The number of births to women who initiated prenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy (before 13 weeks gestation), expressed as a percentage of all live births within each racial and ethnic group.
Early, high-quality prenatal care is critical to reducing risks for complications of pregnancy or birth and improving birth outcomes.
In 2021, 81% of African American women, 79% of Hispanic women, 90% of Asian women and 86% of white women who gave birth received early prenatal care. These were similar rates as the state, with the exception of African American and Asian mothers in Essex County, whose rates were a bit lower. Essex County had higher rates of early prenatal care than the nation in all groups.
In 2021, Essex County's rates among Asian, African American and Hispanic mothers were higher than in Lake, IL, Westchester, NY and Middlesex, MA. Essex County's rates among white mothers is similar to Middlesex, MA and higher than Westchester, NY and Lake County.
Researchers have uncovered a number of factors contributing to generally lower rates of early prenatal care among mothers of color. These include: socioeconomic characteristics like education and family income; maternal health and characteristics of pregnancies (such as maternal age and number of previous pregnancies); types of insurance coverage - whether women are covered by Medicaid, private insurance, or have no coverage; and the location of prenatal care facilities - in physicians' offices and public health clinics. One study found socioeconomic differences was responsible for roughly half the gap -- pregnant women with lower incomes and lower levels of formal education often do not have the resources necessary to obtain care early and often - but that public programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children increased access to care.
The rate excludes the number of live births for which the date of entry into prenatal care is unknown. In addition to considering when prenatal care began, it is also important to understand the quality and continuity of care received throughout the pregnancy.