Effects of Prenatal Care on Child Health at Age 5
The broad goal of contemporary prenatal care is to promote the health of the mother, child, and family through the pregnancy, delivery, and the child’s development. Although the vast majority of mothers giving birth in developed countries receive prenatal care, past research has not found compelling evidence that early or adequate prenatal care has favorable effects on birth outcomes. It is possible that prenatal care confers health benefits to the child that do not become apparent until after the perinatal period. Using data from a national urban birth cohort study in the US, we estimate the effects of prenatal care on four markers of child health at age 5—maternal-reported health status, asthma diagnosis, overweight, and height. Prenatal care, defined a number of different ways, does not appear to have any effect on the outcomes examined. The findings are robust and suggest that routine health care encounters during the prenatal period could potentially be used more effectively to enhance children’s health trajectories. However, future research is needed to explore the effects of prenatal care on additional child health and developmental outcomes as well as the effects of preconceptional and maternal lifetime healthcare on child health.
KeywordsPrenatal care timing Prenatal care adequacy Child health outcomes
This research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant R03HD057230. The authors are grateful for helpful comments from Cheryl Carleton and Laura Argys and for valuable research assistance from Prisca Figaro and Oliver Joszt.
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