Birthing parents in the U.S. face significant challenges as they start and raise their families. Insufficient access to care, systemic racism and biases, a lack of mental health support, and low health literacy all contribute to the poor outcomes experienced by pregnant people around the country. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality and morbidity rates of any developed country, and outcomes worsen further for Black, Latine, and American Indian and Alaska Native parents.
Health plans can play a significant role in improving maternal health outcomes. While many levers can help improve the care that birthing people receive, increasing opportunities for early interventions during and after pregnancy have been shown to make a substantial impact on outcomes. Here’s what health plans need to know about building strategies for early care intervention that truly move the needle.
Understanding early care interventions during pregnancy
Early care interventions during pregnancy refer to the actions and services provided to pregnant women in the early stages of their pregnancy to promote the health and well-being of both the birthing parent and the developing baby. These interventions aim to identify and address potential risks, prevent complications, and ensure a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Examples of early care interventions include:
- Prenatal check-ups: Appointments to monitor the progress of the pregnancy, assess the health of the birthing parent and baby, and address any concerns or complications that may arise.
- Nutrition and diet: Healthcare providers may offer guidance on maintaining a healthy diet and advice on avoiding certain foods or substances that can be harmful during pregnancy.
- Education and counseling: Pregnant people may receive education and counseling on various topics such as breastfeeding, childbirth preparation, parenting, and infant care.
- Lifestyle modifications: Healthcare providers may offer guidance on adopting a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy including physical activity, managing stress, and maintaining a safe environment.
- Mental health support: Early interventions may involve assessing the mental health of the birthing parent and providing support or referrals for counseling or specialized care if needed.
The benefits of early care interventions along the maternity journey
Getting support earlier in the pregnancy can make a substantial difference in health outcomes. The benefits of early care interventions include:
- Improved outcomes for birthing parents and infants: Studies show that early prenatal care is associated with a nearly 50% reduction in infant mortality. Similarly, recent CDC research shows that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable and flagged increased care intervention as a key lever for lowering maternal mortality rates.
- Reduction in healthcare costs: Various analyses show that prenatal care can significantly reduce long-term healthcare costs for birthing parents and babies. One study found that early prenatal care can save up to $3,242 per person, compared to those who don’t receive any prenatal care.
- Improved mental health: Identifying at-risk patients early in their pregnancies and implementing an appropriate plan of care reduce depression rates by nearly 40%. Similarly, a study by UC San Francisco found that pregnant people who participated in a group wellness program during pregnancy were half as likely to be depressed eight years later compared to those who received standard care.
Care interventions under the traditional healthcare system
The current model for care during pregnancy and after giving birth does not support the robust early care opportunities outlined above. The standard prenatal care guidelines haven’t been updated since the 1930s and rely almost exclusively on in-person care. This means that many birthing parents have to miss work, arrange childcare, or travel significant distances in order to attend their prenatal appointments. Because of these barriers and more, over one-fifth of pregnant people don’t receive care in their first trimester, missing essential opportunities for early interventions.
These trends extend beyond birth. The current model only includes one postnatal check-in, and almost half of birthing parents are unable to attend the appointment. The weeks and months following birth are a critical period for parents and their infants, yet many aren’t getting the care they need to truly support their health and well-being.
How digital health increases access to early prenatal care
Early care interventions have clear benefits, but getting pregnant people to engage in care early and often comes with its own set of challenges. Clearly, many patients face obstacles that make it difficult to engage in recommended in-person care care during and after their pregnancy.
To combat this, digital health has emerged as a powerful supplement to in-person care, increasing access and easing logistical challenges for birthing parents. When proposing a new prenatal care model, Dr. Alex Peahl highlighted telehealth as a promising care delivery option for patients seeking greater flexibility or additional support during and after their pregnancy. According to her research, early trials leveraging virtual care and remote monitoring have shown positive maternal and fetal outcomes with high patient satisfaction.
Maven Clinic, the leading women’s and family health company, provides virtual care to members as they start and raise their families. Through digital platforms like Maven, birthing parents can:
- Seek more immediate answers to questions that may arise during the pregnancy, with 24/7 online support
- Receive care in the comfort of their own home and on their own schedule
- Meet with a broader range of providers who may live outside their local area, including doulas, nutritionists, OB-GYNs, midwives, and more
- Attend virtual classes and support groups
Research shows that the increased access to care driven by digital health platforms can make a tangible difference on maternal and infant health. Outcomes Maven sees through our care model, designed to drive early interventions, include:
- 28% lower NICU admission rate
- 31% reduction in unnecessary emergency department visits
- 20% lower C-Section rates
- 28% of members benefit from improved mental health
- 56% of members report a better understanding of early warning signs
To learn more about how Maven can make an impact on your members as they navigate pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond, schedule a demo today.
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