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  • Publication # 13-RA008

Poor preconception mental health a major factor in pregnancy complications and adverse birth outcomes

Women’s Health

Poor preconception mental health is the most significant risk factor for pregnancy complications, a possible risk factor for non-live birth, and a strong risk factor for low birth weight (LBW), found a new study. Women who reported poor mental health before pregnancy were 40 percent more likely to have a pregnancy complication, almost 50 percent more likely to have a non-live birth, and nearly twice as likely to give birth to a LBW baby. Other risk factors included race/ethnicity, age, education, marital status, health insurance status, income, and the number of children in the household. Women were categorized as having poor preconception mental health only if they reported a global mental health rating of "fair" or "poor." 

The study was based on the nationally representative, population-based Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, Household Component. Since each outcome employed distinct exclusion criteria, the study sample consisted of 3,373 women to examine pregnancy complications, 2,671 for having an outcome other than a live birth, and 2,108 for birth weight.

Pregnancy complications and poor birth outcomes are serious public health problems, causing substantial morbidity and mortality for mothers and their children. Because many risk factors for adverse obstetric outcomes can be identified and managed prior to pregnancy, recent recommendations have focused on improving women’s health during this critical preconception period. The researchers conclude that women and their health care providers should strive to identify and address poor mental health during the preconception period. This study was supported in part by AHRQ (T32 HS00083).

See "Preconception mental health predicts pregnancy complications and adverse birth outcomes: A national population-based study," by Whitney P. Witt, Ph.D., M.P.H., Lauren E. Wisk, Erika R. Cheng, and others in the Journal of Maternal and Child Health 16, pp. 1525-1541, 2012.


Page last reviewed May 2013
Internet Citation: Poor preconception mental health a major factor in pregnancy complications and adverse birth outcomes: Women’s Health. May 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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