Background — Previous studies of maternal influenza illness and preterm birth have yielded inconsistent results. Our objective was to assess the association between 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) influenza during pregnancy and preterm birth in a large obstetrical population.
Methods — We linked a province-wide birth registry with health administrative databases to identify influenza-coded hospitalizations, emergency department visits, or physician visits among pregnant women during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (our proxy for clinical pH1N1 influenza illness). Using Cox regression, we estimated adjusted hazard ratios (aHR) for preterm birth and spontaneous preterm birth treating influenza as a time-varying exposure.
Results — Among 192,082 women with a singleton live birth, 2,925 (1.5%) had an influenza-coded health care encounter during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Compared with unexposed pregnancy time, there was no association between exposure to the pandemic, with or without clinical influenza illness, and preterm birth (no pH1N1 diagnosis: aHR=1.0; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.98, 1.1; pH1N1 diagnosis: aHR=1.0; 95% CI: 0.88, 1.2). Among women with pre-existing medical conditions, influenza was associated with increased preterm birth (aHR=1.5; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.2) and spontaneous preterm birth (aHR=1.7; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.6), and these associations were strongest in the third trimester and when data were analyzed to allow for a transient acute effect of influenza.
Conclusion — In the general obstetrical population, there was no association between pH1N1 influenza illness and preterm birth, but women with pre-existing medical conditions known to increase the risk of influenza-associated morbidity were at elevated risk.