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Psychosocial Factors and the Timing of Prenatal Care among Women in New Jersey's HealthStart Program

Deanna L. Pagnini and Nancy E. Reichman
Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 32, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 2000), pp. 56-64
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
DOI: 10.2307/2648213
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2648213
Page Count: 9
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Psychosocial Factors and the Timing of Prenatal Care among Women in New Jersey's HealthStart Program
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Abstract

Context: Helping high-risk pregnant women obtain prenatal care early is the main policy goal of most U.S. publicly funded programs aimed at reducing the incidence of low birth weight and infant mortality. It is therefore crucial to understand the factors that influence when women initiate prenatal care. Methods: The effects of psychosocial and demographic risk factors on the timing of entry into prenatal care were estimated using data on roughly 90,000 Medicaid recipients who participated in New Jersey's HealthStart prenatal care program. Results: Overall, 37% of women began prenatal care in the first trimester. Multivariate logistic regression indicated that women who lived in poor housing conditions and those who smoked, drank or used hard drugs had a reduced likelihood of entering care early (odds ratios, 0.8-0.9), while those who had clinical depression or who experienced domestic violence or abuse had elevated odds of early entry (1.1-1.2). The risk factor with the greatest impact on the timing of prenatal care was the wantedness of the pregnancy; women whose pregnancy was unwanted had dramatically reduced odds of entering care early (0.4). Separate analyses of women of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds demonstrated the differential effects of risk factors, the importance of including ethnicity with race and the universal impact of wantedness across racial and ethnic groups. Conclusions: Entry into prenatal care for at-risk women is affected by factors from multiple domains. It is important for prenatal programs to recognize the complexity of the issue as well as the barriers that different subgroups of women face.

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