Is Prenatal Care Necessary or Mandatory?

Pregnancy is expensive, and for many, it is unexpected. In fact, there are a whopping three million unplanned pregnancies that occur every single year in the United States. For some women, this is, unfortunately, a cost that they cannot afford. This can cause neglect in care throughout the forty weeks of gestation, especially for those who are uninsured. This leads to the question of “Can you get in trouble for not having prenatal care?”.

In the United States, the decision of whether or not a woman receives prenatal care is completely up to the mother. There are no legal requirements for the care of your child, prior to their birth. Therefore, if you choose to forgo receiving this service, the only consequences that you will have to endure relate to the health of you and your child. 

While this may seem like a weight off of your shoulders, it is imperative that you take the time to consider the true purpose of this medical service. 

Medical Consequences

Contrary to popular belief, prenatal care does not just mean taking a daily vitamin and implementing healthy habits. It actually involves the close monitoring of the development of your child. This is extremely important for preventing complications and ensuring that your baby makes it to term. 

In fact, women who go without these visits increase the chance of their baby dying within their first month of life by 40%. Additionally, it doubles the risk of preterm labor. This can lead to your baby developing chronic health issues. If this occurs, it will not only extend your hospital stay, it will also increase your overall costs. 

By receiving prenatal care, you allow a physician to troubleshoot health issues that you and your baby can incur during this time. For the mother, this can include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, preeclampsia, and mental health concerns. For the baby, this can be heart abnormalities, birth defects, and low birth weight.

Pregnancy can also worsen existing chronic health conditions. Therefore, moms-to-be who suffer from things like asthma and heart conditions need to be monitored closely. Waiving medical care can be quite dangerous, especially for those with preexisting conditions. So what do you do if you find yourself in an area without proper care available or the inability to pay?

Finding Proper Prenatal Care

Doctors recommend that pregnant women attend an average of ten check-ups. These visits will include regular monitoring, ultrasounds, and a myriad of tests. As mentioned previously, they can also include the treatment of pre-existing conditions as well as issues that can arise with your baby. Here are some low-cost solutions that can help you get the care you need without a big bill attached.

1. Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Back in 2010, the Affordable Care Act was created. Its purpose was to give all Americans access to low cost healthcare. This is exceptionally beneficial for individuals and families whose incomes are below a certain threshold of the poverty line. By doing this, lawmakers have made it easier for individuals to receive coverage who would normally turn down treatment and care.

Unlike in years past, the ACA guarantees that prenatal and postpartum visits will not have a lot of out-of-pocket costs or high premiums, whether or not you are insured. That’s because these services are now classified as preventative care. Therefore, insurance will cover most of the bill. Conversely, if you are without coverage, you can now qualify for Medicaid. 

Additionally, for those under the age of 26 whose parents have a healthcare plan, you are eligible to be added to their coverage. Even as a temporary solution, this can help to eliminate a handful of fees. 

2. Planned Parenthood

This non-profit organization has been around for over a century with the goal of providing communities with reproductive care and education. This is considered a low-cost alternative compared to other medical establishments. However, you will have to pay out of pocket for many of their services. 

Planned Parenthood currently has over 600 facilities across the nation and is available to women with and without insurance. Moreover, if you do not have coverage, there is the possibility that you can even qualify for low or no-cost care. 

3. Area Health Department

Reaching out to your local Health Department is another fantastic way to determine the resources that are available to you. All you have to do is call 1-800-311-BABY. They will direct you to an office in your region. Then those representatives should be able to give you guidance and advice on the best outlets for prenatal care in your community. Make sure to specify if you are looking for low-cost options. 

Other Ways To Save On Prenatal Care

1. Research Your Plan

First and foremost, confirm that the doctor you have chosen is an in-network physician. This can make a huge impact on the price tag of your pregnancy. Next, find out what your policy covers and what is out of pocket. This can include bloodwork, procedures and check-ups. Then determine what the actual cost is for the services that are not free. Knowing what you will be responsible for can help you to map out a plan for your care.

2. Talk To Your Doctor

If you are on a tight budget and are considering refusing prenatal care due to the cost, speak with your doctor about your options. Many times the physician will see first-time moms more often. This is to make sure that you feel comfortable and have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. 

While we all appreciate regular weight and blood pressure checks, a handful of these visits are unnecessary. Which check-ups can you remove to control your expenses? Does your doctor offer payment plans to help you to spread out the costs? Do they offer ways to save? Does paying in cash make a difference? 

Tell your doctor that you only want what is absolutely required to keep your pregnancy on track. The adorable ultrasound at six weeks where all you see is a blob is a very exciting waste of money. Make the care that is necessary a priority. Cut out the rest. This will help you to better stay within your budget.

3. Get Free Supplies

Samples are your best friend! Many obstetricians have a variety of prenatal vitamins at their disposal. Ask if your healthcare provider has some available for you to try. Moreover, some insurance plans pay for prenatal vitamins as a part of the pregnancy coverage. There is no harm with calling to find out!

4. Take Care Of Yourself

A huge part of your prenatal care is just taking care of you! Cut out alcohol and cigarettes. Eat healthy. Drink plenty of fluids and get your rest. Don’t forget to exercise and most importantly, listen to your body. Sometimes slowing down is necessary. 

Finally, at your initial visit, talk to your doctor about how much weight you should be gaining as well as signs and symptoms that indicate an issue. This information can help to ease your mind when random ailments arise and allow you to stay on track.

What To Do When Prenatal Care Is Unavailable

In some instances, no matter what your intent may be, prenatal care is inaccessible. Many small towns don’t have the resources to provide proper treatment. You might also not have the latitude to frequently travel for regular check-ups. In this instance, it is important that you find a provider that can be your point person from afar.

Most of your monitoring can be done remotely if you and your baby have no health issues. Tests are available at any area hospital. The results can then be sent to your doctor. Moreover, for a healthy pregnancy, most women just need two ultrasounds throughout the forty weeks. One to confirm the pregnancy and one to examine your baby’s progress in order to determine if there is any reason for concern. If all is good, you should be able to limit your travel and still remain healthy!

Final Thoughts

You are perfectly in your right to go without prenatal care. However, this decision runs the risk of you and your baby developing health issues without proper monitoring. Therefore, it is best to investigate your options and potential alternatives when resources are unavailable in your area. Additionally, many cost-effective solutions are available, you just have to do your research.

Most doctors will insist that going without prenatal care is a mistake. However, there should never be a scenario where you feel coerced or pressured to receive any form of treatment. It is fully within your rights to report said person to the medical board if you feel harassed in any way. 

Finally, if you are considering terminating the pregnancy because the cost is too high, think about adoption as an alternative. This will cover the cost of your medical expenses and give a loving couple the chance to build a family. This is an amazing gift to give someone who doesn’t necessarily have the ability to become pregnant.