Prenatal Care Initiation Among Pregnant Teens in the United States

Although recent data show that birth rates for teenagers in the United States are decreasing substantially, teenage pregnancy remains an important public health issue. One reason for concern is that babies born to adolescents tend to be of lower birth weights compared to babies born to women in their 20s.

The purpose of this study was to examine trends in prenatal care take-up among teenagers who gave birth in the United States between 1978 and 2003. The researchers investigate which adolescent populations are more likely to initiate prenatal care and which factors are associated with delaying prenatal care. The data were collected by the National Center on Health Statistics. The study examined a total of 2,836,698 births.

Key Findings:

  • For all years, the older the mother the sooner the prenatal care was likely to start.
  • Girls who received no care at all or who waited until the third trimester of their pregnancies were more likely to be younger adolescents or preteens.
  • Among all three age groups (older adolescents, younger adolescents and preteens) the percentage initiating prenatal care during the first trimester increased after 1988. This increase coincides with the provision of Medicare-sponsored funding for pregnant women.