Background: Despite great strides in improving prenatal care utilization among American women, key perinatal indicators have remained stagnant or worsened in the past decade, and the United States continues to rank near the bottom compared to other developed countries. A new approach is needed if we are to achieve improvements in perinatal health.
Methods: To propose a new framework that integrates a "life span" approach with a multiple determinants model.
Results: We recognize that (1) powerful influences on outcome occur long before pregnancy begins; (2) pregnancy outcome is shaped by social, psychological, behavioral, environmental, and biological forces; and (3) the demography of pregnancy has changed dramatically in the last few decades with more women delaying their first birth. Approaches that simultaneously consider the entire life span as well as multiple determinants may need to be adopted. We propose a framework that integrates these approaches and is supported by the research literature. The life span perspective focuses attention toward the preconceptional and interconceptional periods as targets for intervention in improving perinatal health. The multiple determinants model distinguishes among concepts of disease, health and functioning, and well-being for both women and their offspring.
Conclusions: Our intent is to influence how policymakers, public health professionals, clinicians, and researchers approach perinatal health.