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Non-Clinical Medicine - Obstetrics - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology - Respiratory Medicine

Maternal Bereavement and Childhood Asthma—Analyses in Two Large Samples of Swedish Children
Published: Monday, November 07, 2011
Author: Fang Fang et al.

by Fang Fang, Caroline Olgart Höglund, Petra Arck, Cecilia Lundholm, Niklas Långström, Paul Lichtenstein, Mats Lekander, Catarina Almqvist


Prenatal factors such as prenatal psychological stress might influence the development of childhood asthma.

Methodology and Principal Findings

We assessed the association between maternal bereavement shortly before and during pregnancy, as a proxy for prenatal stress, and the risk of childhood asthma in the offspring, based on two samples of children 1–4 (n?=?426 334) and 7–12 (n?=?493 813) years assembled from the Swedish Medical Birth Register. Exposure was maternal bereavement of a close relative from one year before pregnancy to child birth. Asthma event was defined by a hospital contact for asthma or at least two dispenses of inhaled corticosteroids or montelukast. In the younger sample we calculated hazards ratios (HRs) of a first-ever asthma event using Cox models and in the older sample odds ratio (ORs) of an asthma attack during 12 months using logistic regression. Compared to unexposed boys, exposed boys seemed to have a weakly higher risk of first-ever asthma event at 1–4 years (HR: 1.09; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.98, 1.22) as well as an asthma attack during 12 months at 7–12 years (OR: 1.10; 95% CI: 0.96, 1.24). No association was suggested for girls. Boys exposed during the second trimester had a significantly higher risk of asthma event at 1–4 years (HR: 1.55; 95% CI: 1.19, 2.02) and asthma attack at 7–12 years if the bereavement was an older child (OR: 1.58; 95% CI: 1.11, 2.25). The associations tended to be stronger if the bereavement was due to a traumatic death compared to natural death, but the difference was not statistically significant.


Our results showed some evidence for a positive association between prenatal stress and childhood asthma among boys but not girls.