asta, Sonia Brescianini, Lorenzo Richiardi, Luca Ronfani, Maria Antonietta Stazi

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Abstract Background Wheezing and infections are common during infancy, and the role of early-life exposures in their development is still under investigation. We examined associations between maternal mental health in pregnancy and after delivery and subsequent offspring wheezing and infections. Methods We studied 2314 mother-child pairs recruited in the Piccolipiù birth cohort (Italy) from 2011 to 2015. Maternal mental health was assessed in pregnancy and 12 months after delivery via the General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12). GHQ-12 Likert scores were collapsed into low (below the upper tercile) and high (above). Risk ratios (RR) and 95CI) between each combination of scores—during pregnancy and 1 year after delivery—and outcomes were computed by log-binomial regression models. Results High scores both in pregnancy and after delivery, compared with low scores in both periods, were associated with wheezing (RR: 1.35; 95 1.08, 1.69), recurrent (≥2 episodes) wheezing (1.35; 0.99, 1.83), any and recurrent (≥4 episodes) upper respiratory infections (1.20; 1.04, 1.41, and 1.45; 1.07, 1.97, respectively), lower respiratory infections (1.31; 1.08, 1.61), and diarrhea (1.49; 1.23, 1.80). High scores either during pregnancy or 1 year after delivery only were less consistently associated with outcomes. Conclusions Maternal mental health problems extending from pregnancy to the first year after delivery are associated with development of both wheezing and infections. As wheezing is mostly triggered by infections, increased infection susceptibility could represent a possible common biologic mechanism. This study confirms the importance of early-life exposures on childhood health.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)732-738
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Allergy and Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • child
  • cohort studies
  • maternal stress
  • pregnancy
  • respiratory infection
  • wheeze

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