Journal Article

Maternal age and the risk of low birthweight and pre-term delivery: a pan-Nordic comparison

Aradhya, S., Tegunimataka, A., Kravdal, Ø., Martikainen, P., Myrskylä, M., Barclay, K. J., Goisis, A.
International Journal of Epidemiology, 52:1, 156–164 (2023)
Open Access


Background: Advanced maternal age at birth is considered a risk factor for adverse birth outcomes. A recent study applying a sibling design has shown, however, that the association might be confounded by unobserved maternal characteristics.
Methods: Using total population register data on all live singleton births during the period 1999–2012 in Denmark (N = 580 133; 90% population coverage), Norway (N = 540 890) and Sweden (N = 941 403) and from 2001–2014 in Finland (N = 568 026), we test whether advanced maternal age at birth independently increases the risk of low birthweight (LBW) (<2500 g) and pre-term birth (<37 weeks gestation). We estimated within-family models to reduce confounding by unobserved maternal characteristics shared by siblings using three model specifications: Model 0 examines the bivariate association; Model 1 adjusts for parity and sex; Model 2 for parity, sex and birth year.
Results: The main results (Model 1) show an increased risk in LBW and pre-term delivery with increasing maternal ages. For example, compared with maternal ages of 26–27 years, maternal ages of 38–39 years display a 2.2, 0.9, 2.1 and 2.4 percentage point increase in the risk of LBW in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, respectively. The same patterns hold for pre-term delivery.
Conclusions: Advanced maternal age is independently associated with higher risk of poor perinatal health outcomes even after adjusting for all observed and unobserved factors shared between siblings.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.