Objective: Little is known about racial differences in asthma outcomes during pregnancy. We performed a cohort study to estimate racial differences in maternal asthma outcomes in a low-income population of pregnant women in which blacks and whites have similar medical care access and benefits.
Methods: We conducted a population-based cohort study of asthma-related morbidity in black and white pregnant women enrolled in Tennessee's Medicaid Program, TennCare. Pregnant women were identified through TennCare enrollment files linked to birth certificates, 1995-2001. Prepregnancy, women with asthma were identified using International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, codes for health care visits and pharmacy files for asthma medication. Adjusted relative rates (RR) of rescue corticosteroid prescriptions, emergency department (ED) visits, and hospitalizations during pregnancy were compared by race using Poisson regression.
Results: We identified 4,315 women with asthma (4%) from a population of 112,171 pregnant women of black or white race with at least 180 days of continuous enrollment in TennCare before pregnancy. Blacks were more likely to receive a course of rescue corticosteroids than whites (14.6% versus 11.9%, adjusted RR 1.35, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.14-1.61), have an emergency department visit (16.7% versus 8.7%, adjusted RR 1.89, 95% CI 1.57-2.27), or be hospitalized for asthma (9.0% versus 5.2%, adjusted RR 1.73, 95% CI 1.34-2.24).
Conclusion: Pregnant women with asthma had high asthma-related morbidity. Black women had clinically significantly more morbidity than whites. There is a need to improve the medical care of low-income women with asthma, particularly black women.
Level of evidence: II-2.