Semin Reprod Med 2018 11 19;36(6):327-339. Epub 2019 Apr 19.
VA Central Office, Women's Health Services, Washington, District of Columbia.
Preconception care (PCC), defined as a set of interventions to help women optimize their health and well-being prior to pregnancy, can improve pregnancy outcomes and is recommended by national organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women Veterans who use the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system may face elevated risks of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes due to a high prevalence of chronic medical and mental health conditions as well as psychosocial stressors including sexual trauma history and intimate partner violence. Many women Veterans of childbearing age experience poverty and homelessness, which are key social determinants of poor reproductive health outcomes. Furthermore, racial/ethnic disparities in maternal and neonatal outcomes are well documented, and nearly half of women Veterans of reproductive age are minority race/ethnicity. High-quality, equitable, patient-centered PCC services to address modifiable risks in this population are therefore a priority for VA. In this article, we provide a brief background of PCC, discuss the health risks of Veterans associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, and highlight VA initiatives related to PCC. Lastly, we discuss implications and future directions for PCC research and policy within VA and across other health systems.