The relationship between maternal psychopathology and offspring incontinence and constipation at school age: a prospective cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Maternal depression and anxiety may increase the risk of offspring incontinence; however, current evidence is unable to draw causal inferences. This study aimed to examine prospective associations between maternal psychopathology and offspring incontinence/constipation and examine evidence for causal intra-uterine effects.

The study used data from 6,489 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Mothers provided data on depression and anxiety (antenatal and postnatal) and their child’s incontinence (daytime wetting, bedwetting, soiling) and constipation at age 7. We used multivariable logistic regression to examine evidence for independent effects of maternal depression/anxiety on offspring incontinence/constipation and explore a critical/sensitive period of exposure. A negative control design was utilised to examine evidence causal intra-uterine effects.

Postnatal maternal psychopathology was associated with an increased risk of offspring incontinence and constipation (e.g. postnatal anxiety and daytime wetting OR: 1.53; 95% CI: 1.21-1.94), and data were consistent with a critical period model. There was evidence for an independent effect of maternal anxiety. Antenatal maternal psychopathology was associated with constipation (e.g. antenatal anxiety OR: 1.57; 95% CI: 1.25-1.98), but there was no evidence for a causal intra-uterine effect.

Attrition and maternal reports without use of established diagnostic criteria for incontinence/constipation are potential limitations.

Children exposed to maternal postnatal psychopathology had a greater risk of incontinence/constipation, and maternal anxiety had stronger associations than depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date7 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was specifically funded by a Medical Research Council grant (ref: MR/V033581/1 : Mental Health and Incontinence). Gemma Sawyer is supported by a Wellcome Trust PhD studentship in Molecular, Genetic and Lifecourse Epidemiology (ref: 218495/Z/19/Z). This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.

Funding Information:
The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 217065/Z/19/Z ) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors and Gemma Sawyer, Jon Heron and Carol Joinson will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 University of Bristol


Dive into the research topics of 'The relationship between maternal psychopathology and offspring incontinence and constipation at school age: a prospective cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this