Racial differences in placental pathology among very preterm births

Placenta. 2019 Aug:83:37-42. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2019.06.385. Epub 2019 Jun 26.


Introduction: African American women are at higher risk for preterm birth compared to white women, but no placental pathology has characterized this disparity. The objective of this study was to examine the association of race with placental pathology among very preterm births.

Methods: We conducted an eight-year retrospective cohort study of very preterm infants born at ≤32 weeks at Northwestern Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Archived placental slides underwent standardized masked histopathologic review. Logistic regression was performed for placental pathology, adjusting for available relevant covariates and stratified by infant sex and gestational age.

Results: Placentas were available for 296 white and 224 African American mother-infant pairs among births at ≤32 weeks gestation. Compared to placentas from white births, the adjusted OR (aOR) for acute inflammation in placentas from African American births was 1.95 (95% CI 0.87-4.37), the aOR for chronic inflammation was 3.35 (1.49-7.54), the aOR for fetal vascular pathology was 0.82 (0.29-2.32), and the aOR for maternal vascular pathology was 1.01 (0.51-1.99). Stratified analysis showed associations between all placental pathologies and race among male births. Across gestational age groups (<28 and ≥ 28 weeks), the association between race and placental pathology was present for chronic inflammation and fetal vascular pathology.

Discussion: Race is associated with placental pathology, and in particular, with chronic inflammation among very preterm births. The effect is modified by infant sex and gestational age. Placental histopathology may be useful markers for understanding the biological processes that shape disparities in pregnancy outcomes.

Keywords: Placental pathology; Preterm birth; Racial disparities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Placenta / blood supply
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Placenta Diseases / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth / pathology*
  • Race Factors
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • White People
  • Young Adult