The High Costs of Maternal Morbidity Show Why We Need Greater Investment in Maternal Health
- The estimated costs of maternal morbidity through five years postpartum was $32.3 billion.
- The conditions with the largest costs were maternal mental health conditions ($18.1 billion), hypertensive disorders ($7.5 billion), and gestational diabetes ($4.8 billion).
- Three quarters of the costs were attributed to child outcomes, and the rest to maternal outcomes.
- Our findings highlight the need for delivery systems and policy makers to further invest in preventing maternal morbidity.
Maternal morbidity—health conditions stemming from or worsened by pregnancy—is on the rise in the United States, disproportionately affecting people of color and those with social disadvantages. In this issue brief, we modeled the societal costs of maternal morbidity and associated maternal and child outcomes through five years following childbirth. Through a comprehensive literature review, we identified maternal and child outcomes that may result from each maternal morbidity condition. We then 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. We 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. We 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. Our 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.