Health complications that result from pregnancy and delivery, also known as maternal morbidity, cost the United States tens of billions of dollars each year and engender multigenerational consequences, according to a new report from Mathematica and the Commonwealth Fund. But the scarcity of comprehensive, relevant data suggests that maternal morbidity may exact an even higher toll on society.
The report, The High Costs of Maternal Morbidity Show Why We Need Greater Investment in Maternal Health, discusses findings from a new mathematical model that quantified the monetary costs of select maternal morbidity outcomes for all 2019 U.S. births. The model accounts for medical and nonmedical impacts on both birthing person and child from pregnancy through five years postdelivery.
Among the key findings:
- The projected cost of maternal morbidity for all births in 2019, from conception through age 5, is $32.3 billion. That estimate accounts for medical costs, including those for treatment and hospitalizations, as well as nonmedical costs, including loss of economic productivity and increased use of social services. The researchers say their model likely underestimates the full financial burden of maternal morbidity to society. Similarly, it is unable to capture the human toll, which can have ongoing effects on birthing people and their family members that shape workforce participation, nutrition, schooling, and much more.
- Seventy-four percent of maternal morbidity costs stem from child outcomes versus maternal outcomes. Two-thirds of costs occur during the child’s first year of life.
- Child outcomes with the highest costs included preterm birth ($13.7 billion), developmental disorders ($6.5 billion), and respiratory distress ($2.1 billion).
- The costliest maternal health outcomes included lost productivity ($6.6 billion), cesarean section delivery ($895 million), and increased hospital stays shortly before or following childbirth ($350 million).