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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 201717, 10 pages
Research Article

Prenatal Maternal Stress Predicts Childhood Asthma in Girls: Project Ice Storm

1University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre, Montreal, QC, Canada H2X 0A9
2University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada H3N 1X9
3Douglas Hospital Research Center, Montreal, QC, Canada H4H 1R3
4Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA
5Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
6Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
7McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1A1

Received 24 January 2014; Revised 11 April 2014; Accepted 11 April 2014; Published 8 May 2014

Academic Editor: Wenbin Liang

Copyright © 2014 Anne-Marie Turcotte-Tremblay et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Little is known about how prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) influences risks of asthma in humans. In this small study, we sought to determine whether disaster-related PNMS would predict asthma risk in children. In June 1998, we assessed severity of objective hardship and subjective distress in women pregnant during the January 1998 Quebec Ice Storm. Lifetime asthma symptoms, diagnoses, and corticosteroid utilization were assessed when the children were 12 years old ( ). No effects of objective hardship or timing of the exposure were found. However, we found that, in girls only, higher levels of prenatal maternal subjective distress predicted greater lifetime risk of wheezing ( ; 90% CI = 1.01–1.23), doctor-diagnosed asthma ( ; 90% CI = 1.00–1.19), and lifetime utilization of corticosteroids ( ; 90% CI = 1.01–1.25). Other perinatal and current maternal life events were also associated with asthma outcomes. Findings suggest that stress during pregnancy opens a window for fetal programming of immune functioning. A sex-based approach may be useful to examine how prenatal and postnatal environments combine to program the immune system. This small study needs to be replicated with a larger, more representative sample.