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The influence of refugee status and secondary migration on preterm birth
  1. Susitha Wanigaratne1,2,
  2. Donald C Cole3,
  3. Kate Bassil3,
  4. Ilene Hyman3,
  5. Rahim Moineddin4,
  6. Marcelo L Urquia1,2,3
  1. 1Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marcelo L Urquia, St. Michael's Hospital, 30 Bond St., Toronto, ON M5B 1W8, Canada; marcelo.urquia{at}


Background It is unknown whether the risk of preterm birth (PTB) is elevated for forced (refugee) international migrants and whether prolonged displacement amplifies risk. While voluntary migrants who arrive from a country other than their country of birth (ie, secondary migrants) have favourable birth outcomes compared with those who migrated directly from their country of birth (ie, primary migrants), secondary migration may be detrimental for refugees who experience distinct challenges in transition countries. Our objectives were (1) to determine whether refugee status was associated with PTB and (2) whether the relation between refugee status and PTB differed between secondary and primary migrants.

Methods We conducted a retrospective population-based cohort study. Ontario immigration (2002–2010) and hospitalisation data (2002–2010) were linked to estimate adjusted cumulative odds ratios (ACOR) of PTB (22–31, 32–36, 37–41 weeks of gestation), with 95% CIs (95% CI) comparing refugees with non-refugees. We further included a product term between refugee status and secondary migration.

Results Overall, refugees (N=12 913) had 17% greater cumulative odds of short gestation (ACOR=1.17, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.28) compared with non-refugees (N=110 640). Secondary migration modified the association between refugee status and PTB (p=0.007). Secondary refugees had 58% greater cumulative odds of short gestation (ACOR=1.58, 95% CI 1.25 to 2.00) than secondary non-refugees, while primary refugees had 12% greater cumulative odds of short gestation (ACOR=1.12, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.23) than primary non-refugee immigrants.

Conclusions Refugee status, jointly with secondary migration, influences PTB among migrants.


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