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A Call to Revisit the Prenatal Period as a Focus for Action Within the Reproductive and Perinatal Care Continuum

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Abstract

Objectives The broad maternal and child health community has witnessed increased attention to the entire continuum of reproductive and perinatal health concerns over the past few years. However, both recent discouraging trends in prenatal care access and utilization and a renewed understanding of prenatal care as a critical anchor of the reproductive/perinatal health continuum for women who do get pregnant demand a new effort to focus on the prenatal period as a gateway for maternal and infant health. Methods This commentary: describes the Medicaid expansions and the momentum for universal access to prenatal care of the 1980–1990s; examines the pivot away from this goal and its aftermath; provides a rationale for why renewed attention to prenatal care and the prenatal period is essential; and, explores the potential focus of an updated prenatal care agenda. Conclusion We conclude that increasing women’s access to high quality prenatal care will require substantial effort at the clinical, community, policy, and system levels. Only when attention is paid to all phases of the reproductive/perinatal health continuum with an emphasis on continuity between all periods, and on the social determinants that affect health and well-being, will our nation be able to ensure the health of all women across the life course (whether or not they ever become mothers), while simultaneously fulfilling our nation’s promise that all children—no matter their income or race/ethnicity—will have the opportunity to be born well.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the thoughtful comments of our colleague Dr. Milton Kotelchuck in the development of this commentary.

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Correspondence to Arden Handler.

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Handler, A., Johnson, K. A Call to Revisit the Prenatal Period as a Focus for Action Within the Reproductive and Perinatal Care Continuum. Matern Child Health J 20, 2217–2227 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-016-2187-6

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