Association between Income and Perinatal Mortality in the Netherlands across Gestational Age

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Abstract

Importance: The association between household income and perinatal health outcomes has been understudied. Examining disparities in perinatal mortality within strata of gestational age and before and after adjusting for birth weight centile can reveal how the income gradient is associated with gestational age, birth weight, and perinatal mortality. Objectives: To investigate the association between household income and perinatal mortality, separately by gestational age strata and time of death, and the potential role of birth weight centile in mediating this association. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study used individually linked data of all registered births in the Netherlands with household-level income tax records. Singletons born between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2016, at 24 weeks to 41 weeks 6 days of gestation with complete information on birth outcomes and maternal characteristics were studied. Data analysis was performed from March 1, 2018, to August 30, 2021. Exposures: Household income rank (adjusted for household size). Main Outcomes and Measures: Perinatal mortality, stillbirth (at ≥24 weeks of gestation), and early neonatal mortality (at ≤7 days after birth). Disparities were expressed as bottom-to-top ratios of projected mortality among newborns with the poorest 1% of households vs those with the richest 1% of households. Generalized additive models stratified by gestational age categories, adjusted for potential confounding by maternal age at birth, maternal ethnicity, parity, sex, and year of birth, were used. Birth weight centile was included as a potential mediator. Results: Among 2036431 singletons in this study (1 043 999 [51.3%] males; 1496579 [73.5%] with mother of Dutch ethnicity), 121010 (5.9%) were born before 37 weeks of gestation, and 8720 (4.3 deaths per 1000) died during the perinatal period. Higher household income was positively associated with higher rates of perinatal survival, with an unadjusted bottom-to-top ratio of 2.18 (95% CI, 1.87-2.56). The bottom-to-top ratio decreased to 1.30 (95% CI, 1.22-1.39) after adjustment for potential confounding factors and inclusion of birth weight centile as a possible mediator. The fully adjusted ratios were lower for stillbirths (1.27; 95% CI, 1.20-1.36) than for early neonatal deaths (1.35; 95% CI, 1.14-1.66). Inequalities in perinatal mortality were found for newborns at greater than 26 weeks of gestation but not between 24 and 26 weeks of gestation (fully adjusted bottom-to-top ratio, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.77-1.04). Conclusions and Relevance: The results of this large nationally representative cross-sectional study suggest that a large part of the increased risk of perinatal mortality among low-income women is mediated via a lower birth weight centile. The absence of disparities at very low gestational ages suggests that income-related risk factors for perinatal mortality are less prominent at very low gestational ages. Further research should aim to understand which factors associated with preterm birth and lower birth weight can reduce inequalities in perinatal mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32124
Pages (from-to)e2132124
Number of pages14
JournalJAMA network open
Volume4
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2021

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