1 in 5 moms delay or skip medical care in year after giving birth, study

Story at a glance

  • About 20 percent of mothers reported delaying or forgoing needed medical care in the year after giving birth, according to a new study.

  • The study was conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the School of Social Work.

  • The United States has a maternal mortality rate far higher than most other wealthy nations. And more than half of maternal deaths occur during the first year after giving birth.

About one in five mothers said they delayed or skipped needed medical care the year after giving birth regardless of health insurance coverage, according to a new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The maternal mortality rate in the United States is far higher than those in other wealthy nations like France, Australia, Canada and Japan.

The maternal mortality rate that year was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number is almost 10 percentage points higher than 2020 numbers. In 2020, the maternal mortality rate was 23.8 per 100,000 live births and the rate was 20.1 per 100,000 live births the year before, according to CDC data.

And over 60 percent of maternal deaths occur within seven days to a year after giving birth, according to the CDC.

To shed light on the needs of women postpartum, researchers surveyed more than 4,500 postpartum people in Michigan, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Utah and New York City between January of 2021 and 2022.

“Most people think of labor and birth as the most dangerous part of pregnancy, but the highest risk time for maternal morbidity and mortality is actually after the baby is born,” said Jamie Daw, assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia and main author of the study.

“Yet, the postpartum period has long been overlooked, and we understand very little about, and have taken very little action, to address the social and medical needs of mothers after birth.”

Mothers with Medicaid were less likely to report seeing a primary care physician, a specialist or a dentist the year after giving birth compared to women with commercial insurance, according to the study.

One in four women with Medicaid reported not seeking any health care at all in the year after giving birth even though 12 percent said they suffered from depression and 14 percent said they had anxiety after delivering.

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