Seeking Early Care: The Role of Prenatal Care Advocates

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Abstract

This exploratory study investigates the role of social support in the initiation of prenatal care by analyzing data from interviews with 36 pregnant women at a public health facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A systematic sample of U.S.-born women aged 19 to 34 who initiated care in each of the three trimesters was interviewed. After controlling for age and education, three variables were found to be associated with earlier estimated gestational age at the time of a woman’s first prenatal visit: self-referral to care, more prenatal care advocates, and fewer children. There was no significant effect on the timing of entry to care associated with ethnicity, marital status, transportation availability, rural vs. urban residence, distance of residence from the clinic, or prior prenatal care at the public health facility. These results suggest that first-time mothers are likely seek early care and that family and friends play a significant support role in encouraging women to begin care.