Social inequality in fetal and perinatal mortality in the Nordic countries

Scand J Public Health. 2008 Aug;36(6):635-49. doi: 10.1177/1403494808089653.


Aim: The aim of this study is to review the epidemiological literature from the past 27 years on social inequality in fetal and perinatal mortality in the Nordic countries in order to examine whether social inequalities in fetal and perinatal mortality exist, and whether there are differences between the countries.

Methods: The databases MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched for Nordic epidemiological studies published between January 1980 and August 2007 about the association between social indicators and the outcomes spontaneous abortion, stillbirth or perinatal mortality. Thirty-five studies that fulfilled the inclusion criteria were identified for this review.

Results: Social differences in stillbirth and perinatal mortality were found in all of the identified Finnish and Norwegian studies and in the majority of studies from Denmark, whereas in the Swedish studies the findings were less consistent. As only a small number of studies on spontaneous abortion were identified (n=3), no conclusions were drawn with regard to this outcome.

Conclusions: There seems to be a reasonable body of evidence that social inequality in stillbirth and perinatal mortality exists in Norway, Finland and Denmark, whereas the conclusions regarding Sweden are more uncertain. A number of methodological problems complicate the comparison of the findings. Nordic collaborative analyses of social gradients in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth and perinatal mortality, which take these methodological concerns into account, are needed in order to draw inferences across countries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / epidemiology*
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • Sweden / epidemiology