Association of Childbirth With Medical Debt

Obstet Gynecol. 2024 Jan 1;143(1):11-13. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000005381. Epub 2023 Sep 28.


We evaluated the association between childbirth and having medical debt in collections and examined differences by neighborhood socioeconomic status. Among a statewide cohort of commercially insured pregnant (n=14,560) and postpartum (n=12,157) adults, having medical debt in collections was more likely among postpartum individuals compared with pregnant individuals (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.36, 95% CI 1.27-1.46) and those in lowest-income neighborhoods compared with all others (aOR 2.18, 95% CI 2.02-2.35). Postpartum individuals in lowest-income neighborhoods had the highest predicted probabilities of having medical debt in collections (28.9%, 95% CI 27.5-30.3%), followed by pregnant individuals in lowest-income neighborhoods (23.2%, 95% CI 22.0-24.4%), followed by all other postpartum and pregnant people (16.1%, 95% CI 15.4-16.8% and 12.5%, 95% CI 11.9-13.0%, respectively). Our findings suggest that current peripartum out-of-pocket costs are objectively more than many commercially insured families can afford, leading to medical debt. Policies to reduce maternal-infant health care spending among commercially insured individuals may mitigate financial hardship and improve birth equity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Poverty*
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Class