To compare the type, frequency, and timing of health care use among commercially insured postpartum and nonpostpartum women.
This retrospective cohort study used data from a large national commercial claims database. Women between 18 and 44 years of age who gave birth in 2016 (n=149,563) and women who were neither pregnant nor postpartum between 2015 and 2017 (n=2,048,831) (nonpostpartum) were included. We examined hospitalization, and preventive visits, problem visits, and emergency department (ED) visits among postpartum women during the early postpartum period (less than 21 days after childbirth), the postpartum period (21–60 days postpartum), and extended postpartum period (61–365 days after childbirth). Visits among nonpostpartum women were assessed during time periods of equivalent duration.
Almost 24% of postpartum women had a problem visit in the early postpartum period, compared with 19.7% of nonpostpartum women (adjusted difference 4.8 percentage points [95% CI 4.6–5.0]). Approximately 3% of postpartum women had an early ED visit, more than double the percentage among nonpostpartum women (adjusted difference 2.3 percentage points [95% CI 2.2–2.4]). Both problem visits and ED visits among postpartum women remained elevated relative to nonpostpartum women during the postpartum and extended postpartum periods. Although postpartum women were more likely than nonpostpartum women to receive preventive care during the early and postpartum periods, only 43% of postpartum women had a preventive visit during the extended postpartum period, a rate 1.8 (95% CI −2.1 to −1.5) percentage points lower than that of nonpostpartum women. Adjusted hospitalization rates among postpartum women in the early (0.8%), postpartum (0.3%), and extended postpartum (1.4%) periods were higher than those of nonpostpartum women (0.1%, 0.2%, and 1.6%, respectively).
Commercially insured postpartum women use more health care than nonpostpartum women, including inpatient care. Differences are largest in the early postpartum period and persist beyond 60 days postpartum.