Does having a family history of allergy affect your pregnancy?
It is thought that food allergies affect around 1-2% of adults and 2-8% of children in the UK. Allergies have a genetic link meaning that they can be passed down through families. The risk of your child developing an allergy can be increased by 20-60% if parents or siblings have allergies.
This may make you concerned about how you can avoid ‘passing on’ your allergies to your child, however even a child with no family history of allergies has a 20% risk of developing one in life so don’t let the risk of allergies stop you from enjoying your pregnancy!
Allergies and Pregnancy
There is currently no evidence to suggest that anything you do whilst pregnant can ‘cause’ your child to develop an allergy. There is also currently no evidence to suggest that the foods you eat (or don’t eat) when pregnant can cause/prevent your baby from developing an allergy in later life.
The Government used to recommend that pregnant women with a family history of allergy avoided peanuts, as they thought that this might increase the risk of the baby having a peanut allergy. However, this has now been proven not to be true. Eating peanuts during pregnancy will not increase the risk of your baby having a peanut allergy so dig the peanut butter back out of the cupboard!
If you have a food allergy
If you have a food allergy then you should continue to avoid this food whilst pregnant. You may need to see a dietitian if you have multiple allergies to make sure your baby will get all of the nutrients needed.
What should I do?
The most important things you can do for your baby when pregnant is to eat healthily and safely, following advice on foods which should be eaten or avoided during pregnancy.
There is also no benefit to avoiding foods which the child’s father is allergic to, as this will have no effect on whether your baby develops an allergy or not. Avoiding foods without good reason could lead to your baby not getting the right amount and variety of nutrients it needs to grow well.
If you have a history of allergy in your family then exclusive breastfeeding for six months which is in line with current recommendations, can also help your baby to develop a healthy immune system which may help to prevent allergies from developing.