Effects of Prenatal Care on Maternal Postpartum Behaviors

Publication Year


Journal Article

Most research on the effectiveness of prenatal care has focused on birth outcomes and has found small or no effects. It is possible, however, that prenatal care is "too little too late" to improve pregnancy outcomes in the aggregate, but that it increases the use of pediatric health care or improves maternal health-related parenting practices and, ultimately, child health. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing birth cohort study that have been augmented with hospital medical record data to estimate effects of prenatal care timing on pediatric health care utilization and health-related parenting behaviors during the first year of the child's life. We focus on maternal postpartum smoking, preventive health care visits for the child, and breastfeeding. We use a multi-pronged approach to address the potential endogeneity of the timing of prenatal care. We find that first trimester prenatal care appears to decrease maternal postpartum smoking by about 5 percentage points and increase the likelihood of 4 or more well-baby visits by about 1 percentage point, and that it may also have a positive effect on breastfeeding. These findings suggest that there are benefits to standard prenatal care that are generally not considered in evaluations of prenatal care programs and interventions.

Review of Economics of the Household