In the last five years, state lawmakers in many states have authorized pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraception. This public health initiative improves access to necessary women’s health services. Unintended pregnancies account for over half of all pregnancies in women 20–24 years of age and have a higher risk of preterm birth and exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Preterm birth is a significant contributor to infant death and disability. Routine contraceptive use has been shown to decrease the incidence of unintended pregnancy to 5%.
Pharmacist-provided maternal health services encompass more than just contraception. Maternal health includes preconception, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy. Each phase of maternal health has unique needs, including those women who choose not to or are unable to have children.
Pharmacists are a vital member of the healthcare team. Successful implementation of a pharmacist-provided maternal health services program will require partnerships between providers, payers, and pharmacists. Payment of pharmacists’ reasonable fees for the service of assessment of a patient for the purposes of prescribing or referral must be included for these services to be provided. States should work with pharmacists to increase access to contraceptive, preconception, and early prenatal care to reduce infant and mother mortality, preterm birth, unintended pregnancies and Medicaid expenditures.
Establishing pharmacist-provided maternal health services may lead to significant savings to the healthcare system. Pharmacists are well equipped to provide these services and are more accessible than other healthcare providers. Pharmacist scope of practice continues to evolve and more closely align with pharmacists’ clinical ability.
Research shows that pharmacists add significant value to the healthcare system. That value is, as of yet, largely unrealized in maternal health services. To decrease infant and maternal mortality, preterm birth, and unintended pregnancies, states should look to pharmacists as a capable workforce, ready to implement solutions. Infant and maternal mortality, preterm birth, and unintended pregnancies are
significant public health issues. Change to the healthcare system to allow primary care services to be provided by pharmacists needs to happen now. Allowing pharmacists to provide primary care services to pregnant women and those capable of pregnancy will positively impact public health.