How does Women's Preconception Health Status Affect Infant Health?
This research investigates the relationship between women's preconception health status and infant health. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, which presents a significant public health challenge, as women often do not start necessary healthy practices until they first discover their pregnancies. Several risk factors that have been shown to influence fetal development can develop in women months or years before pregnancy. In this research, the pregnancy outcomes that are examined include the probability of pregnancy, the probability of a live birth, length of gestation, and birth weight of infants. Women's preconception health status is measured by self-reported fair/poor health status, Body Mass Index, and smoker status at the time of pregnancy as well as one, two, and three years prior to pregnancy. The effect of women's preconception health status on pregnancy outcomes is investigated by several estimation methods designed to reduce bias in the estimated marginal effects. These estimators include Ordinary Least Squares, fixed effect, random effect, and Heckman selection. The research employs data from all four waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. However, instead of analyzing the responses at each wave, information in the survey was used to identify the timing of all births to a woman in the sample, expanding a 4-wave panel data set into a 21-year panel data set. Hence, an annual data set is constructed with information on mothers' health multiple years prior to pregnancy, allowing for a yearly hazard model of pregnancy. Self-reported fair/poor health one and three years prior to pregnancy has a positive impact on the pregnancy probability on older women (age>21) but a negative impact for younger women (age<21). Being underweight one and three years prior to pregnancy negatively affects pregnancy probability. Smoking prior to pregnancy has a negative impact on the probability of a live birth and birth weights of infants. Our findings suggest that we cannot rule out a causal role of women's health multiple years prior to pregnancy in infant health outcomes.Bachelor of Scienc