Oklahoma ranks 31 (of 51) for adequate prenatal care. Vermont leads the nation with 89.2% of women receiving adequate prenatal care, in comparison only 70.7% of women in New Mexico will receive adequate prenatal care .
The percent of women who received adequate pregnancy-related care in 2021.
Receiving adequate prenatal care means having access to a comprehensive and timely medical services, screenings, and support that help ensure the health and well-being of both the pregnant person and the developing fetus throughout a pregnancy.
It involves a series of healthcare services that are designed to monitor the pregnancy, identify and address potential complications, and provide guidance for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Adequate prenatal care is considered care that begins within the first four months of pregnancy and continues based on the infant’s gestational age.
Adequate access to prenatal care is vital to the health and well-being of the mother and baby during pregnancy. Regular visits allow moms to address health concerns throughout the pregnancy and gives providers the opportunity to screen for possible complications.
A key marker of fetal development is weight, as it is an important part of physical and cognitive development for the baby. The infant death rate is five times higher if the mother did not seek prenatal care .
Pregnancy-related ailments, though rare, are a risk. Gestational diabetes (diabetes developed during pregnancy), preeclampsia (high blood pressure), and mental health disorders may develop during gestation. Adequate prenatal care drastically increases the chance these concerns will be detected and addressed as they can potentially harm both mother and child during and after birth .
Specialized healthcare programs for pregnant Oklahomans have existed for years, but Medicaid (called SoonerCare in Oklahoma) expansion in 2021 and further expansion to cover pregnancy and the postpartum period up to one year has dramatically increased the scope of care available to mothers. Undocumented women do not qualify for SoonerCare. Instead, a narrow program specifically designed to cover costs strictly related to the health of the fetus is available .
Much of the data in this article was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adequate prenatal care is dependent on physician access and requires leaving the home. However, the Federal emergency declaration paused Medicaid (called SoonerCare in Oklahoma) recipients nationwide from rolling off, meaning many Americans maintained coverage despite no longer meeting qualifications.
SoonerCare expansion and extension of coverage for postpartum women occurred one and two years after the declaration, respectively. While the pandemic may have depressed physician access leading to lower rates of adequate prenatal care, it is also possible the changes to Medicaid rules did the opposite.
It also needs to be noted that many Americans lost their jobs during this time and often their health insurance. While many then qualified for Medicaid, many likely did not apply.
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