Mothers of very low birth weight infants have less atopy than mothers of full-term infants


Prof. E. Savilahti, Hospital for Children and Adolescents, University of Helsinki, P.O.B. 281, FIN-00029 HUS (Helsinki), Finland.


Background Studies on the pregnancy outcome of asthmatic mothers have suggested an increased rate of preterm deliveries. In contrast, our earlier study suggests that mothers of very low birth weight (VLBW) (<1500 g) infants less frequently had atopy than did mothers of full-term infants.

Methods We inquired about symptoms of atopy and doctor-diagnosed atopy in parents of 370 infants of VLBW (<1500 g) and 544 parents of full-term infants. Odds ratios for atopic symptoms and diagnosed atopy were calculated, and groups were compared with a trend test.

Results Mothers of preterm infants of birth weight (BW) <1000 g significantly less often had physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis (AR) (P=0.02). Among all the mothers, a trend test showed that maternal AR was significantly (P=0.03) higher in parallel with a higher infant BW. Fathers of infants with different BWs showed no differences in prevalence of atopic symptoms.

Conclusion We thus infer that maternal balance between T-helper type 1 (Th1) and Th2 cells, shifted towards Th2 in those with AR, may have a favourable effect on maintenance of pregnancy before gestational week 30.