Objectives: This study assessed the impact of mother's race, insurance status, and use of prenatal care on very low birthweight infant delivery in or transfer to hospitals with neonatal intensive care units (ICUs).
Methods: Multivariate analysis of Alabama vital statistics records between 1988 and 1990 for infants weighing 500 to 1499 g was conducted, comparing hospital of birth and maternal and infant transfer status, and controlling for infant birthweight and for maternal pregnancy history and demographic characteristics.
Results: With other factors adjusted for, non-White mothers with early prenatal care were more likely than White mothers to deliver their very low birthweight infants in hospitals with neonatal ICUs without transfer. Among the mothers who presented first at hospitals without such facilities, those who had late prenatal care were less likely than those with early care to be transferred to hospitals with neonatal ICUs before delivery. Medicaid coverage increased the likelihood of antenatal transfer for White women. Likelihood of infant transfer was not associated with these maternal characteristics.
Conclusions: Maternal race, prenatal care use, and insurance status may influence the likelihood that very low birthweight infants will have access to neonatal intensive care. Interventions to improve perinatal regionalization should address individual and system barriers to the timely referral of high-risk mothers.