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Objectives: This study investigates the relationship between diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia, and Body Mass Index (BMI) -- the most common and interrelated medical conditions occurring during pregnancy; sociodemographic and behavioral risk factors; and adverse pregnancy outcomes in high-risk urban African American women in Washington, DC.

Methods: Data are from a randomized controlled trial conducted in 6 prenatal clinics. Women in their 1st or 2nd trimester were screened for behavioral risks (smoking, environmental tobacco smoke exposure, depression, and intimate partner violence) and demographic eligibility. 1,044 were eligible, interviewed and followed through their pregnancies. Classification and Regression Trees (CART) methodology was used to: 1) explore the relationship between medical and behavioral risks (reported at enrollment), sociodemographic factors and pregnancy outcomes, 2) identify the relative importance of various predictors of adverse pregnancy outcomes, and 3) characterize women at the highest risk of poor pregnancy outcomes.

Results: Overall, the strongest predictors of poor outcomes were prepregnancy BMI, preconceptional diabetes, employment status, intimate partner violence, and depression. In CART analysis, preeclampsia was the first splitter for low birthweight; preconceptional diabetes was the first splitter for preterm birth (PTB) and neonatal intensive care admission; BMI was the first splitter for very PTB, large for gestational age, Cesarean section and perinatal death; and employment was the first splitter for miscarriage.

Conclusions: Preconceptional factors play a very important role in pregnancy outcomes. For many of these women, the risks that they bring into the pregnancy were more likely to impact their pregnancy outcome than events during pregnancy.

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