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Maternal plasma cholesterol concentration and preterm birth: a meta-analysis and systematic review of literature

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journal contribution
posted on 12.05.2020 by Jeffrey A. Welge, Carri R. Warshak, Laura A. Woollett

Background: Women that previously had preterm labor are at an increased risk for heart disease. Because spontaneous preterm birth is an adverse pregnancy outcome that affects millions of children worldwide, our objective was to review and analyze studies that have examined associations between maternal total cholesterol (TC), LDL-C, and HDL-C concentrations during pregnancy and the risk of preterm birth to potentially define biomarkers or targets for treatment.

Method: A search was performed and 22 articles were found that examined the association of maternal plasma cholesterol concentrations and preterm birth. A meta-analysis was performed on 10 of the articles, those that used maternal lipid concentrations as the outcome and presented results as means plus variables, and a qualitative review was performed on all 22 articles.

Results: The meta-analysis showed no relationship between maternal TC, LDL-C, or HDL-C and increased risk of preterm birth, although, a near significant relationship between low maternal HDL-C concentration and preterm birth (p = .055). Importantly, associations increased when cholesterol concentrations were combined with inflammatory markers or metabolic syndrome factors.

Conclusions: The relationship between maternal cholesterol levels and preterm birth is heterogeneous. Associations are strengthened when maternal cholesterol concentrations are combined with other factors that may be related to more recently defined lipoprotein functions.


This work was supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (LAW; GCE Phase II OPP110668).