Objective: To test the hypothesis that noxious stimulation at birth may increase the long-term risk for developing psychosomatic or functional disorders during later life.
Study design: Matched case-control study using sibling controls. The birth records were retrieved for the offspring of 494 mothers who, after uncomplicated pregnancies, had delivered two or more children with birth weights at least 2500 g, if at least one child was exposed to a perinatal complication or birth asphyxia. Among their offspring (N=1110), the 108 cases hospitalized for functional intestinal symptoms were identified from nationwide hospital discharge records. Of these, 96 cases were compared with 116 unaffected sibling controls.
Results: Functional intestinal symptoms occurred more commonly among the 1110 subjects (9.5%) than in the general population (3.4%, chi(2)=124, P<10(-6)). Gastric suction at birth occurred more frequently among the cases compared with their siblings (22.9% vs 11.2%). There were no differences in the number of cases and controls exposed to perinatal trauma or birth asphyxia. Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that gastric suction at birth was associated with functional intestinal disorders during later life (odds ratio, 2.99; 95% confidence interval, 1.32-6.79; P=.009), whereas maternal, perinatal, or other confounding variables were not significant.
Conclusions: Noxious stimulation caused by gastric suction at birth may promote the development of long-term visceral hypersensitivity and cognitive hypervigilance, leading to an increased prevalence of functional intestinal disorders in later life.