Prenatal care demand and its effects on birth outcomes by birth defect status in Argentina
Our objective was to identify determinants of prenatal care demand and evaluate the effects of this demand on low birth weight and preterm birth. Delay in initiating prenatal care was modeled as a function of pregnancy risk indicators, enabling factors, and regional characteristics. Conditional maximum likelihood (CML) estimation was used to model self-selection into prenatal care use when estimating its effectiveness. Birth registry data was collected post delivery on infants with and without common birth defects born in 1995-2002 in Argentina using a standard procedure. Several maternal health and fertility indicators had significant effects on prenatal care use. In the group without birth defects, prenatal care delay increased significantly LBW and preterm birth when accounting for self-selection using the CML model but not in the standard probit model. Prenatal care was found to be ineffective on average in the birth defect group. The self-selection of higher risk women into earlier initiation of prenatal care resulted in underestimation of prenatal care effectiveness when using a standard probit model with several covariates. Large improvements in birth outcomes are suggested with earlier initiation of prenatal care for pregnancies uncomplicated with birth defects in Argentina, implying large opportunity costs from the long waiting time observed in this sample (about 17 weeks on average). The suggested ineffectiveness for pregnancies complicated with common birth defects deserves further research.
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