Influence of maternal age, parity and social class on perinatal mortality in Scotland: 1960-82

J Biosoc Sci. 1985 Jul;17(3):339-49. doi: 10.1017/s0021932000015819.


PIP: This study examines secular changes in the influence of maternal age, parity and social class on perinatal mortality in Scotland. Using cross-sectional national data on all Scottish legitimate births the effects of these factors are estimated on the risk of stillbirths, neonatal and perinatal deaths, and the extent to which the current pattern of relative risks in the early 1980s has changed over the past 2 decades is investigated. Social class is used as a crude measure of relative as opposed to absolute differences in socioeconomic conditions which may influence reproductive outcomes. The effects of age, parity and social class are estimated using logistic models. The most parsimonious model adequately describing the data is provided by a main effects model without interactions. Despite changes in reproductive behavior, improved access to maternity services and more effective perinatal care, the influence of maternal age and social class on perinatal mortality remained unchanged between 1960 and 1982. Although the absolute risks of stillbirths and neonatal deaths declined in all maternal age groups, this improvement was not accompained by a significant change in the relative risks traditionally associated with age. Despite no significant changes in the traditional J-shaped association between parity and stillbirths, cross-sectional analysis shows that in the early 1980s the risk of both neonatal and perinatal deaths decreased as parity increased. This finding is consistent with the pattern of risks observed in longitudinal studies and retrospective surveys of reproductive histories. In view of the stability of age, parity and social class effects on the risk of perinatal mortality, little if any of the overall decrease in Scottish stillbirth and neonatal death rates can be attributed to a significant narrowing of relative risks. The results suggest that the attributable risk of high maternal age or low social class on perinatal mortality is negligible. Future improvements in perinatal mortality are thus likely to result from a continuation of the uniform decrease in perinatal mortality for women of all ages, parities and social classes and not from a diminishing of differences in relative risks which are now virtually identical for a large and growing % of women in Scotland.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Age*
  • Parity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Scotland
  • Social Class*