Background: A woman who does not recognize her pregnancy early may not initiate prenatal care early. This study examined the relationship between the time of pregnancy recognition and the time of initiation of prenatal care, and the number of prenatal visits among women of childbearing age.
Methods: This study analyzed the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS) data for the United States. The analysis sample was representative of resident women of childbearing age in 29 U.S. states who had live births within 2 to 6 months before being contacted. The data were weighed to reflect the complex survey design of the PRAMS, and binary and multinomial logistic regressions were used for the analyses.
Results: Most (92.5%) of the 136,373 women in the study had recognized their pregnancy by 12 weeks of gestation, and 80 percent initiated prenatal care within the first trimester. Early pregnancy recognition was associated with significantly increased odds of initiating prenatal care early (OR = 6.05, p < 0.01), after controlling for sociodemographic and prior birth outcome data, and was also associated with lower odds of having fewer than the recommended number of prenatal visits and higher odds of having more than the recommended prenatal visits (OR: <11 visits = 0.71 and >15 visits = 1.17, p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Early pregnancy recognition was associated with improved timing and number of prenatal care visits. Promotion of early pregnancy recognition could be a means of improving birth outcomes by encouraging and empowering women to access prenatal care at a critical point in fetal development.