Objectives: Childhood asthma is a common chronic illness that has been associated with mode of delivery. However, the effect of cesarean delivery alone does not fully account for the increased prevalence of childhood asthma. We tested the hypothesis that neuraxial anesthesia used for labor analgesia and cesarean delivery alters the risk of developing childhood asthma. Methods: Within the Newborn Epigenetics Study birth cohort, 196 mother and child pairs with entries in the electronic anesthesia records were included. From these records, data on maternal anesthesia type, duration of exposure, and drugs administered peripartum were abstracted and combined with questionnaire-derived prenatal risk factors and medical records and questionnaire-derived asthma diagnosis data in children. Logistic regression models were used to evaluate associations between type of anesthesia, duration of anesthesia, and the development of asthma in males and females. Results: We found that longer duration of epidural anesthesia was associated with a lower risk of asthma in male children (OR = 0.80; 95% CI = 0.66–0.95) for each hour of epidural exposure. Additionally, a unit increase in the composite dose of local anesthetics and opioid analgesics administered via the spinal route was associated with a lower risk of asthma in both male (OR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.36–0.96) and female children (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.09–0.82). Conclusion: Our data suggest that peripartum exposure to neuraxial anesthesia may reduce the risk of childhood asthma primarily in males. Larger human studies and model systems with longer follow-up are required to elucidate these findings.
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