Maternity Insurance and the Cost of Pregnancy:Fact and Fiction


 Maternity Insurance and the Cost of Pregnancy:Fact and Fiction

In an age when gender parity is beginning to take form, it's quite surprising that there is still a wage gap, one in which women are paid 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. This inequality only worsens when we talk about labor factors such as hours worked and days off. That's why it comes as no surprise that maternity leave is another area where women are at a disadvantage - costing them time with their newborn child, as well as wages they could have earned.

However, the thing many people don't know is that maternity leave in the United States isn't just a stereotypical right for women. In fact, in terms of insurance coverage, women are treated just like men.

Traditionally, maternity leave is subsidized by the employer. However, this particular form of maternity leave only applies to mothers who have worked at least 1,250 hours within the previous year and were employed for at least 12 months.

This plan also covers only new mothers with no more than 12 months of service with the employer and no more than two births in the previous five years. It's important to note here that this coverage only applies to work-related injuries or illnesses if they happened during pregnancy or within one year after giving birth.

In order to qualify for this leave, one must provide a medical certification from their medical provider, saying that they will need time off for recovery. However, if a woman isn't eligible for this type of leave or is working under a private insurance plan, she can still receive some state and federal aid.

In the majority of states in the US, there are Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs in order to cover women who are unable to work after giving birth. As for the federal government, they provide Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Generally, in the US, these programs are funded by employee contributions to a state disability insurance program or temporary disability insurance (TDI) program. But when it comes to the FMLA, these benefits are provided by private employers and are tax-free. Yet again, only new mothers with 12 months of service at any single job and at least 1,250 hours of work during that period can qualify for this benefit. Also, one must work at a company with more than 50 employees within 75 miles in order to be covered.

Despite all this information about maternity leave in the US and how it's not that favorable toward women when compared to other countries, we still find ourselves lagging when it comes to paid parental leave. Studies show that American women are most likely to return to work a week after giving birth. In fact, 70% of them returned to work by three months postpartum.

Moreover, according to Redbook Magazine, the cost of raising a child in the US is now more than $250,000 when you factor in housing and education costs alone. This also doesn't even include all of the baby products such as clothes and diapers. Truly, it's no wonder why US mothers have such a high tendency of returning to work so soon after giving birth.

But what's even worse than the fact that women have to go back to work so soon after having a baby is the fact that this often comes at the cost of their reproductive system and, ultimately, their health.

According to Dr. Laura Corio in her article "Maternity Insurance and the Cost of Pregnancy: Fact and Fiction," women in countries with lower paid maternity leave suffer from an increased risk of several pregnancy-related complications. These include pre-eclampsia, hemorrhages, depression after delivery, and low birth weight. Not only do some babies die as a result of these complications; but some women do as well.

In fact, Dr. Corio found that in the United States, there were 7.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 compared to 31 deaths per 100,000 live births in Mexico.

On the other hand, countries such as Sweden and Norway offer paid maternity leave of about 16 months at 90% of their wages. Also, the United Kingdom offers a full-wage replacement for 39 weeks. In Denmark and Finland, it's 40 weeks at 70% of a woman's wages. Many other countries offer a year or longer of paid leave for women after they have their baby.

According to Dr. Corio, "The countries with the shortest and most meager maternity leave are all in North America and Europe. These short leaves do more than leave mothers exhausted; they are associated with both high rates of postpartum depression as well as adverse psycho-social effects on children."

Corio also notes that: "the length of time spent with a newborn is crucial to a mother's attachment to her child, a factor known to be related to the child's subsequent development of secure attachment." Longer maternity leaves also lead to higher breastfeeding rates for women, which significantly lowers infant mortality rates. In fact, the longer paid maternity leave is provided, the lower infant mortality rates become among those countries.

However, the US is not the only country that struggles with these issues. In fact, there are more maternity leave policies in the US than in all of Europe combined. There are also many countries with generous maternity leave policies who still have issues with maternal mortality and infant mortality rates.

What's even more alarming is how there are more women being diagnosed with depression after giving birth in the US than in Canada or Switzerland. In Canada, 1 out of 600 new mothers suffer from postpartum depression while in Switzerland, it's 1 out of 450 new mothers. Yet in the US, it's 1 out of every 167 mothers.

All of these problems combined with high infant and maternal mortality rates are leading to more and more women to undergo c-sections as a way to circumvent these risks. In fact, in the US, it's estimated that 1 out of 3 babies is born through a c-section.

With all these issues combined, it becomes very clear as to why we need paid maternity leave and equal parental leave for men and women in the US. The United States is one of only three countries in the world not providing any paid parental leave for new fathers; let alone mothers after they give birth or adopt a child.


While the United States does offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers after they give birth or adopt a child, this leaves a lot of new parents in dire straits. Many American families simply cannot afford to live without the money their primary bread-winner is making for such an extended period of time.

In fact, according to The Boston Globe, "the US is one of only four countries in the world — along with Papua New Guinea, Suriname and Lesotho — that does not guarantee paid vacation or paid family leave." Therefore, we need more efforts in order to fix our current maternity leave policies.

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