Objective: To determine whether the relationship between previous miscarriage and risk of preterm birth changed over the period 1980-2008, and to determine whether the pattern varied according to the cause of the preterm birth.
Design: Linked birth databases.
Setting: All Scottish NHS hospitals.
Population: A total of 732 719 nulliparous women with a first live birth between 1980 and 2008.
Methods: Risk was estimated using logistic regression.
Main outcome measures: Preterm birth, subdivided by cause (spontaneous, induced with a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia, or induced without a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia) and severity [extreme (24-28 weeks of gestation), moderate (29-32 weeks of gestation), and mild (33-36 weeks of gestation)].
Results: Consistent with previous studies, previous miscarriage was associated with an increased risk of all-cause preterm birth (adjusted odds ratio, aOR 1.26; 95% confidence interval, 95% CI 1.22-1.29). This arose from associations with all subtypes. The strongest association was found with extreme preterm birth (aOR 1.73; 95% CI 1.57-1.90). Risk increased with the number of miscarriages. Women with three or more miscarriages had the greatest risk of all-cause preterm birth (aOR 2.14; 95% CI 1.93-2.38), and the strongest association was with extreme preterm birth (aOR 3.87; 95% CI 2.85-5.26). The strength of the association between miscarriage and preterm birth decreased from 1980 to 2008. This was because of weakening associations with spontaneous preterm birth and induced preterm birth without a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia.
Conclusions: The association between a prior history of miscarriage and the risk of preterm birth declined in Scotland over the period 1980-2008. We speculate that changes in the methods of managing incomplete termination of pregnancy might explain the trend, through reduced cervical damage.
Keywords: Miscarriage; premature birth; spontaneous termination of pregnancy.
© 2015 The Authors. BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.