Prenatal factors and the development of asthma

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2008 Dec;20(6):682-7. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e3283154f26.


Purpose of review: There is increasing evidence that both prenatal and perinatal events influence both allergic diseases and early-life respiratory morbidity.

Recent findings: Studies in the last year have suggested that in-utero exposures including tobacco smoke exposure, dietary exposures including vitamin D, and prenatal infection and exposure to microbial products may modulate both atopy and respiratory disease. There have been studies revealing gene x environment interactions between inflammatory pathway genes and in-utero smoke exposure. There have also been studies which have revealed that prenatal exposure to endotoxin may be protective. On the other hand, a recent study also suggested that chorioamnionitis may increase the risk of recurrent wheezing in combination with preterm birth. Finally, two separate large cohort studies evaluated maternal diet in pregnancy and suggested that vitamin D levels may be protective against asthma and wheezing.

Summary: There is epidemiological evidence for multiple prenatal factors impacting early-life respiratory morbidity. The mechanisms of these factors need further investigation and may act via various pathways which include effects on lung development, allergic and nonallergic inflammation, and airway remodeling. It remains to be determined if some of these early-life factors which predispose to wheezing will all translate into increased risk of asthma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Birth Weight / immunology
  • Child
  • Chorioamnionitis / immunology
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Infections / complications
  • Infections / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / immunology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology


  • Antioxidants
  • Immunologic Factors