Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Sunday, September 6, 1998 Published at 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK


Stress and class 'have major impact' on premature birth

The EUROPOP study shows socio-economic factors influence premature birth

Class, education, age, income and a stressful job all play a major role in premature labour, according to a European study.

The EUROPOP survey of 16,000 women in 17 European countries shows that a woman is 100% more likely to go into premature labour if she is of low socio-economic status, left school at 16, is a teenager, lives alone or is single.

Other significant risk factors include:

  • Working more than 40 hours a week
  • Doing a physically strenuous or stressful job or one which involves standing for long periods
  • Commuting long distances to work
  • Being unemployed
  • Being under 20 or over 34 years old
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Being overweight or underweight.

The survey looked at women who gave birth between 1995 and 1997 and classified them according to whether they had a normal, moderately premature or severely premature birth.

It is published on Monday at a conference on the problems of prematurity.

Premature birth is one of the major risk factors for neonatal babies.

The conference is part of National Pregnancy Week which begins on Sunday.

Socio-demographic factors

The study's author, Professor Gian Carlo Di Renzo, says it represents the most conclusive proof yet of the link between socio-economic factors and premature birth.

[ image: A mother's stressful job can harm a foetus]
A mother's stressful job can harm a foetus
He said: "For years, the recognised risk factors for prematurity have been those linked to a woman's previous obstetric history and to medical complications in pregnancy.

"This is still the case, but what this study shows clearly is that premature birth is also inextricably linked to socio-demographic factors such as class, education and the type of job you do."

The UK has one of the highest rates of premature births and teenage pregnancies in Europe.

Around 100 babies a day are born prematurely in the UK.

The survey also shows that the UK is one of the only European countries studied which does not give special leave to women who have health problems linked to their pregnancy.

It also has fewer regulations than countries such as Sweden, Italy, France and Russia concerning the kind of jobs which are potentially harmful to pregnant women.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes
Relevant Stories

04 Sep 98 | Health
Trial 'could halve risk of premature birth'

14 Aug 98 | Health
Doctors debate Caesarean option

05 Aug 98 | Health
'Women need more say in childbirth'

17 Jul 98 | Health
Small babies more prone to heart disease

09 Jul 98 | Health
Some infant deaths 'preventable'

30 Jun 98 | Health
Diabetes could be linked to baby birthweight

Internet Links

British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Horizon: the limits of birth

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99