Women with a history of premature delivery reduce their risk of another if they seek even a single prenatal checkup, according to results of a Johns Hopkins study.
"Our study shows that even minimal prenatal care can significantly lower the incidence of recurrent preterm delivery," says Serdar H. Ural, lead author of the study and an instructor of gynecology and obstetrics. "The take-home message is that any care is better than no care. Prenatal care halved total health care costs for mother and child."
Results of the study were presented on May 11 at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' 46th Annual Clinical Meeting in New Orleans.
Ural and his team checked hospital records of 149 women with a history of preterm delivery (under 34 weeks) who gave birth at Hopkins between January 1994 and December 1996. Ninety-six of them had had at least one prenatal checkup; the remaining 53 had received no care.
Average total hospital costs were significantly less in the prenatal care group ($7,127 vs. $18,047 in the no care group) as was the incidence of recurrent preterm delivery (49 percent vs. 13 percent). Even patients who had had only one prenatal visit had a significantly lower incidence of preterm delivery (16 percent vs. 75 percent).
The study also found that the no care group delivered earlier (33 weeks vs. 37.2 weeks), their babies had a longer length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (15.6 days vs. 3.1 days), and their babies had a lower average birth weight (2,172 grams vs. 2,786 grams).
The study's other authors were Cary Cox, Karin J. Blakemore, Eva K. Pressman and Jessica L. Bienstock.