Pre- and perinatal stress and irritable bowel syndrome in young adults - A nationwide register-based cohort study

Olén O1,2, Stephansson O1, Backman AS1, Törnblom H3, Simrén M3,4, Altman M1. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Nov;30(11):e13436. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13436. Epub 2018 Aug 7.

Author information

1 Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

2 Sachs' Children's Hospital, Stockholm South General Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

3 Department of Internal Medicine & Clinical Nutrition, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

4 Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


BACKGROUND: The etiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is poorly understood. Animal and human data suggest that early life stress may induce long-term changes in the nociceptive circuitry, but conclusive studies are lacking.

METHODS: We identified all Swedish children born between 1973 and 1992 in the Swedish Medical Birth Register. We had access to all diagnostic codes for specialized (nonprimary care) outpatient visits 2001-2009 (the National Patient Register) and identified individuals who were diagnosed with IBS (ICD-10 code: K58) after 18 years of age. We compared incidence of IBS in individuals with and without pre- and perinatal stress using multivariable logistic regression.

KEY RESULTS: 2 056 430 children were included in the study. After turning 18 years, 14 382 of them were diagnosed with IBS in specialized outpatient care. Neither high, nor low birth weight was a risk factor for IBS in young adults. Preterm birth was associated with lower occurrence of IBS (adjusted OR 0.82 [0.75-0.90]) and vaginal instrumental delivery and Cesarean delivery were associated with slightly increased odds of IBS (adjusted OR 1.14 [1.06-1.24] and 1.09 [1.03-1.16] respectively). Neonatal distress and respiratory distress were not associated with future IBS. Female gender was by far the strongest risk factor for IBS in young adults (adjusted OR 3.48 [3.34-3.63]).

CONCLUSIONS & INFERENCES: In this large population-based study, we found that mode of delivery was associated with an increased risk for IBS in young adulthood, while other proxies for pre- and perinatal stress were not. Female gender remains the most important risk factor for IBS.

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