UMass Medical School study indicates Rhode Island women with disabilities have a higher risk of pregnancy complications and poor infant outcomes

December 17, 2015

A study of pregnant women with disabilities in Rhode Island led by UMass Medical School has found that these women are more likely to report medical complications during pregnancy, have preterm births and low birth weight babies. The researchers conclude that clinicians need to be aware of the increased risks of pregnancy complications and poor infant outcomes.

Published in this month’s edition of Medical Care, the official journal of the American Public Health Association’s Medical Care Section, the study analyzed data from the 2002–2011 Rhode Island Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System survey. The UMass Medical School authors are Karen Clements, MPH, ScD, and Linda Long-Bellil, PhD, JD, from the Commonwealth Medicine division and Jianying Zhang, MD, MPH, of the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences.

The study results show that Rhode Island women who report a disability have significant disparities in their health care utilization, health behaviors, and health status before and during pregnancy and during the postpartum period. The women were also less likely to receive prenatal care in the first trimester.

The lead author of the paper is Monika Mitra, PhD, an associate professor at Brandeis University who was at UMass Medical School at the time of the research. Other co-authors include Suzanne C. Smeltzer, EdD, RN, FAAN, a professor at Villanova University; and Lisa I. Iezzoni, MD, MSc, of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital.

These findings are similar to previous examinations of pregnant women with disabilities by UMass Medical School.

A nationwide study of pregnant women with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) from UMass Medical School and Brandeis University published in the September American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities found high rates of complications including preeclampsia and preterm birth. A December 2014 study of pregnant Massachusetts women with IDD published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found deliveries were associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery, very low and low birth weight babies, and low Apgar scores.