How is receipt of timely prenatal care changing across Los Angeles County, and why does it matter?

A new examination of L.A. County birth records highlights declines in receipt of timely prenatal care, but trends vary in different parts of the county. Full results, plus interactive maps, can be found here.

Among the key findings:

  • The percentage of births to women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester declined between 2002 and 2012 (most recent decade of birth records available), countywide and in all regions except the San Fernando Valley.
  • Receipt of timely prenatal care declined for nearly every demographic group in nearly every region of L.A. County during this decade—and inequities persisted, with receipt remaining less common among births to teens, women of color (particularly African Americans), mothers with lower education levels, and mothers with public insurance, as well as births where paternity was not established.

Why does it matter?

Quality health care in the first trimester of pregnancy lowers the risk of complications including low birth weight and premature birth, a leading cause of infant death. Research shows that a healthy birth—followed by safe, nurturing relationships and environments—sets children on a path toward good health into adulthood.

The policy and program landscape has changed dramatically since 2012, with a new federal health care system and many promising community programs launched or expanded in the last five years. As subsequent years of data become available, the impact of these changes may be reflected in the data, revealing improvements in access to prenatal care.

Given the uncertain future of health care programs at the federal level, it is important to ensure that recent improvements are maintained and that services to support healthy births continue to be a priority.

View Snapshot

About the project

This is the second of four snapshots to be released in 2017, drawing on data from birth records to examine trends and regional differences within L.A. County. The first snapshot provided an overview of birth trends and family demographics as a foundation for the next three snapshots, which will explore specific indicators of healthy birth outcomes. This snapshot focuses on access to early prenatal care, and the next one will address perinatal smoking.

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