Prenatal care is key to preventing pregnancy complications and identifying intimate partner violence.1,2,3 “Inadequate” prenatal care is associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery compared with women receiving “adequate” care.4 “Adequate” care significantly reduces risk for premature birth, low birth weight, and small-for-gestational-age status in drug-exposed infants.5 Late entry to prenatal care has been associated with increased risk for neonatal death, infant death, and cumulative death within the first year of life.6
Maternal stress, anxiety, and depression during pregnancy has been linked to adverse birth and developmental outcomes, including: preterm delivery and low birth weight;7,8,9 difficult and reactive infant behavior;10,11 poorer physical outcomes such as the development of Celiac Disease and asthma.12,13
Postpartum depression is associated with less infant weight gain, increased infant physical health concerns, and increased infant night awakenings. Postpartum depression has also been linked to a lack of appropriate mother-child engagement, poorer developmental outcomes, and insecure attachment in the infant.14,15 In addition, low maternal responsiveness and sensitivity is significantly associated with the development of insecure attachment in infants.16,17,18
Breastfeeding confers significant benefits to premature babies including host protection and improved developmental outcomes compared to premature babies given formula.19 Breastfeeding is strongly linked with a reduction in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with one meta-analysis concluding that a history of breastfeeding is associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of SIDS compared to infants without a history of breastfeeding.20,21 Finally, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in risk for a variety of physical conditions, including diarrhea in infants, acute otitis media,22 gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma (young children), obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, and childhood leukemia.23
Safe sleep practices decrease the likelihood of SIDS, the risk of infant breathing problems, overheating, and issues with the infant cardiovascular system.24 Prone or side sleep positions (as opposed to supine) are linked with these negative outcomes. Additional independent risk factors that contribute the risk of SIDS include: sleeping on a soft surface, maternal smoking during pregnancy, overheating, late or no prenatal care, young maternal age, preterm birth and/or low birth weight, and male gender.25
For CFRP's full Evidence Base Series, go to Publications > The Evidence-Base Series.