Complications Increase Vaginal Delivery Costs by 20%, Study Finds

By Jack O’Brien

Childbirth complications increase the cost of vaginal delivery by 20% and increase the cost of cesarean delivery by 25%, according to a Premier study released Monday morning.

The analysis also found that severe maternal morbidity (SMM) factors can force women to stay hospital-bound for 70% longer than those without complications.

Patients with SMM saw vaginal delivery costs 88% higher than those for patients without SMM, while cesarean costs were 11% higher compared to the average.

Additionally, from 2015 to 2018, the average cost to a hospital for performing a vaginal delivery on patients without complications rose 13% and cesarean delivery costs rose 17%.

The study highlighted the clinical and financial impact associated with potentially preventable health conditions that complicate the childbirth delivery process.

Deborah Kilday, MSN, RN, a senior performance partner at Premier, told HealthLeaders that there are standardized practices and processes available for hospitals to decrease SMM and the costs associated with complications.

“If I were looking at it from the hospital perspective, the number one [focus] is implementing those standardized approaches and measuring the processes to better manage obstetric outcomes,” Kilday said. “The other takeaway would be providers and clinicians must recognize and properly modify care for pregnant women that present with chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, all of which can contribute to those pregnancy related complications that occur in the hospital setting.”

For patients without SMM or complicating conditions, the average cost of a vaginal delivery was $5,681 with an average length of stay of 2.3 days. Meanwhile, for the same procedure, the average cost to a hospital for a patient presenting with SMM was $10,720 and the patient stayed an average of 3.9 days.

Cesarean deliveries for patients without SMM or complicating conditions was $8,491, less than half of that for patients with SMM. The average length of stay for those with SMM was 3.2 days while those with SMM stayed for 5.6 days.

Premier also found additional costs associated with SMM factors for a vaginal delivery, including cardiac arrest ($16,102), acute myocardial infarction ($15,066), and ARDS ($14,036).

Kilday said that a major aspect impacting leaders of healthcare organizations is risk aversion.

“It is well understood that obstetric-related events are one of the largest categories of medical professional liability claims and indemnity payments,” Kilday said. “To help improve the management of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to improve patient safety, while also reducing claims, healthcare leaders and providers need data-driven insights to improve maternal infant outcomes as well as associated costs.”

Jack O’Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.