A cohort, cross-sectional, historical study design was used to study factors related to spontaneous premature birth outcomes among African American women. The cohort consisted of 4,294 mothers drawn from the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The objectives of the study were: (1) to examine the distribution of gestational ages of African American infants for selected variables reported for their families and (2) to describe risk factors associated with birth at 20–31 weeks of gestational age and at 32–36 weeks of gestational age. Risk factors examined include maternal age, maternal marital status, maternal living arrangements, maternal education, maternal work status, household income, gestational bleeding, month prenatal began, adequacy of prenatal care, parity, previous viable preterm birth, and behavioral factors of attitude toward pregnancy, smoking, drug, and alcohol use during pregnancy. Frequency distributions, cross tabulations, stratified analysis, and logistic regression analysis were used.
Risk factors associated with a 50 percent or more increase in preterm birth were cocaine use, low maternal education, teenaged mother, prenatal care deficits or overuse, and bleeding during the second half of pregnancy. The other risk factors of not living with the baby's father, smoking cigarettes and having a mistimed pregnancy carried statistically significance but lower strength of association.
Health care services, educational systems, and community organizations can develop and evaluate comprehensive health education and information campaigns that address preventable risk factors during pregnancy. Although preterm birth cannot always be prevented, preconception care can help identify and modify maternal risk and promote optimum health before conception. Quality care should include continued risk assessment, health promotion, and interventions.