Health Department

Maternal Health Indicators

Maternal Child Health Indicators
Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director
May 27, 2014

Improving the health of women of child-bearing age and children is one of the priorities for the Independence Health Department. Recently, a broad assessment and ranking of prevalent maternal and child health (MCH) indicators in Independence was completed to help the Health Department determine areas on which to focus. 

 The top three MCH indicators that showed significantly worse rates in Independence as compared to Jackson County and/or the state of Missouri were prenatal care adequacy, pre-pregnancy obesity, and smoking during pregnancy. Rates for prenatal care adequacy and smoking during pregnancy were also significantly worse among teens in Independence. The Independence teen pregnancy rate was much higher than that in Jackson County and the state of Missouri. 

 In both categories, the rates of inadequate or no prenatal care were higher and the rate of starting prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy was lower as compared to Missouri. 

 Prenatal care is important to monitor pregnancy, screen for potential complications and provide the needed care for a healthy pregnancy and positive pregnancy outcomes. Prenatal care offers a chance to educate women about healthy behaviors during pregnancy. 

 The Women’s Health Program of the Department of Health and Senior Services recommends approximately 15 prenatal care visits throughout pregnancy, once per month for the weeks four-28, every other week for weeks 28-36, and weekly for the weeks 36 until birth. 

 The rate of pre-pregnancy obesity was also significantly higher in Independence as compared to Jackson County and Missouri. 

 According to the report completed by students in the graduate level Applied Epidemiology class at Saint Louis University, obesity in women, even pre-pregnancy, is linked to a higher risk of certain complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and poor fetal outcomes and fetal irregularities including neural tube defects. Mothers who enter pregnancy while obese are more likely to deliver larger babies, who are at increased risk for childhood obesity. Due to the major implications of maternal pre-pregnancy obesity, addressing obesity in Independence is a priority.

 Another health concern was the rate of those at all ages who smoked during pregnancy.The report stated that smoking during pregnancy is linked to poor pregnancy and fetal outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and some birth defects. Smoking cessation should be targeted before pregnancy since the first weeks of pregnancy are critical for development and exposure to risk factors during that period may be harmful.If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, make sure you do everything you can to quit smoking.  

 The high rate of teen pregnancies in Independence is troublesome because many times adolescent mothers and their children are at higher risk for several short-term and long-term medical, psychological, social, and developmental problems.Furthermore, teen pregnancy has been shown to be linked to a lower educational and job fulfillment, lower income, a greater likelihood of relying on public assistance, and a higher risk of permanent single parenthood. 

 Education about teen pregnancy prevention should occur at all levels where teens are influenced (i.e. through their peers, parents, and the community) to help them get full exposure in all parts of their lives to responsible behaviors and values. Communicating with youth about sex and pregnancy may seem difficult to do, but it is an important step in teen pregnancy prevention and parents are the number one influencers on their children. 

 For more information on Maternal Child Health indicators, please contact the Independence Health Department at (816) 325-7185.