August 26, 2016
2 min read

School-based reproductive health services linked to higher birth weight for teen mothers

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Availability of reproductive health care services at high schools may prevent adverse birth outcomes among adolescent mothers, including low birth weight, according to study findings.

“In 2011, there were 31.3 live births for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in the United States,” Aubrey S. Madkour, PhD, associate professor in the department of global community health and behavioral sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Infants born to teen mothers are at an increased risk of both low birth weight and preterm birth compared with infants born to adult mothers. For instance, in 2010, the proportion of infants born with low birth weight was 12.08% among mothers aged less than 15 years, 9.63% among mothers aged 15 to 19, and 8.15% among all mothers.”

The researchers pooled data from Waves I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to assess whether reproductive health services offered at high schools were linked with infant birth weight. Adolescents and women in Wave I were younger than 20 years (n = 402) when they gave birth in the 1994-1995 school year. Participants were interviewed in 1996 (Wave II), 2001 (Wave III) and 2007-2008 (Wave IV). School administrators from the institutions the girls attended at the occurrence of Wave I reported on whether onsite family planning counseling, diagnostic screening, STD treatment and prenatal and postpartum care were available.

Few high schools offered onsite reproductive health care services in Wave I; 8% offered diagnostic screening, 3% STD screening, 9% family planning and 4% prenatal and postpartum health care. Multilevel analyses indicated the availability of prenatal and postpartum health care (est. ß = 0.21, 95% CI 0.02%–0.40%; P < .05) and family planning counseling (est. ß = 0.21, 95% CI 0.04%–0.38%; P < .05) correlated with increased infant birth weight. There was no significant difference linked with an increase in gestational age.

“Attending schools that provided onsite reproductive health services was related to better subsequent birth outcomes in subsequent pregnancies among this nationally representative sample of adolescents,” the researchers said. “In particular, availability of family planning counseling and on-site prenatal/postpartum care were related to increase birth weight, and availability of family planning counseling was borderline associated with increased gestational age.” – by Kate Sherrer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures. This study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.