Data from a survey conducted in 1981 on a national sample of 5508 births in France were used to analyse the role of a history of previous adverse pregnancy outcome (spontaneous abortion, perinatal death or adverse fetal condition) in the selection mechanisms of women with regard to occupational activity, and the impact on the relation between work and preterm delivery. The study, carried out separately in each parity group, showed that occupational activity was associated with a more favourable outcome for women of parity one: the preterm delivery rate was significantly higher among women who had never worked than among those who continued working during pregnancy. However, the hypothesis of a "healthy worker effect" linked to a history of adverse obstetric outcome was not confirmed in this study. A selection effect of women from a history of spontaneous abortions was observed, but these were not linked to preterm delivery. Among multiparous women, a history of perinatal death or adverse fetal condition did not seem to modify women's behaviour towards their work. Selection mechanisms of women towards occupational activity according to sociodemographic factors were also analysed and showed that the higher percentage of younger women among those who had never worked explained the higher rate of preterm delivery in that group.
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