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Prenatal Care Matters for a Lifetime

In this year’s Kids Count in Nebraska report, I wrote about the importance of investing in early childhood, because those first few years in a child’s life can have an enormous impact in the long-run. Kids who struggle – in one way or another – before the age of 8 are likely to struggle at age 18, at age 28, at age 80. Like a snowball collecting snow as it rolls downhill, problems stick to themselves and accumulate over time.

One way to help kids get the best start possible is to ensure that their mothers had good prenatal care. These important visits to the doctor can help alert mom and health-care professionals to any potential problems for baby. The importance of prenatal care has been demonstrated time and again since March 2010, when 1,600 pregnant Nebraska women lost access to care due to a Medicaid administrative change [1].

Since then, we’ve heard well-documented accounts of health-care providers who must deliver babies with no history of prenatal care [2]. When doctors don’t anything about babies who are on the way, it’s impossible to prepare for any complications that could have been detected and addressed early on. In some cases, the lack of care may have been fatal. Within a year of the Medicaid change, five babies had died [3].

Babies who survive, but who never had the benefit of any or enough prenatal care, are at greater risk for illness or disability. Babies born too early or too small, for example, are more likely to experience mental and behavioral disabilities, chronic respiratory problems, deafness, blindness, and cerebral palsy [4]. In addition to the human costs families must face, such problems carry heavy economic burdens for our state. A single day in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) costs between $1,000 and $2,500 – a burden that falls on Medicaid or the hospital to cover [5].

Reinstating access to prenatal care for all women is a commonsense solution to the grave consequences resulting from an administrative change. Refusing to do right by Nebraska’s newest babies isn’t just economically disastrous. It’s unconscionable.


[1] Prenatal Care Issue Brief, Voices for Children in Nebraska (June 2010).

[2] Paul Hammel, “Prenatal care cuts up for review,” Omaha World-Herald (November 20, 2010).

[3] JoAnne Young, “Lincoln senator directs attention to prenatal care issue,” Lincoln Journal-Star (March 17, 2011).

[4] Prenatal Care Issue Brief.

[5] Ibid.

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