Helping employees find quality maternal health care that goes beyond delivery
Women may often feel less supported when it comes to their own health needs, as their focus remains on caring for the rest of the family — and juggling work and other commitments. This can be especially true when family planning.
"Healthy women and children are the foundation of strong communities everywhere,” said Dr. Lisa Saul, chief medical officer of maternal health for UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual. "Ensuring they have access to maternal health benefits has a major impact on their health and well-being but also on future generations."
New reports reveal a worsening trend of poor maternal health in the U.S., including increased rates of depression, substance use and even maternal morbidity. Disparities that exist within those statistics include Black women having two times higher maternal mortality rates than white women.
How can employers make a difference?
Employers may help play a role in bettering maternal health care by making sure their employees have access to quality care with the right mix of benefits, resources and supportive programs that address whole-person health.
Companies that offer more comprehensive women’s health benefits tend to be able to better manage costs while offering more support and a healthier workforce, across a continuum of care.
Employers can play a role in healthy pregnancies by ensuring their employees have access to supportive services, healthy lifestyle programs and perhaps even infertility resources.
- 1 in 5 couples struggle to get pregnant after a year of trying
- 10% of couples report they or their partners have received medical help to become pregnant
"Navigating infertility can be extremely challenging," Dr. Saul said. "At UnitedHealthcare, we’re working to meet employees where they are with tools and resources like online courses, search capabilities and self-scheduled meetings with nurses, which are all aimed at helping them navigate a challenging time.
Even if a woman’s pregnancy is what providers refer to as “routine” – everything from morning sickness to prenatal appointments may require more support from their employers.
Access to adequate prenatal care can help reduce the incidences of low birth weights, pre-term births and even death. It can also help catch and treat maternal conditions like anemia and gestational diabetes, which can lead to other complications.
Some health plans offer 24/7 nurse lines to help women navigate their pregnancy, while others may include access to virtual care options to help create simpler, more cost-effective access to care. Virtual care options can also be helpful for women who live in maternal care deserts – places where access to maternal care is limited or absent altogether.
Additional support, for things like high-risk pregnancies or pregnancy loss, should also be considered to help manage the stress and anxiety that may arise. Employers can support employees with things like home care services or mental health support.
Childbirth and delivery
Many women have birth plans or an idea of how they want to deliver their baby. Employers can be supportive by offering coverage to different birth preferences, from home births to hospital births.
Advocacy services can also help provide a dependable resource for employees if those plans go off course.
The costs that come with bringing a baby home can often be a bit unknown. Removing the anxiety that may arise from that experience may be done by offering health plans like Surest™, a UnitedHealthcare company, designed to help members can see upfront pricing.
Starting life with a new baby at home can be a joyful experience. But the postpartum period often comes with many challenges for new mothers, too.
- 1 in 7 mothers experience postpartum depression the year after giving birth
- Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common complications that occur during pregnancy and often go undiagnosed/untreated
By offering a wide network of care providers, which may include mental health specialists, lactation support and overall postpartum care, employers can help address these issues.
"It can be tough to transition back to work after having a baby," said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual. "It’s critical for employers to be cognizant of the challenge and not only offer employees flexibility and understanding but a benefits package that has their family’s interest in mind and supports them along their maternal health care journey."
From pre-conception to postpartum, supporting employees in their maternal health journey goes beyond delivery. The health plans employers choose to offer can greatly impact the care their employees receive and make a difference as they choose to grow their families — and as their needs change in the future, with things like ongoing mental health support and menopause.
Employers that support women’s health, no matter what stage, often see better retention, higher productivity and improved health outcomes.
Get more ideas on how to support women’s health.