Women from deprived areas compared to more affluent areas, tend to have double the amount of very premature babies, say researchers.
They say that receiving equal care, poor women are still more likely to give birth to a very preterm baby, which suggests that there is an urgent need to better understand the link between deprivation and risk of preterm birth, reports the British Medical Journal.
During the study, University of Leicester researchers set out to assess the socioeconomic inequalities in survival and provision of neonatal care among very preterm infants in the UK.
They tracked 7,449 very preterm infants born 1998-2007 and found that mothers from the most deprived areas were nearly twice as likely to have a very preterm infant compared to those from the least deprived areas and consequently there were nearly twice as many deaths due to very preterm birth in the most deprived areas.
However, among very preterm infants, survival rates and neonatal care provision showed little variation across all deprivation measures.
This suggests that, although socioeconomic inequalities in preterm birth rates persist, deprivation does not seem to be a barrier to accessing and receiving neonatal care.
The authors believe that understanding the link between deprivation and risk of preterm birth should be a major research priority.
"It seems highly likely that such work could lead to public health strategies that would reduce the costs not only of neonatal care but also attached to the long term health problems suffered by some of these babies," said the authors.