A new government report released Tuesday suggests that many pregnant teens are seeking prenatal care outside of an obstetrician's office.
An estimated 20 percent of routine prenatal visits by girls ages 15 to 19 happened in places other than ob/gyn offices, such as community health centers, or non-emergency hospital departments, according to the report.
Government researchers looked at results from two surveys looking at national data between 2009 and 2010 on medical care among pregnant women ages 15 to 54 and found that overall, 1 out of every 7 prenatal care visits was not with an ob/gyn.
Women without health insurance or those on Medicaid and those who lived in an urban area were most likely not to visit an ob/gyn, compared to women with private insurance and those living in large suburban areas. However, the older the women were, the more likely they were to see an ob/gyn.
All women are advised to see a doctor as soon as they find out their pregnant, but many, especially teens may not be able to afford receive prenatal care from a specialist so they may turn to social service organizations or other low to no-cost options. Many of these alternative places for care are fully equipped to help pregnant women get the care they need. Unfortunately the study did not provide a glimpse into whether women were getting the right type of care, regardless of where they went. The study did not clarify how soon they sought medical care or whether the alternative care they sought was adequate.
Although U.S. teen pregnancy rates have decreased over the last decade, the teen birth rate remains nine times higher than in any other developed country, according to the latest statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pregnant teens are considered an extremely vulnerable group from a medical and psychological standpoint.
Unfortunately, these statistics don't reflect the number of girls and women that do not receive adequate care during their pregnancy -- and the truth is many may not even seek medical care immediately. Adequate care includes regular doctor exams, ultrasounds, maintaining a healthy diet, and taking prenatal vitamins.
In 2011, 22 percent of births to females under age 15, and 10 percent of births to teens ages 15 to 19, were to those receiving late or no prenatal care, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization. The younger they are the more likely they may wait until their third trimester to seek care, according to a 2003 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Maintaining a healthy pregnancy can decrease the likelihood a child will be born prematurely or that the mother or child will suffer health complications.
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