Background: This study examined the association of maternal oral contraceptive (OC) use - before and after birth - and atopic manifestations in the offspring.
Methods: A total of 2754 East German children aged 5-14 years participated in a cross-sectional survey in 1998-99. The standardized parental questionnaire in 1998-99 included data on atopic diseases, socio-economic factors, parental atopy and maternal OC use. Specific immunoglobulin E against common inhalant allergens was measured by radioallergosorbent test (RAST).
Results: Maternal OC use before birth was associated with a higher risk of atopic diseases in the offspring compared with children of mothers who had never taken OC [asthma: odds ratio (OR) 1.6; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.9-3.0; allergic rhinitis: OR 1.5; CI: 0.96-2.2; atopic eczema: OR 2.6; CI: 1.6-4.3; atopic sensitization: OR 1.5; CI: 0.97-2.2]. However, the effect estimates for maternal OC use after birth compared with the never users showed quite similar effects for these atopic conditions. No relations were observed between the prevalences of atopic diseases and maternal age at beginning of OC use, the duration of OC use, the type of contraceptive or maternal age at birth.
Conclusion: This study raises doubts in a true biological association between OC use and atopic diseases.