Are preterm birth and intra-uterine growth restriction more common in Western Australian children of immigrant backgrounds? A population based data linkage study Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:To compare the prevalence of preterm birth, post term birth, intra-uterine growth restriction and distribution of Apgar scores in offspring of foreign-born women in Western Australia with that of their Australian-born non-Indigenous and Indigenous counterparts. METHODS:A population-based linked data study, involving 767,623 singleton births in Western Australia between 1980 and 2010 was undertaken. Neonatal outcomes included preterm birth, post term births, intra-uterine growth restriction (assessed using the proportion of optimal birth weight) and low Apgar scores. These were compared amongst foreign-born women from low, lower-middle, upper middle and high income countries and Australian-born non-Indigenous and Indigenous women over two different time periods using multinomial logistic regression adjusted for covariates. RESULTS:Compared with Australian born non-Indigenous women, foreign-born women from low income countries were at some increased risk of extreme preterm (aRRR 1.59, 95% CI 0.87, 2.89) and very early preterm (aRRR 1.63, 95% CI 0.92, 2.89) births during the period from 1980 to 1996. During the period from 1997 to 2010 they were also at some risk of extreme preterm (aRRR 1.42, 95% CI 0.98, 2.04) very early preterm (aRRR 1.34, 95% CI 1.11, 1.62) and post term birth (aRRR 1.93, 95% CI 0.99, 3.78). During this second time period, other adverse outcomes for children of foreign-born women from low income and middle income countries included increases in severe (aRRR 1.69, 95% CI 1.30, 2.20; aRRR 1.72, 95% CI 1.53, 1.93), moderate (aRRR 1.54, 95% CI 1.32, 1.81; aRRR 1.59, 95% CI 1.48, 1.70) and mild (aRRR 1.28, 95% CI 1.14, 1.43; aRRR 1.31, 95% CI 1.25, 1.38) IUGR compared to children of Australian-born non-Indigenous mothers. Uniformly higher risks of adverse outcomes were also demonstrated for infants of Indigenous mothers. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings illustrate the vulnerabilities of children born to foreign women from low and middle-income countries. The need for exploratory research examining mechanisms contributing to poorer birth outcomes following resettlement in a developed nation is highlighted. There is also a need to develop targeted interventions to improve outcomes for these women and their families.


  • Abdullahi, Ifrah
  • Wong, Kingsley
  • Glasson, Emma
  • Mutch, Raewyn
  • de Klerk, Nicholas
  • Downs, Jenny
  • Cherian, Sarah
  • Leonard, Helen

publication date

  • 2019