As a mom of four kids, I can definitively say that having a baby can be a wonderful, beautiful, life-altering experience. It can also be stressful, frightening, and incredibly expensive. In New Orleans, where 53 percent of households are struggling to make ends meet, often the second is true.
Birth By the Numbers: Some Scary Statistics
In Louisiana, 70 percent of all births are covered by Medicaid – the second-highest Medicaid birth rate in the nation. It’s estimated that the state spends over $200 million every year to provide medical services to pregnant women.
In spite of this, Louisiana also has some of the worst birth outcomes in the nation. It ranks among the highest states for prematurity, low birth weight, caesarian section, and infant mortality. Louisiana has consistently received failing grades on birth outcomes from the March of Dimes for years, prompting the state to create a new initiative to improve women’s health care. But has it worked?
When researching the pregnancy coverage available via Medicaid in Louisiana, I was pleasantly surprised. All of Louisiana’s Medicaid plans offer coverage for pregnancy, and every plan also offers a different pregnancy reward program. This is part of the state’s effort to encourage women to take extra good care of themselves while pregnant, in the hopes of improving birth outcomes across the state. Some of those reward programs can add up:
- Aetna Better Health Promise Program- $25 for a prenatal visit in the first six weeks of pregnancy and $10 for each prenatal visit after that, $50 for your postpartum visit, $50 for completing a Notice of Pregnancy, and $50 for getting all 17p shots.
- AmeriHealth Caritas Bright Start – $50 for a prenatal visit in your first six weeks of pregnancy, $50 for a postpartum visit, and $25 for completing a Notice of Pregnancy in your first trimester
- Healthy Blue New Baby, New Life – $25 for a prenatal visit in your first six weeks of pregnancy, a portable crib or infant car seat for seven prenatal visits, and $50 for a postpartum visit. They also offer an in-home postpartum visit and provide you with a family planning kit that includes condoms, a pregnancy test, and prenatal vitamins.
- Louisiana Healthcare Connections Start Smart for Your Baby– $10 for each prenatal visit, $50 for a postpartum visit, $30 for completing a Notice of Pregnancy, and a breast pump and NICU care kit when needed. They also offer a Start Smart for Baby kit that includes helpful items for new moms and free access to their Smart Start for Baby app.
- UnitedHealthcare Baby Blocks – Nursing cover or teething rattle for a prenatal visit at 24 weeks, $20 or Fischer Price sorting blocks for a postpartum visit, $20 or a diaper bag when you enroll in Baby Blocks, and a Healthy Pregnancy Care book for telling UnitedHealthcare you’re pregnant.
New Orleans Birthing Centers
When it comes to giving birth in New Orleans, there aren’t a lot of choices. If you live in New Orleans East, you’ll have to travel into the main area of the city, choosing between Touro Family Birthing Center and the Family Birthing Center at Ochsner Baptist. Both offer private birthing rooms and Level III NICUs.
Both hospitals also have the added distinction of being named a “baby-friendly” hospital and being GIFT-certified, which means they aggressively promote breastfeeding. If you’re hoping to formula feed, you may want to avoid this hospital, as they refuse to distribute free or subsidized formula, nipples/binkies/pacifiers, or “other feeding devices.”
Outside of Medicaid
As you might expect, if you aren’t relying on Medicaid for your pregnancy coverage, your choices expand some – but not a lot. In addition to the two choices listed above, there is Tulane Lakeside Hospital for Women and Children. Not only is this hospital “baby-friendly,” but it is also GIFT-Certified. Their birthing rooms are quite large, with plenty of room for the family, or for walking to alleviate labor discomfort. On their website, they’ll even create a customized Spotify playlist to play for you during your delivery. They also offer a Level III NICU.
If you’re looking for an alternative birth, there is the Ochsner Perkin Alternative Birthing Center. Here they have a full staff of Certified Nurse Midwives to provide you with a natural birthing experience in a homelike environment. They are the only alternative birthing center in the entire region. Their birthing rooms feature a sound system for playing soothing music, a birthing stool, and a microwave and refrigerator. Each room has a shower, and a tub large enough for a water birth, should you desire. If you have a large family, there is a family room with attached kitchenette available for use.
The main concern that I had when researching the birth experience in New Orleans was the lack of choice and convenient birthing locations. If you live on the West Bank, or in New Orleans East, you have to travel quite a ways to get to your birthing center. This can be difficult for women who don’t have easy access to transportation, leaving them with the possibility of enduring a 20-minute car ride (if traffic is good) or needing to call an ambulance (which isn’t necessarily faster).
On a positive note, it’s clear that when it comes to quality of care, New Orleans moms are lucky; every hospital features a Level III NICU (something mothers in the more rural areas of the state usually don’t have access to), and each one offers private birthing rooms and has been certified “baby-friendly” by the state.