Pregnancy Outcomes in Women with Spinal Cord Injuries: A Population-Based Study

PM R. 2019 Aug;11(8):795-806. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12122. Epub 2019 Apr 26.


Background: Pregnant women with congenital or acquired spinal cord injury face challenges due to compromised neurologic function and mobility, factors that may also affect fetal/infant health. Few studies have examined pregnancy course and longer-term outcomes in this population.

Objective: To assess pregnancy outcomes among women with spinal cord injury, paralysis, or spina bifida using population-based data.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Washington state linked birth-hospital discharge records.

Participants: All women (N = 529) with spinal cord injury, paralysis, or spina bifida with singleton live birth deliveries 1987-2012, and a comparison group of women without disabilities (N = 5282).

Methods: Diagnosis codes were screened to identify cases and a 10:1 random sample of comparison women. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated overall and separately for each condition using multivariable regression. Subsequent hospitalizations or death were identified via linkage to hospital discharge/death records for 2 years after delivery.

Main outcome measurements: Pregnancy course (weight gain, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infection, venous thromboembolism), delivery/labor characteristics, infant characteristics (birthweight/size, gestational age), and longer-term outcomes (occurrence/reasons for maternal/infant rehospitalization, mortality).

Results: Women with these spinal conditions had increased adjusted risks of prenatal urinary tract infection/pyelonephritis (RR 26.43, 95% CI 13.97-49.99), venous thromboembolism (RR 9.16, 95% CI 2.17-38.60), preterm rupture of membranes (RR 2.15, 95% CI 1.18-3.90), and cesarean delivery (RR 1.88, 95% CI 1.70-2.09). They had longer hospitalizations and increased rehospitalization (RR 1.54, 95% CI 1.28-1.87), including for postpartum depression (RR 8.15, 4.29-15.48) or injury (RR 13.05, 95% CI 6.60-25.81). Their infants were more often small for gestational age (RR 1.65, 95% CI 1.33-2.06), but had no increased risk of rehospitalization or death.

Conclusions: We observed no increased long-term morbidity among infants of women with these conditions. Possible increased maternal morbidities during the first postpartum years indicate areas for intervention.

Level of evidence: III.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Postnatal Care / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Pregnancy, High-Risk*
  • Prenatal Care / methods*
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Dysraphism / complications
  • Spinal Dysraphism / diagnosis*
  • Washington