Prenatal maternal stress and early caregiving experiences: implications for childhood asthma risk


  • Rosalind J. Wright

    1. Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Department of Society, Health and Human Development, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
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Rosalind J. Wright, MD, MPH, Channing Laboratory, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA. E-mail:


There is still much debate as to the pathways through which some children develop asthma and others do not. One possible mechanism outlined here concerns the way in which stress may influence the neuroendocrine system and thence the immune system. Supporting evidence from animal experiments suggests that maternal prenatal stress may be of importance, resulting in programming of the infant's HPA axis. In addition, social stressors during the early part of a child's life may also affect the HPA axis and thence dysregulation of immune system functioning with implications for the development of asthma.