Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Infants of Mothers with a Psychiatric History and the Role of Depression and Bonding

Ineke de Kruijff, Vandhana Choenni, Jasja.T. Groeneweg, Arine M. Vlieger, Marc A. Benninga, Rianne Kok, Astrid M. Kamperman, Mijke P. Lambregtse-Van Den Berg

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Objectives: Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), excessive crying, and constipation are common gastrointestinal symptoms in infancy of multifactorial origin in which psychosocial stress factors play an important role. The aims of this observational study were to investigate the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms in infants of mothers with or without a history of a psychiatric disorder, their association with maternal depressive symptoms, and the possible mediating role of bonding. Methods: 101 mothers with a history of a psychiatric disorder ("PD mothers") and 60 control mothers were included. Infant gastrointestinal symptoms, maternal depressive symptoms, and mother-infant bonding were assessed using validated questionnaires and diagnostic criteria at 1.5 month postpartum. Results: The mean total score on the Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Questionnaire Revised (I-GERQ-R) reported in infants of PD mothers (13.4 SD 5.4) was significantly higher than in infants of control mothers (10.8 SD 5.4; P =.003). No significant differences were found in the presence of excessive crying (modified Wessel's criteria and subjective experience) and constipation (Rome IV criteria) between both groups. Infant GER was associated with maternal depressive symptoms (P = 0.027) and bonding problems (P = <0.001). Constipation was related to maternal depressive symptoms (P = 0.045), and excessive crying (Wessel and subjective criteria) was associated with bonding problems (respectively P = 0.022 and P = 0.002). The effect of maternal depressive symptomatology on infant GER symptoms and excessive crying was mediated by bonding problems. Conclusion: Maternal psychiatric history is associated with infant gastrointestinal symptoms, in which mother-infant bonding is a mediating factor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

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