Objective: To study pregnancy outcomes among teenagers and to determine whether age-related increases in risk are due to differences in socioeconomic conditions, maternal smoking, or anthropometric status.
Methods: All single births during 1990-1991 to mothers aged less than 25 years recorded in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry were studied (n = 62,433). The pregnancy outcomes analyzed were late fetal death, infant mortality, preterm birth, low birth weight, small for gestational age, and low Apgar scores. Information on maternal age, parity, family situation, maternal smoking, maternal height, and weight gain during pregnancy was recorded in the Medical Birth Registry. Information on socioeconomic characteristics was obtained from the Population Census. Logistic regression analysis was used to define the determinants of the adverse outcomes among teenagers.
Results: Compared with women aged 20-24 years, girls of 17 years or less were at higher risk for preterm birth (odds ratio [OR] 1.6), and this increased risk remained essentially unchanged after controlling for major confounding factors (OR 1.5). Teenagers also had a crude 50% higher risk of late fetal death and infant mortality, but this risk was reduced after controlling for the effect of socioeconomic characteristics (adjusted OR 1.2).
Conclusions: The increase in risk of late fetal death and infant mortality associated with low maternal age is substantially an effect of teenagers' poorer socioeconomic situation. However, the increase in preterm birth among younger teenagers suggests that young maternal age may be a biologic risk factor for preterm birth.