HPV infection and pre-term birth: a data-linkage study using Scottish Health Data

Marian C Aldhous, Ramya Bhatia, Roz Pollock, Dionysis Vragkos, Kate Cuschieri, Heather A Cubie, Jane E Norman, Sarah J Stock

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Background: We aimed to investigate whether infection with high-risk (HR) types of human papilloma virus (HPV) or HPV-associated cervical disease were associated with preterm birth (<37 weeks gestation). In a sub-group of younger women who were eligible for the HPV vaccine, we aimed to determine whether prior vaccination against the specific HPV-types, HPV-16 and -18 modified preterm birth risk. 

Methods: This was a data-linkage study, which linked HPV-associated viral and pathological information (from the Scottish HPV Archive) from women aged 16-45 years to routinely collected NHS maternity- and hospital-admission records from 1999-2015. Pregnancy outcomes from 5,598 women with term live birth (≥37 weeks gestation, n=4,942), preterm birth (<37 weeks gestation, n=386) or early miscarriage (<13 weeks gestation, n=270). Of these, data from HPV vaccine-eligible women (n=3,611, aged 16-25 years) were available, of whom 588 had been vaccinated. HPV-associated disease status was defined as: HR HPV-positive no disease, low-grade abnormalities or high-grade disease. 

Results: High-grade HPV-associated cervical disease was associated with preterm birth (odds ratio=1.843 [95% confidence interval 1.101-3.083], p=0.020) in adjusted binary logistic regression analysis, in all women, but there were no associations with HR HPV-infection alone or with low-grade abnormalities. No associations between any HPV parameter and preterm birth were seen in vaccine-eligible women, nor was there any effect of prior vaccination. 

Conclusions: HPV-associated high-grade cervical disease was associated with preterm birth, but there were no associations with HR HPV-infection or low-grade cervical disease. Thus HPV-infection alone (in the absence of cervical disease) does not appear to be an independent risk factor for preterm birth. For women who have undergone treatment for CIN and become pregnant, these results demonstrate the need to monitor for signs of preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalWellcome Open Research
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Author contacted for acceptance date on 24/07/2019. No response as of 20/09/2019. NC


  • Pregnancy
  • Preterm Birth
  • Human Papilloma Virus
  • Cervix
  • Data linkage


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