Preconception care and severe maternal morbidity in the United States

Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2022 Mar;4(2):100549. doi: 10.1016/j.ajogmf.2021.100549. Epub 2021 Dec 4.


Background: In the United States, approximately 52,000 women per year (accounting for 1.46% of births) experience severe maternal morbidity, which is defined as a complication that causes significant maternal harm or risk of death. It disproportionately affects women from racial or ethnic minorities, people with chronic diseases, and those with Medicaid or no insurance. Preconception care has been hailed as a strategy to improve pregnancy outcomes and reduce disparities, but its broad benefits for maternal outcomes have not been demonstrated.

Objective: Our objective was to measure the association between preconception care and the odds of severe maternal morbidity among women with Medicaid.

Study design: This is a secondary analysis of Medicaid claims using the Medicaid Analytic Extract files (2010-2012). We used the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes, published by the US Office of Population Affairs' Quality Family Planning program to define 7 domains of preconception care. The primary outcome was maternal death within 12 weeks of delivery or severe maternal morbidity during birth hospitalization, defined by the presence of any diagnosis or procedure on the severe maternal morbidity International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision code list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because this list may overestimate severe maternal morbidity by counting any blood transfusion, our secondary outcome used the same code list but without transfusion. We reviewed care in the year before conception and used logistic regression to estimate the association between each domain and severe maternal morbidity for all births to women enrolled in Medicaid and aged 15 to 45 years with births during 2012. We performed a subgroup analysis for women with chronic disease (kidney disease, hypertension, or diabetes).

Results: Severe maternal morbidity or death occurred in 26,285 births (1.74%) when including blood transfusions and 9,481 births (0.63%) when excluding transfusions. Receiving contraceptive services in the year before conception was associated with decreased odds of severe maternal morbidity (adjusted odds ratio, 0.92; 95% confidence interval, 0.88-0.95) and pregnancy test services were associated with increased odds (adjusted odds ratio, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.14). In the primary analysis, no significant associations were observed for other preconception care domains. Among those women with at least 1 chronic disease, contraceptive care (adjusted odds ratio, 0.84; 95% confidence interval, 0.75-0.95) and routine physical or gynecologic exams (adjusted odds ratio, 0.79; 95% confidence interval, 0.71-0.88) were associated with decreased odds of severe maternal morbidity. Similar associations were found for severe maternal morbidity when excluding blood transfusion.

Conclusions: Contraceptive services in the year before conception and routine exams for women with chronic disease are associated with decreased odds of severe maternal morbidity or death for Medicaid enrollees.

Keywords: Medicaid; contraception; maternal morbidity; preconception care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Transfusion
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Preconception Care*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Contraceptive Agents