The Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Blog

Childbirth in the United States

Posted by Lindsey Gray on February 06, 2015

The birth of a child is an event many women anticipate with great joy and expectation.  Yet, the healthcare maze and the insurance industry quickly tamper that joy and anticipation.  The staggering cost of maternal and pre-natal healthcare in this country can be staggering even for those who have health insurance.

The NY Times published an article last year entitled "American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World"and reported that an in-hospital delivery can cost up to $45,000.  Despite spending more than $98 billion annually on birth, the U.S. has relatively high maternal mortality rates, ranking 50th worldwide.

One news outlet described the problem in stark terms, "Interventionism is a primary culprit. In the U.S., 53 percent of women giving birth receive Pitocin, a medication that augments their contractions, and more than 63 percent receive an epidural for pain relief. The C-section rate is the second highest in the world, about 34 percent. More interventions lead to more complications and higher rates of maternal and neonatal mortality. This drives up the average cost of a birth, which can deter low-income women, particularly women of color, from seeking the necessary prenatal treatment for a healthy pregnancy.

Prenatal and childbirth costs can be prohibitively steep even with insurance. 'I was kicked out of my regular GYN’s care because I could not pay for prenatal care up front — even with insurance. I was refused care and went to the pregnancy clinic instead,” said Jennifer Cumby, a writer from Virginia. “I had just had a miscarriage. I was very vulnerable and scared. I cried for about a week.'"

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "As a community of practitioners, we know the adverse effects of Pitocin from the maternal side,” Dr. Tsimis said, “but much less so from the neonatal side. These results suggest that Pitocin use is associated with adverse effects on neonatal outcomes. It underscores the importance of using valid medical indications when Pitocin is used.”  Dr. Tsimis, primary researcher into the effects of Pitocin on infants, notes the dangers of using the powerful drug to induce labor.

Childbirth has become a profit center for insurance companies and hospitals while at the same time a too-often source of suffering for parents and new mothers. 

Peter Heed

Contact Lindsey Gray:
lgray@arbd.com

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