Maternal mental health disorders are the most common medical complication during and after childbirth, affecting at least one in seven pregnant and postpartum women in the US, and one in six in California. In addition — and alarmingly — half of perinatal women with a diagnosis of depression do not get the treatment they need.
The lack of attention has stark human costs. Untreated mothers are more likely to deliver preterm and have a cesarean delivery than those without these disorders, which increases health care costs for both delivery and care of premature infants and makes it harder for mothers to return to work. Children of mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) have a higher risk of behavioral and developmental disorders themselves, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, and behavioral or conduct disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder.
New research by Mathematica, the most comprehensive large-scale analysis of costs to date, finds these disorders also exert significant financial costs on individuals, families, and the economy. Among the findings:
- The total estimated societal cost of untreated PMADs in the US is $14.2 billion for all birth in 2017 when following the mother-child pair from pregnancy through five years postpartum, or an average of $32,000 for every mother-child pair affected but not treated, with most of the costs borne by employers and health care payers.
- The total cost of untreated PMADs is estimated at $2.4 billion in California in 2017 when following the mother-child pair from pregnancy through five years postpartum, or an average of $34,740 for every mother-child pair affected but not treated. The leading costs are productivity losses ($816 million), maternal health expenditures ($481 million), and pre-term births ($468 million).
- Efforts to decrease the prevalence of these disorders would not only positively impact the health of mothers and their children, but also lead to improvements in women’s productivity and decrease use of social services.
A CHCF press release is available — along with issue briefs detailing the societal costs nationally, and in California, Colorado, and Washington specifically. The research was funded by CHCF, Perigee Fund, and the Zoma Foundation.
Learn more about CHCF’s work in maternal mental health.