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Maternity Care is Expensive: Here’s How Employers Can Help

Maternity claims are one of the most common and expensive health care costs for businesses


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Health care services for new mothers and children account for $1 out of every $5 that large employers spend on health care, according to a report from the National Business Group on Health. Since most women work until late in a pregnancy and return soon after giving birth, much of their prenatal and postpartum time is spent in the workplace. Offering options for high-quality maternity care not only keeps your employees at their best — it helps you get the most out of your health care investment.

While maternity claims are one of the most common and expensive health care costs for businesses, the exact costs are hard to predict. Multiple reports suggest the average cost to have a baby in the U.S. ranges from $12,000 to $30,000. That’s because there are so many factors to consider including prenatal care, type of delivery, delivery setting and postpartum care.

Below are some examples of potential costs employers and employees face, as well as ways to save money along the way.

Proper Prenatal Care

Women who receive early, comprehensive and continuous prenatal care and preventive screenings are more likely to have healthier pregnancies. High-quality care aside, they also incur $1,000 less in hospital costs than women who don’t get prenatal care.

This is important because maternal hospital stays for women with complicating conditions cost about 3 times as much as those for women without complications. By completing recommended prenatal care appointments and screenings, moms can keep themselves and their babies healthy during pregnancy — improving mental health as well as reducing the risk of complications including low birth weight babies and preterm birth.

C-Sections

The rate of Cesarean births continues to rise with the overall c-section delivery rate over 30% in 2017. Cesarean births are complicated surgeries that increase recovery time, extend hospital stays, complicate future pregnancies and cost approximately 50% more than vaginal births. There are evidence-based ways to promote a vaginal delivery but there are also medically necessary reasons for C-section births.

The best option for your employees is to partner with their care teams to optimize their health prior to delivery and be aware of all the benefits and risks.

Postpartum Depression

In my practice, I’m starting to see more moms who are comfortable talking about postpartum depression. While strides are being made, more can and must be done to break down the stigma associated with postpartum depression and anxiety.

Perinatal mood disorders are a common and serious problem that affects 1 in 7 new mothers. Untreated perinatal mood disorders can have significant financial impacts and have been associated with productivity loss, preterm birth and increased health expenditures. Surprisingly, new moms aren’t the only ones who can suffer from postpartum depression. Men and partners can also experience postpartum depression. This is an important reminder for the partners in the workplace who will soon be caring for a new baby.

It’s clear the more businesses understand the unpredictable costs of maternity care, the more they can serve as advocates for their employees during such an important life event. Quality maternity care translates to business benefits beyond just savings on health care costs. Your employees feel valued when they receive quality care, and your business will benefit from increased engagement, lower turnover and a healthier, happier workforce.

Jennifer Seidel, MD is an Ob-GYN and and the medical director of women's health at Kaiser Permanente Colorado.  

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