Maternal multimorbidity and preterm birth in Scotland: an observational record-linkage study

Amaya Azcoaga-Lorenzo*, Adeniyi Fagbamigbe, Utkarsh Agrawal, Mairead Black, Muhammad Usman, Siang Ing Lee, Kelly-Ann Eastwood, Ngawai Moss, Rachel Plachcinski, Catherine Nelson-Piercy, Sinead Brophy, Dermot O'Reilly, Krishnarajah Nirantharakumar, Colin McCowan, MuM-PreDiCT Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multimorbidity is common in women across the life course. Preterm birth is the single biggest cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity. We aim to estimate the prevalence of multimorbidity in pregnant women and to examine the association between maternal multimorbidity and PTB.

This is a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records from the Scottish Morbidity Records. All pregnancies among women aged 15 to 49 with a conception date between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2018 were included. Multimorbidity was defined as the presence of two or more pre-existing long-term physical or mental health conditions, and complex multimorbidity as the presence of four or more. It was calculated at the time of conception using a predefined list of 79 conditions published by the MuM-PreDiCT consortium. PTB was defined as babies born alive between 24 and less than 37 completed weeks of gestation. We used Generalised Estimating Equations adjusted for maternal age, socioeconomic status, number of previous pregnancies, BMI, and smoking history to estimate the effect of maternal pre-existing multimorbidity. Absolut rates are reported in the results and tables, whilst Odds Ratios (ORs) are adjusted (aOR).

Thirty thousand five hundred fifty-seven singleton births from 27,711 pregnant women were included in the analysis. The prevalence of pre-existing multimorbidity and complex multimorbidity was 16.8% (95% CI: 16.4–17.2) and 3.6% (95% CI: 3.3–3.8), respectively. The prevalence of multimorbidity in the youngest age group was 10.2%(95% CI: 8.8–11.6), while in those 40 to 44, it was 21.4% (95% CI: 18.4–24.4), and in the 45 to 49 age group, it was 20% (95% CI: 8.9–31.1). In women without multimorbidity, the prevalence of PTB was 6.7%; it was 11.6% in women with multimorbidity and 15.6% in women with complex multimorbidity. After adjusting for maternal age, socioeconomic status, number of previous pregnancies, Body Mass Index (BMI), and smoking, multimorbidity was associated with higher odds of PTB (aOR = 1.64, 95% CI: 1.48–1.82).

Multimorbidity at the time of conception was present in one in six women and was associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. Multimorbidity presents a significant health burden to women and their offspring. Routine and comprehensive evaluation of women with multimorbidity before and during pregnancy is urgently needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number352
JournalBMC Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2023


  • Multimorbidity
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • Electronic health records
  • Generalised estimating equation


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