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Commonwealth Fund Identifies High Cost of Maternal Morbidity

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Maternal morbidity, the often serious complications of pregnancy and childbirth, costs the U.S. tens of billions of dollars — and may rival costs for expensive conditions like diabetes, which run into the hundreds of billions. A new study by The Commonwealth Fund sought to model the societal costs of maternal morbidity and associated maternal and child outcomes through five years following childbirth.

Through a comprehensive literature review, researchers identified maternal and child outcomes that may result from each maternal morbidity condition. They calculated the excess cases of each outcome attributed to maternal morbidity, modeled the associated medical and nonmedical costs of each outcome, and projected costs through five years postpartum.

From the analysis the researchers identified evidence to support connections between nine maternal morbidity conditions, such as hypertensive disorders, and 24 maternal and child outcomes, such as cesarean section delivery and preterm birth. They estimated total maternal morbidity costs for all U.S. births in 2019 to be $32.3 billion from conception through the child’s fifth birthday. This amounts to $8,624 in additional costs to society for each maternal–child pair.

They concluded that their model likely underestimates the full financial costs of maternal morbidity. Policy and systems reforms could reduce these costs and shape the social factors affecting quality of life for birthing people and their children.

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