Low birth weight, small for gestational age and preterm births before and after the economic collapse in Iceland: a population based cohort study

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 4;8(12):e80499. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080499. eCollection 2013.


Objective: Infants born small for gestational age (SGA) or preterm have increased rates of perinatal morbidity and mortality. Stressful events have been suggested as potential contributors to preterm birth (PB) and low birth weight (LBW). We studied the effect of the 2008 economic collapse in Iceland on the risks of adverse birth outcomes.

Study design: The study population constituted all Icelandic women giving birth to live-born singletons from January 1(st) 2006 to December 31(st) 2009. LBW infants were defined as those weighing <2500 grams at birth, PB infants as those born before 37 weeks of gestation and SGA as those with a birth weight for gestational age more than 2 standard deviations (SD's) below the mean according to the Swedish fetal growth curve. We used logistic regression analysis to estimate odds ratios [OR] and corresponding 95 percent confidence intervals [95% CI] of adverse birth outcomes by exposure to calendar time of the economic collapse, i.e. after October 6(th) 2008.

Results: Compared to the preceding period, we observed an increased adjusted odds in LBW-deliveries following the collapse (aOR = 1.24, 95% CI [1.02, 1.52]), particularly among infants born to mothers younger than 25 years (aOR = 1.85, 95% CI [1.25, 2.72]) and not working mothers (aOR = 1.61, 95% CI [1.10, 2.35]). Similarly, we found a tendency towards higher incidence of SGA-births (aOR = 1.14, 95% CI [0.86, 1.51]) particularly among children born to mothers younger than 25 years (aOR = 1.87, 95% CI [1.09, 3.23]) and not working mothers (aOR = 1.86, 95% CI [1.09, 3.17]). No change in risk of PB was observed. The increase of LBW was most distinct 6-9 months after the collapse.

Conclusion: The results suggest an increase in risk of LBW shortly after the collapse of the Icelandic national economy. The increase in LBW seems to be driven by reduced fetal growth rate rather than shorter gestation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Cohort Studies
  • Economic Recession*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / economics*
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth / physiopathology
  • Premature Birth / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grants and funding

Financial support from RANNIS (The Icelandic Centre for Research) is acknowledged, however, RANNIS had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.