The aim of the study was to examine the association of lifetime maternal depression with regulation of immune responses in the infant, measured by cytokine levels and lymphocyte proliferation (LP) in cord blood mononuclear cells collected at delivery.
We studied women recruited in early pregnancy into the Project Viva longitudinal cohort who had cord blood assayed after delivery (N = 463). Women reported about depressive symptoms in midpregnancy (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) and depression history by questionnaire. Immune responses were assayed by an index of LP, and concentrations of five cytokines (interleukin [IL]-6, IL-10, IL-13, tumor necrosis tumor necrosis factor factor α, and interferon γ) after incubation of cord blood mononuclear cells either in medium alone or stimulated with phytohemagglutinin (PHA), cockroach extract, or house dust mite extract. We examined associations of maternal depression with these sets of cytokine measures using multivariable linear or tobit regression analyses.
After adjustment for confounders (mother's age, race/ethnicity, education, household income, season of birth, and child sex), levels of IL-10 after stimulation with cockroach or dust mite allergen were lower in cord blood from ever versus never depressed women, and a similar trend was evident in IL-10 stimulated with PHA (percentage difference: cockroach extract = −41.4, p = .027; house dust mite extract = 1–36.0, p = .071; PHA = −24.2, p = .333). No significant differences were seen in levels of other cytokines or LP.
Maternal depression is associated with offspring immune responses at birth, which may have implications for later life atopic risk or immune function.