Psychological Conditions in Mother Impact Gut Immunity in Infants

March 04, 2020
Maternal pre-postnatal psychosocial distress is known to increase the risk of childhood allergic disease, occurring through a host of immunity pathways involving intestinal secretory immunoglobin A (sigA).

A team, led by Liane J. Kang, Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta, examined the link between maternal depression and stress symptom trajectories and infant fecal sigA concentrations.

Investigators in the past have found in animal models changes in the gut microbiome and immunity of offspring when exposed to direct or prenatal maternal stress but have not previously duplicated the studies in humans.

In the study, the investigators examined 1043 term infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort, basing the trajectories of maternal perceived stress and depression on scored scales administered in pregnancy and postpartum.

The team quantified sigA in infant stool with Immunodiagnostic ELISA and employed linear regression and logistic regression to test the associations.

Very low fecal sigA concentrations were commonly found in infants of mothers in the antepartum and persistent depression trajectories (6% and 2% of women, respectively).

Independent of breastfeeding status at fecal sampling, infant antibiotic exposure or other covariates, the antepartum depressive symptom trajectory was associated with reduced mean infant sIgA concentrations (β=−0.07, P <.01).

There was also two-fold risk for lowest quartile concentrations (OR, 1.86; 95% CI. 1.02-3.40). The lowering of sigA resulted in a large effect size in older infants (4-8 months), both breastfed and not breastfed.

There was also no link found in postpartum depressive symptoms (7% of women) or with any of the perceived stress trajectories.

“Despite improved mood postpartum and independent of breastfeeding status, mothers experiencing antepartum depressive symptoms delivered offspring who exhibited lower fecal sIgA concentrations especially in later infancy,” the authors wrote. “The implications of lowered sIgA concentrations in infant stool are altered microbe‐sIgA interactions, greater risk for C difficile colonization and atopic disease in later years.”

Young mothers can often face an increased risk of mental health disorders.

Recently, a team led by Ryan J. Van Lieshout, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at McMaster University, compared the mental health outcomes of young mothers to both older mothers and teenage women who are without children.

The Young Mothers Health Study included 450 mothers younger than 21 and 100 comparison mothers older than 30 years old at their first delivery living in urban and rural central-west Ontario.

The investigators found that almost 2 out of every 3 young mother reported at least 1 mental health problem, with almost 40% of the study population having more than 1 mental health disorder.

Young mothers were 2-4 times as likely to have an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, and specific phobia, as well as ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, or conduct disorder. They were also 2-4 times more likely to have more than 1 psychiatric problem when compared to the older control group of mothers or the women between 15-17 years old.
 
The study, “Maternal psychological distress before birth influences gut immunity in mid‐infancy,” was published online in Clinical & Experimental Allergy.
 
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