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Open Access Research article

The association between parity, infant gender, higher level of paternal education and preterm birth in Pakistan: a cohort study

Kiran Shaikh1, Shahirose S Premji2*, Marianne S Rose3, Ambreen Kazi4, Shaneela Khowaja1 and Suzanne Tough5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

2 University of Calgary, Faculty of Nursing, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada

3 Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Canada

4 Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University Hospital, Stadium Road, Karachi, Pakistan

5 Department of Pediatrics and Community Health, University of Calgary, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:88  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-88

Published: 2 November 2011

Abstract

Background

High rates of antenatal depression and preterm birth have been reported in Pakistan. Self reported maternal stress and depression have been associated with preterm birth; however findings are inconsistent. Cortisol is a biological marker of stress and depression, and its measurement may assist in understanding the influence of self reported maternal stress and depression on preterm birth.

Methods

In a prospective cohort study pregnant women between 28 to 30 weeks of gestation from the Aga Khan Hospital for Women and Children completed the A-Z Stress Scale and the Centre for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale to assess stress and depression respectively, and had a blood cortisol level drawn. Women were followed up after delivery to determine birth outcomes. Correlation coefficients and Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to assess relationship between preterm birth, stress, depression and cortisol. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the key factors predictive of preterm birth.

Results

132 pregnant women participated of whom 125 pregnant women had both questionnaire and cortisol level data and an additional seven had questionnaire data only. Almost 20% of pregnant women (19·7%, 95% CI 13·3-27·5) experienced a high level of stress and nearly twice as many (40·9%, 95% CI 32·4-49·8%) experienced depressive symptoms. The median of cortisol level was 27·40 ug/dl (IQR 22·5-34·2). The preterm birth rate was 11·4% (95% CI 6·5-18). There was no relationship between cortisol values and stress scale or depression. There was a significant positive relationship between maternal depression and stress. Preterm birth was associated with higher parity, past delivery of a male infant, and higher levels of paternal education. Insufficient numbers of preterm births were available to warrant the development of a multivariable logistic regression model.

Conclusions

Preterm birth was associated with higher parity, past delivery of a male infant, and higher levels of paternal education. There was no relationship between stress, and depression, cortisol and preterm birth. There were high rates of stress and depression among this sample suggesting that there are missed opportunities to address mental health needs in the prenatal period. Improved methods of measurement are required to better understand the psychobiological basis of preterm birth.