Ethnic differences in preterm birth and its subtypes: the effect of a cumulative risk profile


G Goedhart, Municipal Health Service Amsterdam, Department of Epidemiology, Documentation and Health Promotion, PO Box 2200, 1000 CE Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Email


Objective  To explore the effect of potentially explanatory risk factors on ethnic differences in the prevalence of preterm birth (PTB) and its subtypes.

Design  Prospective population-based cohort study.

Setting and population  Pregnant women from Amsterdam attending their first antenatal visit for obstetric care. A total of 8266 women participated (response rate 67%). Ethnicity was based on the country of birth of the pregnant woman’s mother: the Netherlands, Surinam, the Antilles, Turkey, Morocco, Ghana and other non-Dutch countries. Exclusion criteria were multiple births and gestational age at delivery less than 24 weeks.

Methods  Risk factors were obtained using a multilingual questionnaire and from the Dutch Perinatal Registration. Risk factors were summed into a cumulative risk score. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed.

Main outcome measures  Odds ratios with 95% CIs were calculated for total, spontaneous and iatrogenic (medically indicated) preterm births for the ethnic minority groups versus the Dutch reference group.

Results  After adjustment for all risk factors, the Surinamese (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2–2.4), Ghanaian (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1–3.6) and Antillean (OR 1.6, 95% CI 0.8–3.3) women had a higher risk of PTB compared with the Dutch women, in particular for iatrogenic preterm birth (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.0–4.4; OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.0–10.4; OR 3.6, 95% CI 1.1–11.2, respectively). The ethnic minority groups had a higher cumulative risk score (ranging from 2.1 to 3.7) compared with the Dutch group (1.8). Adjustment for the cumulative risk score considerably decreased the risk of PTB among the Surinamese (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.9–1.7), Ghanaian (OR 1.3, 95% CI 0.8–2.3) and Antillean (OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.6–2.4) women.

Conclusions  A cumulation of risk factors, mainly observed among the ethnic minority groups, contributes to the explanation of ethnic differences in PTB prevalence.