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Ethnology, Nutrition Survey, Premature birth, Socioeconomic Factors, Women's Health.



  1. Arbour, Megan W. PhD, CNM
  2. Corwin, Elizabeth J. PhD, FNP
  3. Salsberry, Pamela J. PhD, RN
  4. Atkins, Marsha ND, CNM


The incidence of preterm birth in the United States varies by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Given the unsatisfactory reduction in preterm birth with interventions directed at single risk factors, we examined the preconceptional health of childbearing-aged women of different racial/ethnic groups to understand the risk prior to pregnancy.


Purpose: To evaluate the preconceptional health of childbearing-aged women by examining specific health factors implicated in preterm birth in light of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic factors. We tested the hypothesis that subgroups with historically high levels of preterm birth would have poorer preconceptional health compared to other groups and that the economic influence would be similar across groups.


Study Design and Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of cross-sectional population-based data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 data sets, including 1,497 of 2,108 eligible White, African American, and Mexican American women. We measured health using select indicators of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, infectious disease, and sexual and substance-use behaviors associated with increased risk for preterm birth and conducted comparisons within and across racial groups. We used adjusted logistic regression by race.


Results: In addition to increased rates of preterm birth shown in the literature, childbearing-aged African American women have poorer overall preconceptional health than the other groups. Measures of socioeconomic status affect preconceptional health differently for each racial/ethnic group.


Clinical Implications: Racial/ethnic subgroups with higher rates of preterm birth experience poorer health preconceptionally. Clinicians should address preconceptional health risks for preterm birth in all childbearing-aged women, paying attention to racial/ethnic-specific risks identified here.