Pregnant women with mental health conditions during pregnancy incurred higher childbirth costs, according to US research

on 07 October 2021

Pregnant women who were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition incurred higher childbirth costs and were at greater risk of complications, according to a study by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Researchers analysed hospital discharge data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) National Inpatient Sample. They evaluated the cost of childbirth, the length of stay, and severe maternal morbidity for deliveries that took place between 2016 and 2017.

Data included around 1.5 million people who had 7.3 million childbirth hospitalisations. Around 4% of women that were included in the study had at least one mental health condition.

The study found that pregnant women who received at least one mental health diagnosis paid 9% more on childbirth than those who did not have any mental health conditions diagnosed ($5,573 vs $5,015).

It was also found that pregnant women with a mental health condition had a 50% greater risk of severe maternal morbidity (206.3 cases per 10,000 births, compared to 135.09).

Speaking to Medpage Today, Clare Brown, PhD, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said: “A 50% higher rate for any mental health condition in this category, that’s a significant increase. That’s a large difference in something that is theoretically going to impact the health of the mother throughout postpartum, and the health of the infant as well.”

Women who were diagnosed with trauma or stress-related mental health conditions had the highest childbirth costs, paying an average $825 more. Pregnant women within this group also had the highest risk of severe maternal morbidity (87%).

In the data used, around 8% of white women had a mental health diagnosis, compared with 5% of Black women and 3% Hispanic women.

The research acknowledged that data from HCUP’s National Inpatient Sample is observational and did not capture maternity care outside of the inpatient setting.

The research abstract can be found here.