HealthDay News — A child may face an increased risk of asthma if the child’s mother or father experienced depression during the pregnancy or if the mother took an older antidepressant to treat her condition, research published in Pediatrics suggests. 

Xiaoqin Liu, MD, an epidemiologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, and colleagues analyzed the medical records of 733,685 Danish children born between 1996 and 2007. Of the children’s mothers, 21,371 either had a diagnosis of depression or received a prescription for antidepressants while pregnant.

Children born to mothers who had depression were 25% more likely to develop childhood asthma. Among the 8,895 children whose mothers were prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy, the children of those women who received older antidepressants, mostly tricyclic antidepressants, had a 26% increased risk of asthma.

Depression in fathers slightly increased children’s risk of asthma, which suggested that some kind of environmental or genetic factors might be involved, Liu told HealthDay.

It’s not clear, however, how a mother’s depression might contribute to a child’s asthma risk. The link might be explained partly by biology, with something happening during pregnancy, environmental or genetic factors, or all three, Liu said.

The study researchers adjusted their findings to account for mothers’ smoking during pregnancy, but they did not account for fathers’ smoking or other sources of secondhand smoke.


  1. Liu X et al. Pediatrics. 2015; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-4073.