Objective: To study the impact of terminations of pregnancy (TOP) on very preterm mortality in Europe.
Design: European prospective population-based cohort study.
Setting: Ten regions from nine European countries participating in the MOSAIC (Models of OrganiSing Access to Intensive Care for very preterm babies) study. These regions had different policies on screening for congenital anomalies (CAs) and on pregnancy termination.
Population or sample: Births 22-31 weeks gestational age.
Methods: The analysis compares the proportion of TOP among very preterm births and assesses differences in mortality between the regions.
Main outcome measures: Pregnancy outcomes (termination, antepartum death, intrapartum death and live birth) and reasons for termination, presence of CAs and causes of death for stillbirths and live births in 2003.
Results: Pregnancy terminations constituted between 1 and 21.5% of all very preterm births and between 4 and 53% of stillbirths. Most terminations were for CAs, although some were for obstetric indications (severe pre-eclampsia, growth restriction, premature rupture of membranes). TOP contributed substantially to overall fetal mortality rates in the two regions with late second-trimester screening. There was no clear association between policies governing screening and pregnancy termination and the proportion of CAs among stillbirths and live births, except in Poland, where neonatal deaths associated with CAs were more frequent, reflecting restrictive pregnancy termination policies.
Conclusion: Proportions of TOP among very preterm births varied widely between European regions. Information on terminations should be reported when very preterm live births and stillbirths are compared internationally since national policies related to screening for CAs and the legality and timing of medical terminations differ.