Pregnant women who are dissatisfied in their relationship may be at an increased risk of developing infectious diseases, which may in turn, also affect their children, researchers have found.
The risk of pregnant women with the lowest satisfaction in their relationship becoming ill is more than twice than those who are satisfied.
"The study does not prove that the first thing leads to the second. But those who report that they are dissatisfied in their relationship more often report illnesses during pregnancy. Their children are also reported ill more often during their first year," said Roger Ekeberg Henriksen from the University of Bergen in Norway.
"Infections during pregnancy may lead to complications and diseases later in life, Henriksen said, adding "dissatisfaction with your partner during pregnancy should be considered a risk factor for reproductive health."
Relationship researchers have been usually interested in psychological factors such as depression and life quality. But social isolation and loneliness can also directly affect the physiology.
During stressed condition our immune system may be given lower priority, and we thus become less resistant towards infectious diseases from bacteria and viruses, the researchers said.
"If we look at brain research and other research on physiological mechanisms, we see that having a partner who is predictable and supportive may be decisive for our ability to handle stress. On the opposite side, stress responses may occur with the absence of social support," Henriksen stated.
In the study, Henriksen looked at the occurrence of eight different infectious diseases, from the common cold to stomach flu and inflammation of the ear.
With children up to six months, the occurrence of all eight infections was higher when the mothers were dissatisfied in their relationship.
"If there's a lot of stress in your life and you have few good relations, this should be given particular attention. It might be a good idea to talk to your midwife or your general practitioner about this," Henriksen suggested.
For the study, the team collected data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) -- a health study on mothers and their children since 1999. The study of pregnant women's infectious diseases includes more than 67,000 women. The study of children's infectious diseases includes nearly 91,000 women and more than 100,000 children.
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