Background: There is much interest in the possibility that perinatal factors may influence the risk of disease in later life. We investigated the influence of maternal and perinatal factors on subsequent hospital admission for asthma in children.
Methods: Analysis of data from the Oxford record linkage study (ORLS) to generate a retrospective cohort of 248 612 records of births between 1970 and 1989, with follow-up to records of subsequent hospital admission for 4 017 children with asthma up to 1999.
Results: Univariate analysis showed significant associations between an increased risk of admission for asthma and later years of birth (reflecting the increase in asthma in the 1970s and 1980s), low social class, asthma in the mother, unmarried mothers, maternal smoking in pregnancy, subsequent births compared with first-born, male sex, low birth weight, short gestational age, caesarean delivery, forceps delivery and not being breastfed. Multivariate analysis, identifying each risk factor that had a significant effect independently of other risk factors, confirmed associations with maternal asthma (odds ratio (OR) 3.1, 95% confidence interval 2.7-3.6), male sex (versus female, 1.8, 1.7-2.0), low birth weight (1000-2999 g versus 3000-3999 g, 1.2, 1.1-1.3), maternal smoking (1.1, 1.0-1.3) and delivery by caesarean section (1.2; 1.0-1.3). In those first admitted with asthma under two years old, there were associations with having siblings (e.g. second child compared with first-born, OR 1.3, 1.0-1.7) and short gestational age (24-37 weeks versus 38-41 weeks, 1.6, 1.2-2.2). Multivariate analysis confined to those admitted with asthma aged six years or more, showed associations with maternal asthma (OR 3.8, 3.1-4.7), age of mother (under 25 versus 25-34 at birth, OR 1.16, 1.03-1.31; over 35 versus 25-34, OR 1.4, 1.1-1.7); high social class was protective (1 and 2, compared with 3, 0.72; 0.63-0.82). Hospital admission for asthma in people aged over six was more common in males than females (1.4; 1.2-1.5); but, by the teenage years, the sex ratio reversed and admission was more common in females than males.
Conclusion: Several maternal characteristics and perinatal factors are associated with an elevated risk of hospital admission for asthma in the child in later life.