Reduced School Dropout Rates Among Adolescent Mothers Receiving School-Based Prenatal Care

Students who become pregnant in their teens are more likely to drop out of school, increasing the likelihood of persistent poverty and social disadvantage. This study examined the effect of school-based prenatal services on school attendance and dropout rates. The authors hypothesized that teens who attended school-based health centers (SBHC) for their prenatal care would miss fewer days of school and thus have lower dropout rates. Study participants included 431 predominantly African-American, low-income adolescents (aged 18 or younger) who delivered a baby between July 1, 1995, and August 30, 1997, and who attended an alternative school in Baltimore, Maryland, during their pregnancy school year. Researchers linked school records with medical records and birth certificates. They reviewed attendance and dropout rates in relation to year of pregnancy and setting of prenatal care (school-based versus non-school-based). In the year prior to pregnancy, most study participants performed poorly in school and had significant absenteeism. Analyses showed that teens who received school-based prenatal care during their pregnancy school year were absent 12 fewer days than those who received non-school-based care, and their dropout rate was half that of those who received non-school-based care (6 percent versus 15 percent). These findings support the need to fund and evaluate school-based health centers and other interventions that may reduce the negative effects of adolescent pregnancy. This journal article is available free-of-charge.