Ethnic disparities in perinatal mortality are well known. This study aimed to explore the contribution of demographic, socioeconomic, health behavioural and pre-existent medical risk factors among different ethnic groups on fetal and early neonatal mortality.

We assessed perinatal mortality from 24.0 weeks’ gestation onwards in 554.234 singleton pregnancies of nulliparous women in the linked Netherlands Perinatal Registry over the period 2000-2006. Logistic regression modelling was used.

Considerable ethnic differences in perinatal mortality exist especially in fetal mortality. Maternal age, socioeconomic status and pre-existent diseases could not explain these ethnic differences. Late booking visit could explain some differences. Compared with the Dutch, African women had an increased fetal mortality risk of OR 1.7 (95% CI 1.4 to 2.1); South Asian women, 1.8 (1.4 to 2.3); other non-Western women, 1.3 (1.1 to 1.6) and Turkish/Moroccan women, 1.3 (1.1 to 1.4). The risk on early neonatal mortality was only increased in other non-Western women, OR 1.3 (1.0 to 1.8). Ethnic differences were even present in the women without risk factors including preterm births. Mortality risk for East Asian and other Western women was lower or comparable with the Dutch. Important ethnic differences in fetal mortality exist, especially among women of African and South Asian origin. Ethnic minorities should be more acquainted with the significance of early start of prenatal care. Tailored prenatal care for women with African and South Asian origin seems necessary. More research on underlying cause of deaths is needed by ethnic group.