What if I told you that one simple trick could help thousands of future Missouri adults avoid diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure? What if that same trick could help future Missouri students perform better in educational endeavors? And what if, it saved us all money?

What’s the secret? Adequate prenatal care.

The lack of quality prenatal care is the largest contributor low infant birth weight. Low birth weights are tied not only to neonatal difficulties but also an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure in adulthood. Low birth weight is also correlated to social and developmental delays which impact educational attainment.1

The most important steps to a healthy, productive Missouri citizen happen prior to birth. Healthy mothers tend to have healthy babies. That’s why the MO HealthNet for Pregnant Women is a critical part of Missouri’s health and economic success. MO HealthNet (Medicaid) is available for all pregnant women with incomes under 196% of Federal Poverty Level. This Medicaid coverage helps to ensure that our newest Missourians are born healthy and born to healthy mothers. In addition to covering the mother from pregnancy through 60 days of postpartum care, MO HealthNet provides 12 months of reproductive control for the new mother at no charge. While spacing of births doesn’t directly impact birth weight, evidence does suggest it impacts maternal health and ultimately pregnancy outcomes.2

Nearly 14% of Missouri women of childbearing age has no private or public medical insurance. MO HealthNet fills that gap in coverage. Providing this coverage leads to healthier mothers, babies, and Missouri economy. Once one factors in the costs of birth and the costs of the associated conditions through adulthood, the average lifetime medical cost of caring for low birth weight persons is about $500,000!3   One study estimated that every $1 spent on prenatal care saves $3.38 in neonatal care.4  The correlation between inadequate prenatal care and low birth weight is striking. Women receiving no prenatal care were nearly twice as likely to give birth to infants weighing less than 3.3 pounds and those hospitals stays tended to cost more than 36 times the average hospital birth costs.  

MO HealthNet or pregnancy Medicaid is extremely cost effective for all Missourians. Healthy mothers have healthy babies and healthy babies are good for all of us.

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1Henderson, J W. “The cost effectiveness of prenatal care.” Health care financing review vol. 15,4 (1994): 21-32.

2Miller, Ray & Karra, Mahesh. (2020). Birth Spacing and Child Health Trajectories. Population and Development Review. 10.1111/padr.12335.

3National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality. Infant Mortality within Minority and Rural Communities: A Global Perspective on Causes and Solutions. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1991. A Symposium Sponsored by the Select Committee on Hunger, U.S. House of Representatives and the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality.

4Droste T. Prenatal Care Education Insures Healthy Future. Hospitals. 1988 Feb 20;62:74–76