Marital status, cohabitation, and risk of preterm birth in Europe: where births outside marriage are common and uncommon

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2002 Apr;16(2):124-30. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3016.2002.00396.x.


This article explores whether the impact of marital status on the risk of preterm birth varies in relation to marital practices in the population, defined by the proportion of out-of-marriage births. Data come from a case-control study of the determinants of preterm birth in 16 European countries (5456 cases and 8234 controls). There is a significantly elevated risk of preterm birth associated with both cohabitation (OR = 1.29 [1.08, 1.55]) and single motherhood (OR = 1.61 [1.26, 2.07]) for women living in countries where fewer than 20 of births occur outside marriage. In contrast, there is no excess risk associated with marital status when out-of-marriage births are more common. This overall result does not apply to all subgroups of preterm births: different patterns emerge for early preterm births and preterm births induced for medical reasons. It is important to consider social context in the analysis of individual risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Labor Onset
  • Marital Status*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Single Parent / statistics & numerical data*