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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Preterm birth and reduced birthweight in first and second teenage pregnancies: a register-based cohort study

Ali S Khashan12*, Philip N Baker2 and Louise C Kenny1

Author Affiliations

1 Anu Research Centre, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

2 The Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2010, 10:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-36

Published: 9 July 2010

Abstract

Background

Higher risks of preterm birth and small for gestational age babies have been reported in teenagers. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between first and second teenage pregnancies and preterm birth, birthweight and small for gestational age (SGA).

Methods

All women aged 14 to 29 yrs who gave birth to live singletons in the North Western Region of England between January 1st 2004 and December 31st 2006 were identified. Women were classified in three groups; 14-17 yrs, 18-19 yrs and 20-29 yrs (reference group). The outcome measures were preterm birth, very preterm birth, birthweight, SGA (< 5th percentile), very SGA (VSGA< 3rd percentile). We compared these outcome measures in teenagers' first and second pregnancies with those of mothers aged 20 to 29 yrs.

Results

The risk of preterm birth was increased in first (OR = 1.21, [95% CI: 1.01-1.45]) and second (OR = 1.93, [95% CI: 1.38-2.69]) time mothers aged 14-17 yrs compared to the reference group. Birthweight was reduced in the first (mean difference = -24 g; [95% CI: -40, -7]) and second (mean difference = -80 g; [95% CI: -115, -46]) time mothers aged 14-17 yrs compared to the reference group. There was some evidence of a protective effect against VSGA in 14-17 yr old first time mothers (OR = 0.79, [95% CI: 0.63-0.99]).

Conclusions

Teenage mothers are at increased risk of preterm birth compared to adult mothers and this risk is further increased in second time teen pregnancies. This study highlights the importance of ensuring pregnant teenagers have appropriate antenatal care. A first pregnancy may be the first and only time a pregnant teenager interacts with health services and this opportunity for health education and the promotion of contraception should not be overlooked.