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What to expect with expecting employees

The latest in maternal health data.

Millennials make up 85 percent of all pregnancies, and while most will experience a healthy pregnancy, a recent analysis of Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) data show this generation is experiencing some of the highest increases in health conditions that could lead to higher risks of pregnancy and childbirth complications. Learn more and get resources to share with your employees with our free "Understanding Millennial Health and Pregnancy" PDF Fileflyer.

You've heard us talk a lot about millennials and your workforce — they already make up 50 percent of your employee population and will account for 75 percent of your workforce by 2025. They're also increasingly unhealthy, which spells trouble when you focus on a specific group of millennials: expecting parents.

Though millions of people in the U.S. give birth each year, more than 85 percent of these pregnancies are among millennials. While many experience healthy pregnancies, recent data from a Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of America Report External Site shows an uptick in complications, both throughout pregnancy and during childbirth, and postpartum depression. Unsurprisingly, these troubling trends all account for driving increases in health care costs.

Let's dig deeper into the data and look at the trends so you can help expecting parents in your workplace have a healthy pregnancy — which, in turn, will keep health care costs down for your business.

Trend #1: Increase in pre-existing conditions before pregnancy

The outcomes of your employees' pregnancies are often determined by how healthy they are before becoming pregnant. The latest maternal health data found a significant increase in the prevalence of several physical and behavioral health conditions — depression Opens in a new window, substance abuse, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes, to name a few — prior to pregnancy from 2015 to 2018. Dealing with pre-existing conditions before becoming pregnant can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

  • High blood pressure, which saw a 31 percent increase in prevalence, can increase your pregnant employees’ risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, kidney damage, and preeclampsia, according to Healthline External Site.
  • Type 2 diabetes, which increased by 28 percent over three years, can put your employees’ pregnancies at risk for birth defects, high birth weight, high blood pressure, preterm birth, and even miscarriage or stillbirth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention External Site.
  • Diagnosed obesity, which occurred in every 18.2 out of 100 pregnancies in 2018, puts pregnancies at risk External Site for certain birth defects including spina bifida, heart problems, hydrocephaly, and cleft palate.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, other risk factors for pregnancy complications External Site include older maternal age (35 and older), problems in previous pregnancies, and pregnancies with twins or other multiples. People with high-risk pregnancies may need to see their health care provider more often or get other specialized care while they are pregnant.

Trend #2: Increase in pregnancy and childbirth complications

With a notable increase in pre-existing conditions prior to pregnancy come higher rates of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. According to the report:

  • The number of people experiencing both pregnancy and childbirth complications increased 31.5 percent nationwide.
  • In Iowa, around 21 percent of people experience complications during pregnancy and 13.8 percent experience complications during childbirth. Pregnant people living in South Dakota experience both types of complications at a rate of 18 percent.
  • People who experience pregnancy complications are twice as likely to have childbirth complications
  • Childbirth complications increase the cost of c-section deliveries by 52 percent and vaginal deliveries by 63 percent.

If your employees experience complications throughout their pregnancy, this can impact your business. Not only will you see increased health care costs, you’ll also likely notice higher rates of absenteeism and lower rates of productivity.

Trend #3: Increase in postpartum depression diagnoses

Postpartum depression affects nearly one in 10 pregnant people nationwide, and the number of pregnant people diagnosed with postpartum depression increased by nearly 30 percent since 2014. Though risk factors for postpartum depression include a previous history or family history of depression, stressful life events — including preterm labor and delivery, pregnancy and birth complications, and having a baby who needs to be hospitalized — are also leading causes, according to the CDC.

Postpartum depression can linger well over a year if left untreated, which can put your employees at risk for other health issues Opens in a new window like heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and a weakened immune system.

Help expecting parents in your workplace have a healthy pregnancy

Routine prenatal care is one of the most important components of having a healthy pregnancy and reducing complications. But, according to the report, 14 percent of pregnant people didn’t receive prenatal care during their first trimester. And, one-third reported receiving fewer than the recommended 10 prenatal visits.

With statistics like these, focusing on the health of your pregnant employees is crucial — but where do you even begin?

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Pregnancy Support Program

With a pregnancy support program, you can give your expecting employees the resources they need to navigate the health care system throughout their pregnancy. With advanced care nurses on-call 24/7, the program helps employees who are high risk manage any health conditions that may affect their pregnancy — reducing their risk of further complications.

Pregnancy resources on myWellmark®

In addition to the one-on-one support from the pregnancy support program, your employees have access to the tools available through myWellmark WebMD® Pregnancy Assistance Opens in a new window, Count the Kicks® and text4babySM.

If you are a Wellmark member, encourage your employees to take advantage of these available resources to help them have healthier pregnancies.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.