Womens Health

Allergies and the Womb

Doctors have discovered interesting connections between a baby's experience in the womb and the subsequent allergies it may have after birth.  These findings could help women to change some of their habits if their family is prone to allergies and to keep these ideas in mind during their pregnancy. Scientists and doctors have found that at least some of the inborn risks for childhood allergies can be traced back to the womb.

Birth Order

First of all, they found a very interesting correlation between birth order and the predisposition for allergies.  Researchers who presented their findings at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference showed that if a specific genetic marker for having allergies is present in a firstborn child, that child will have more of a chance of having allergies from age birth to ten.  However, if the same marker appears for a second or third born child, the gene actually seems to lower the child's risk of allergies!  One of the doctors who did the research, Dr. Wilfried Karmaus, explored this idea of birth order and allergy risk even more with a study of 1200 newborns from the Isle of Wright in Great Britain.  They found that the IL-13 gene was linked to more allergies if it was present in firstborn children.  This link could be tied to the children even ten years later.  They found, in contrast, that the same gene in second and third born children seemed to protect them from the same allergies that were worse for the firstborn due to the gene.  Eventually, they hope that they can figure out a way to help firstborn children in utero with this potential problem.

Cesarean Section

Another team of doctors have discovered that the method of delivery might actually influence the risk for allergies in the delivered baby.  This group looked at the umbilical cord blood of babies born by Cesarean and those born vaginally.  All of these babies had at least one parent with allergies or asthma.  They found that the babies born through Cesarean had a higher risk of early onset immune system problems.  This onset could lead these children to have more chances of developing allergies and asthma.  This was the first study of its kind, and more studies need to be conducted to confirm these results and to further explore the causes of such a finding.

Peanut Allergies From The Mom

Some researchers are looking into the chance that a baby, born to a mother who ate peanut products while pregnant, could develop a peanut allergy more readily.  More research needs to be done on this topic.  Obviously, women who have food allergies in general, or nut allergies specifically, should avoid these foods while pregnant and nursing.  For women with no such history, peanuts and peanut butter are useful sources of folate and protein.  So far, the research does not indicate that a woman with no predisposition to nut allergies will transfer a nut allergy to her child in utero.

Stress And Allergies

Finally, stress is apparently a major factor that can lead a baby to develop allergies and asthma from its mother in utero.  Two researchers, Wright and Peters, used an extensive questionnaire to look at pregnant women, the stressors in their lives, and the allergens in their homes.  They found that the babies who were born to more stressed women were more likely to develop asthma and allergies than were those babies born to women who indicated that they were less stressed.   They found this to be even more evident in situations where the mother had more dust mite allergens in her house while she was pregnant.  So, keep the house clean and the stress low during pregnancy to avoid allergies in the baby!

All of these findings need to be further studied, of course, but they are an interesting first look at the correlation between the womb and allergies.  Certainly, eating right, staying relaxed and keeping a clean house while pregnant are items that any woman can try to achieve.  Birth order and Cesarean section are factors that are beyond a woman's control.  Women can certainly do their best to control those factors that they are in charge of, and to introduce babies to the safest and healthiest environment possible.

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