The recent birth of the royal prince cost $15,000. That sounds like a lot, right? It is, but it’s only half the cost of a birth in America. That’s right: the average price of a birth — in a normal hospital, not a luxury wing — in the U.S. is $30,000. That makes us, according to an in-depth article by The New York Times, the nation that pays the most for maternity care. Yet, we also have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. It seems like these two things should counter one another, but in some ways (though not all) they’re related.
The fact that maternity care is so expensive means that it’s hard for people to afford it, and so infant mortality rates rise. Thousands of women across the country cannot get access to adequate pre- and post-natal care, and that’s what leads to these high mortality rates. Our high teen pregnancy rate (which is, thankfully, falling) is a factor, but the Times article points out that it’s not the whole picture.
We have teen mothers, many of whom are too afraid to expose their pregnancies to properly take care of themselves during them. We have working women who cannot get adequate health insurance. We even have working women who pay for their own private health insurance, but many of these insurances do not cover maternity care. They have to haggle their way through a dense, inconsistent billing system, often being stuck with outrageous bills that are different than the quotes they’re initially given.
The New York Times article covers the situation better than I ever could. I’m not writing this post to be political, but merely to call attention to a problem that pregnant American women face. If you’ve ever wondered why we have such high infant mortality rates in our country, well, there’s your answer.
When reading the article, I couldn’t help being reminded – several times – of an unrelated article I saw on BBC News a couple of months ago. It revealed that infants in Finland sleep in boxes, and how that’s connected to Finland having one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.
The full article on the concept is here, but the gist of it is that the Finnish government sends every expectant mother a box full of goodies for the baby. It started in the 1930s when the country had a high infant mortality rate. The boxes – which come with mattresses in the bottom – provided necessary items for infant care. The country’s infant mortality rate turned around, and now the boxes are an important part of the culture. They’re considered such an honored tradition that the Finnish government even sent one to William and Kate as a present.
One of the reasons why the boxes help improve care of the child, aside from the fact that they provide many necessary supplies, is that in order to receive one parents must sign up for prenatal care (which is available to everyone in the country). I just think the concept of the box is so neat – so neat, in fact, that my sister in law made me a custom one for our shower present – and love to share the idea.
I wish our government did something neat like this, especially in light of how much of a mess our maternity coverage can be. Sure, the idea of putting a baby to sleep in a box is weird, but when you think about all the things that aren’t allowed in cribs: well, they’re more or less sleeping in boxes anyway.
Have you had any difficult maternity care experiences? And what do you think of the Finnish maternity box?
*(The above image by adamr is from freedigitalphotos.net).