When does a healthy pregnancy begin? Even before the arrival of COVID-19, pregnancy and childbirth complications were on the rise, a change attributed to more chronic conditions among pregnant mothers. Smooth pregnancies, providers say, start long before mothers conceive and rely on prenatal mitigation steps.
With medical advances, it’s hard to believe pregnancy complications are increasing. Yet according to Blue Cross Blue Shield Association research, pregnancy and childbirth issues grew by over 31% from 2014 to 2018. Part of the issue stems from the fact that millennial moms—the largest demographic of new mothers—are bringing more chronic conditions into pregnancy. Depression, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes all increased by at least 25% and as much as 35% in women aged 18-44 over the four-year period.
While North Dakota numbers aren’t as high as some states, the problem is significant. In 2018, 17% of new mothers here experienced pregnancy complications and 9% experienced post-partum depression.
In recent months, the reaction to COVID-19 has added additional obstacles to maternity care.
Over half of surveyed women who gave birth during the pandemic reported they couldn’t have a loved one in the delivery room with them. Meanwhile, 15% delivered at home.
Despite challenging times, providers say pre-pregnancy mitigation is the key to improving the process in years to come. Many are optimistic, noting that the obstacles of COVID-19 have given rise to new opportunities.
“Things like drive-up prenatal visits, along with virtual prenatal care, were born out of necessity but could open the door to new and convenient maternity education and care,” said BCBSND Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Glasner.
“This report underscores the importance of women’s health,” Glasner noted. “Access to quality care is critical to helping women lead healthier lives, have healthier pregnancies and uncomplicated births.”
Promoting awareness around prenatal mitigation serves to create better health outcomes and decrease care costs, a key long-term goal for BCBSND.
BCBSND offers prenatal resources for members with the Prenatal Plus program, such as guidelines for alcohol use, information on taking folic acid and even a checklist for when your baby arrives.
In addition to building on preventive health and maternity coverage, BCBSND offers tools for members to manage general health and well-being.
BCBSND’s report underscores the importance of preventive health care. Blue Cross Blue Shield and other organizations across the US are working to improve access to quality, affordable care to help mothers and their families lead healthier lives.