Risk factors for miscarriage from a prevention perspective: a nationwide follow-up study

BJOG. 2014 Oct;121(11):1375-84. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12694. Epub 2014 Feb 19.


Objective: To identify modifiable risk factors for miscarriage and to estimate the preventable proportion of miscarriages that could be attributed to these.

Design: Nationwide observational follow-up study.

Setting: Denmark.

Population: Ninety-one thousand four hundred and twenty seven pregnancies included in the Danish National Birth Cohort between 1996 and 2002.

Methods: Information on potentially modifiable risk factors before and during pregnancy was collected by means of computer-assisted telephone interviews and linkage with Danish registers, ensuring almost complete follow-up of pregnancy outcome. Modifiable risk factors for miscarriage were identified by multiple Cox regression analysis, which provided the background for our estimations of population attributable fractions. In all, 88,373 pregnancies had full information on all covariates and were included in this analysis.

Main outcome measures: Miscarriage before 22 completed weeks of gestation.

Results: The potentially modifiable pre-pregnant risk factors associated with increased miscarriage risk were: age of 30 years or more at conception, underweight, and obesity. During pregnancy the modifiable risk factors were: alcohol consumption, lifting of >20 kg daily, and night work. We estimated that 25.2% of the miscarriages might be prevented by reduction of all these risk factors to low risk levels. Modification of risk factors acting before and during pregnancy could lead to prevention of 14.7 and 12.5%, respectively, of the miscarriages. Maternal age at conception and alcohol consumption were the most important risk factors.

Conclusions: Miscarriage risk is increased by multiple potentially modifiable risk factors and a considerable proportion of miscarriages may be preventable.

Keywords: Epidemiology; pregnancy risk factors; prevention; spontaneous abortion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / etiology*
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / prevention & control*
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lifting / adverse effects*
  • Maternal Age*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / complications*
  • Work Schedule Tolerance