Birthweight and perinatal mortality: paradoxes, social class, and sibling dependencies

Int J Epidemiol. 2003 Aug;32(4):625-32. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyg163.


Background: Birthweight distributions among second-born infants depend on the birthweights of older siblings, with implications for weight-specific perinatal mortality. We wanted to study whether these relations were explained by socioeconomic levels, and to study time trends in a situation with decreasing perinatal mortality rates.

Methods: Births in the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry from 1967 to 1998 were linked to their mothers through their national identification numbers. The study population was 546 688 mothers with at least two singletons weighing >/==" BORDER="0">500 g at birth. Weight-specific perinatal mortality for second-born siblings in families with first-born siblings in either the highest or the lowest birthweight quartile was analysed. Maternal education and cohabitation status were used as measures of socioeconomic level.

Results: For all 500-g categories below 3500 g, mortality rates were significantly higher among second-born infants with an older sibling in the highest rather than the lowest weight quartile. This pattern was the same across three educational levels. The exclusion of preterm births did not change the effect pattern. A comparison of perinatal mortality among second siblings in terms of relative birthweight (z-scores) showed a reversal of the relative risks, although these were only significantly different from unity for the smallest infants. Conclusion The crossover in weight-specific perinatal mortality for second siblings by weight of first sibling is largely independent of socioeconomic level, and is not weakened by the decreasing perinatal mortality rates in the population over time. Family data should be taken into consideration when evaluating the risk of adverse pregnancy outcome relating to weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Order*
  • Birth Weight*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Norway
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Class*