Late or inadequate prenatal care linked to shorter birth intervals

Women who receive inadequate prenatal care or initiate care later in their pregnancy are more likely to have shorter birth intervals, according to a new study appearing in the March edition of the Guttmacher Institute’s Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

The study longitudinally linked birth records from 113,662 New Jersey women who had had a first birth in 1996-2000. While most of the women started prenatal care in the first trimester (85 percent), women who did not receive care until the second or third trimester or at all were more likely than those with first-tremester care to have a subsequent pregnancy within 18 months.

Experts recommend at least 18 months in between births to allow the mother to heal and ensure a health subsequent pregnancy. Birth intervals less than 18 months are linked to poor health outcomes like low birth weight, pre-term delivery and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The same pattern emerged for women whose prenatal care was inadequate.

The study concludes that providers should capitalize on available opportunities with women who delay prenatal care to provide family planning information.