The Couple Context of Pregnancy and its Effects on Prenatal Care and Birth Outcomes
The couple context of pregnancy and newborn health is gaining importance with the increase in births to unmarried couples, a disproportionate number of which were not intended. This study investigates the association of early prenatal care, preterm birth, and low birth weight with the couple relationship context, including partners’ joint intentions for the pregnancy, their marital status at conception, and the presence of relationship problems during pregnancy. Data are drawn from the first wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study––Birth Cohort, a representative study of births in 2001. The sample is composed of parents residing together with their biological child at the time the child is 9 months old, where both the mother and father completed the self-report interview (N = 5,788). Couple-level multivariate logistic regression models, weighted to account for the complex sampling design, were used in the analysis. Risk of inadequate prenatal care and preterm birth was increased when partners did not share intentions or when neither partner intended the pregnancy. Couples were at additional risk of inadequate prenatal care when the pregnancy was conceived nonmaritally and when the mother did not tell the father about the pregnancy, particularly when neither partner intended the pregnancy. The risk of premature birth was particularly high when the partners were unmarried and either or both did not intend the pregnancy. The couple context of pregnancy is important for a healthy pregnancy and birth. When the partner is present, practitioners and programs should maintain a focus on the couple, and researchers should make every effort to include the father’s own perspective.
Publisher: Springer US
Rights Statement: © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
Keywords: prenatal care; preterm birth; low birthweight; pregnancy intentions; nonmarital fertility
Research Type: Journal Article
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