Raising Women’s Voices

Overuse of costly high-tech interventions in childbirths are unnecessarily hiking up hospital bills

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on October 10, 2008

Two articles in USA Today and one in Consumer Reports detail the rapidly rising national health care bill associated with childbirth, according to a study by Maureen Corry at Childbirth Connection.  In just one year, hospital costs for maternal and newborn care rocketed from $79 billion in 2005 to $86 billion in 2006.  This is a huge portion of hospital expenses, considering new mothers and newborns account for one in every four people discharged from U.S. hospitals.

While the hospital charge of an uncomplicated vaginal birth came to $7,000 in 2005, the bill was $16,000 for C-sections.  Delivery by C-sections account for 31% of all U.S. births in 2008, compared to the recommended 5-10% by the World Health Organization.

What is more is that many “high-touch, non-invasive” measures are not being employed to their full extent among healthy low-risk women.  The study reports underuse of such treatments as “prenatal vitamins; use of midwife or family physician; upright and side-lying positions during labor and delivery, which are associated with less severe pain than lying down on one’s back; vaginal birth for most women who have had a previous C-section; and early mother-baby skin-to-skin contact.”

The articles suggest that the disproportional use of unnecessary high-tech interventions in U.S. childbirths can be traced to economic incentives for hospitals and doctors who can increase their insurance reimbursements for performing such costly procedures.  There is also a concern with malpractice and liability.  “A lot of people think pregnant women are accidents waiting to happen,” says Corry.  “It’s just crazy.”

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