Pregnancy can be a stressful time for expecting mums, which is not only bad for your health, but can lead to serious health issues in your unborn child as well.
According to a new research, women suffering from maternal anxiety disorder are at a greater risk of giving birth to babies who can develop eczema.
For those who are unaware, eczema is a condition where the skin gets irritated, red, dry, itchy and even bumpy. Even though there are several kinds of eczema, the most common is atopic dermatitis. This condition can appear in anyone, though it’s most common in children.
Maternal Anxiety Disorder And How It Increases The Risk Of Eczema In Babies
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A team at the University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Korea conducted the research. As part of the study, data of 802 children were collected from the Cohort for Childhood Origin of Asthma and Allergic Diseases (COCOA).
Here’s what the researchers did:
- They studied the infants while they were still in their mum’s womb.
- They measured exposure to particulate matter during all three trimesters. Then at week 36 of the pregnancy, the mums were instructed to fill out a questionnaire about their stress levels.
- A follow up was done with the children post-birth the six and 12-month mark. This was to evaluate whether they developed eczema.
They concluded that 107 children, which is (13%) developed eczema within their first year of life. Researchers further found that babies exposed to prenatal particular matter with an “aerodynamic diameter of fewer than 2.5 μm (PM2.5)” during weeks 5 to 8 of gestation were more likely to develop eczema.
What is particulate matter?
Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution or PM, is a mix of solid particles and liquid droplets that you can find in the air. There are some that are large enough to be seen by the human eye.
It is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.
Previous research had underscored the harmful effects particulate matter can have on human health, specifically that it may increase the risk of asthma in babies. This is one of the first studies to link particulate matter and anxiety to infant eczema.
Triggers and Treatment of Eczema
- Infants younger than one year usually develop eczema rash on their cheeks, forehead, and scalp. It may then spread to the knees, elbows, and trunk.
- Older kids and teens usually get the rash in the bends of the elbows, behind the knees, on the neck, or on the inner wrists and ankles. You may find that their skin is often scalier and drier than when eczema first began.
Some major triggers of childhood eczema include dry skin, heat and sweat, stress irritants and allergens.
There is no specific test that is used to diagnose eczema. Your child’s doctor will look at the rash and ask about symptoms, will also keep in mind the child’s past health, and the family’s health.
You may also need to inform the doctor if family members have suffered from any atopic conditions.
The doctor might recommend that your child see a dermatologist or an allergist, depending on the condition of your child’s rashes.
Treatments for eczema
Unfortunately, there is no cure for eczema. Your child’s doctor will recommend different treatments based on the severity of the symptoms, child’s age, and the location of the rash.
Here are some commonly recommended treatments:
Skin needs to be moisturised often: Make sure to apply moisturiser after a bath or shower, pat the skin gently. Ointments like petroleum jelly are best because they contain a lot of oil.
Topical corticosteroids: These are also commonly referred to as steroid creams and ointments. However, it’s important to always consult a doctor before using any topical steroid creams. These vary in strength, and when you use the wrong strength in sensitive areas, it can damage the skin.
Medicine: These include antihistamines (anti-allergy medicine), which can help itchy kids sleep better at night.
Remember, children and teens suffering from eczema are prone to skin infections. You should call your doctor right away if you notice any early signs of skin infection.
The mental health of the mum thus plays an important role in determining the health of the baby. The findings of the study is a reminder that you need to keep stress at bay, especially now.
Here are some major symptoms and risk factors of maternal anxiety disorder.
Common Symptoms Of Maternal Anxiety Disorder
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It’s difficult to describe anxiety because every person’s experience is different. However, here are some common symptoms of maternal anxiety disorder:
- When you are finding it tough to cope with everything
- Feeling extremely frightened and alone
- When you have difficulty focusing your mind on one thing
- Unable to finish a task because you see everything as stressful
- When you are not able to prioritise different things
- If you are being too chaotic and unorganised
- You are feeling depressed
- When you are not enjoying your life
- When you can’t “relax” and “let go”
- Having frequent panic attacks
- If you are suffering from Agoraphobia, a condition where you want to stay home and not go out
- Fighting with very distressing thoughts about yourself and/or your baby
Here’s when the risk for maternal anxiety disorder increases:
- If you had a very complicated pregnancy
- Premature labour and birth
- If you underwent a very difficult or disappointing birth
- Having a baby who is in need of constant care and special attention
- Suffering from postnatal depression
To keep anxiety at bay, try to inculcate healthy habits such as regular exercises, and consuming healthy food, among others.
At the same time, don’t forget to get good sleep and never hesitate to ask for social support. Remember, when you have the right support system, half your job is done. You will also then be able to sneak in some “me time” which is extremely important to boost your mental health.
Don’t shy away from seeking medical help if the maternal anxiety disorder symptoms are severe.
Helpline Numbers In Singapore
If you need help or know anyone in a vulnerable mental state, contact the following helpline numbers to seek help.
- National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800 283 7019
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389 2222
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