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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2012 Feb;66(2):127-35. doi: 10.1136/jech.2010.108605. Epub 2010 Jul 13.

Association of socioeconomic position with maternal pregnancy and infant health outcomes in birth cohort studies from Brazil and the UK.

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  • 1Rua Marechal Deodoro, 1160-3rd floor, CEP 96020-220, Pelotas, RS, Brazil.



Socioeconomic inequalities in health outcomes are dynamic and vary over time. Differences between countries can provide useful insights into the causes of health inequalities. The study aims to compare the associations between two measures of socioeconomic position (SEP)-maternal education and family income-and maternal and infant health outcomes between ALSPAC and Pelotas cohorts.


Birth cohort studies were started in Avon, UK, in 1991 (ALSPAC) and in the city of Pelotas, Brazil, in 1982, 1993 and 2004. Maternal outcomes included smoking during pregnancy, caesarean section and delivery not attended by a doctor. Infant outcomes were preterm birth, intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) and breast feeding for <3 months. The relative index of inequality was used for each measure of SEP so that results were comparable between cohorts.


An inverse association (higher prevalence among the poorest and less educated) was observed for almost all outcomes, with the exception of caesarean sections where a positive association was found. Stronger income-related inequalities for smoking and education-related inequalities for breast feeding were found in the ALSPAC study. However, greater inequalities in caesarean section and education-related inequalities in preterm birth were observed in the Pelotas cohorts.


Mothers and infants have more adverse health outcomes if they are from poorer and less well-educated socioeconomic backgrounds in both Brazil and the UK. However, our findings demonstrate the dynamic nature of the association between SEP and health outcomes. Examining differential socioeconomic patterning of maternal and infant health outcomes might help understanding of mechanisms underlying such inequalities.

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