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Am J Epidemiol. 1995 Nov 15;142(10):1078-88.

Maternal asthma and idiopathic preterm labor.

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Department of Pediatrics, McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Previous studies suggest that women with asthma are at increased risk of preterm birth. Moreover, drugs (especially beta-agonists) used to treat asthma are also used to treat preterm labor. The authors carried out a case-control study of 555 women from three hospital centers with idiopathic preterm labor (< 37 weeks), including two overlapping (i.e., non-mutually exclusive) subsamples: cases with early idiopathic preterm labor (< 34 weeks) and cases with idiopathic recurrent preterm labor (< 37 weeks plus a previous history of preterm delivery or second-trimester miscarriage). Controls were matched to cases according to race and smoking history prior to and during pregnancy. All subjects responded in person to questions about atopic, respiratory, obstetric, and sociodemographic histories. Subjects in the early and recurrent preterm labor subsamples were also asked to undergo spirometric testing with methacholine challenge 6-12 weeks after delivery. Cases were significantly more likely to report histories of asthma symptoms and physician-diagnosed asthma (matched odds ratios of 2-3) than controls, particularly those cases with recurrent preterm labor. No significant associations were observed, however, with methacholine responsiveness. These results could not be explained by residual confounding by smoking or other variables, nor by selective recall of asthma symptoms and histories by cases. Women with asthma are at increased risk of idiopathic preterm labor. The fact that no such association was seen with methacholine responsiveness suggests that nonatopic, noncholinergic mechanisms may link bronchial and uterine smooth muscle lability.

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