April 2, 2024

The Real Cost of Poor Maternal Healthcare

The US spends more per capita on health care than any other high-income country, yet experiences the highest rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. The current fragmentation of our healthcare system has led to discontinuity of care and unnecessary delays when diagnosing and treating maternity-related issues, resulting in ~24 deaths per 100,000 births and more than 1 in 8 women suffering from some level of maternal morbidity to severe maternal morbidity.

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The impact of this is not, however, limited to a mother or her child, but poor maternal care ripples across society with an all too ‘real cost’ that extends beyond the individual to their families, the healthcare system, employers and the broader economy.

Families Pay the Price

The United States is one of the most expensive countries in the world to give birth (averaging $3,000 out-of-pocket), and this cost rises rapidly when a family experiences complications as a consequence of poor maternal care.

In two-thirds of American households mothers serve as the sole or co-breadwinner and maternal morbidity or mortality can lead to significant financial instability for the whole family.

Women with serious illnesses relating to pregnancy or childbirth, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues or depression, may struggle to participate in employment opportunities or maintain their current role. They may also be less able to recover the finances lost to these complications, and this can further fuel mental health conditions, which increase severe maternal morbidity by 50 percent.

Finances aside, the physical and mental burden caused by poor maternal care can last a lifetime and across generations with children at risk of suffering both physical and socioemotional, behavioral or developmental problems.

The Resultant Financial Strain on the US Healthcare System

Maternal morbidity conditions also lead to increased hospitalization and treatment costs in the United States. The best estimate, based on a 2021 analysis, is that associated medical costs amount to $18.7 billion from conception through to a child’s fifth birthday.

Maternal mental health disorders pose the US the highest financial burden, with an annual medical cost of more than $6.97 billion, and estimates of increased annual delivery hospitalization costs of $102 million in the US among individuals with perinatal mental health conditions compared to those without. This is closely followed by maternal hypertension, the annual medical costs for which are estimated at $5.97 billion and gestational diabetes at $3.94 billion.

The Economy Suffers from Poor Maternal Care

Unsurprisingly, the economic toll of poor maternal care is staggering. The total costs of nine* maternal morbidity conditions for all U.S. births in 2019 reached $32.3 billion from conception to the child’s fifth birthday; with total overall medical and non-medical costs (which include lost productivity, social service support and payments) relating to preterm birth and developmental disorders amounting to $13.7 and $6.5 billion respectively.

Maternal health issues such as gestational diabetes and depression increase the number of missed work days and decrease maternal employment, contributing further to economic pressures.

Longstanding literature also underscores the pivotal role of women's health in societal development, with healthier women fostering more educated and productive communities. Access to family planning and quality maternal care not only empowers women but also propels economic growth through increased labor participation and higher household earnings.

An Existing Solution to Improved Maternal Care

The well-being of mothers directly influences the health and potential of future generations, emphasizing the need for a focused improvement in women's healthcare to ensure sustained societal prosperity. Therefore, investing in maternal care and improving the health of parents and children, helps to contribute to more productive and better-educated societies.

To address the ‘real cost’ of poor maternal care, strategies should reduce fragmentation and increase access to high-quality care within the healthcare system to mitigate the risks throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. And yes, that does mean harnessing the powers or technology and intellect to create a functional, comprehensive solution that can mitigate the failures of the current maternal health system.

Mother Goose Health is the leading fully integrated platform that facilitates value-based care contracting across the maternity care ecosystem utilizing evidence-based clinical models. By coordinating all elements of maternal healthcare within one platform and integrating with providers’ EHRs, maternity risks can be better identified and timely inventions delivered. Providing a network for all health services, Mother Goose Health enables closed-loop referrals and the opportunity for real-time risk escalation, which ultimately helps to lower costs for healthcare systems, ease economic pressures, and improve the physical, financial and personal outcomes of maternity for families.

*amniotic fluid embolism, cardiac arrest, gestational diabetes mellitus, hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, maternal mental health conditions, renal disease, sepsis, and venous thromboembolism