Maternity Insurance

How Much Will These 4 Common Pregnancy Conditions Cost You?

Every woman hopes their pregnancy will go off without a hitch. However, there is a risk that you may develop a condition that warrants extra care and may cost above what you budgeted for your pregnancy.

Only 8% of pregnancies end up with complications, which is good news for mothers who are worried about potential prenatal complications and emergencies. However, how can the 8% who will experience an unexpected medical condition during their pregnancy manage their treatment affordably? We break down the cost of 4 common pregnancy conditions and the cost of treatment so you and your partner can budget accordingly.

1. Placenta Previa

Placenta Previa is a condition that occurs when a baby's placenta covers the mother's cervix, potentially causing severe bleeding during labour. While the complications associated with placenta previa worrying, the complication is rather rare, with roughly 1 in 200 women developing the condition. Furthermore, in almost 90% of cases, the placenta returns to its normal position before you are due to give birth. That said, your risk of placenta previa is higher if you smoke, use cocaine, are over 35 years of age, have been pregnant before, are currently pregnant with twins or triplets and if you've had surgery on your uterus.

Diagnosing placenta previa is done through routine ultrasounds with your OB/GYN, which typically cost between S$30-S$200 per visit, or around S$1,700 if the ultrasound is done at a private hospital. Further treatment will depend on you and your baby's health, how close you are to the due date and the amount of bleeding. If your placenta previa doesn't resolve on its own, then you will need to have a C-section to avoid heavy bleeding. In general, C-section births cost about 50-90% more than vaginal births due to their overall complexity. However, you should also factor in that you can take out S$3,050 to S$4,850 from your MediSave to help you cover the costs of your C-section procedure. This means you may either be fully covered if you give birth at a C or B2 subsidised ward or you'll need to budget up to S$9,000 for out-of-pocket hospitalisation expenses.

2. Preeclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that presents itself as high blood pressure in expecting mothers in the later stages of their pregnancy (20-25 weeks). Typically, mild preeclampsia symptoms are not always noticeable, but serious complications can arise if left untreated, especially because it can damage other organs. While not as rare as placenta previa, it is still quite uncommon, with 3.6% of Singaporean pregnancies complicated by the disorder. Some causes of developing this disorder include insufficient blood flow to the uterus, damage to the blood vessels, genetics and a problem with the immune system. Some risk factors include a history of preeclampsia, age (higher for very young women or women older than 35), chronic hypertension, first pregnancies, multiple pregnancies, obesity and others.

Because preeclampsia can cause serious side effects like seizures, placental abruption and stroke, the only treatment is delivery. If it's too early in your pregnancy to deliver your baby, you'll need to come in for more frequent prenatal visits and you may benefit from taking blood pressure medication, corticosteroids or anticonvulsant medications. In these cases, you may have to undergo induction of labour (IOL) to deliver the baby vaginally. If there are complications, you may have to undergo a C-section. However, because preeclampsia is a serious condition, it will be covered by maternity insurance— a type of insurance that provides 100% coverage for hospitalisation due to pregnancy complications and newborn conditions. However, if a maternity insurance plan isn't right for you, then you can use MediShield Life, which should also cover S$800 per day (S$1,200 for ICU) for inpatient hospitalisation treatment due to preeclampsia. You'll also be able to take out up to S$3,050 to S$4,850 from your MediSave as well.

3. Intrauterine Growth Restriction

Intrauterine growth restriction is a condition in which the fetus is smaller than what is typically expected at certain periods of gestation. There are a few causes for the growth restriction. First, it could due to a chromosomal abnormality, structural defect or a congenital infection. This would be the case if the fetus is symmetrically small (all parts of the fetus are similar in size). Second, the growth defect could be from inefficient placental perfusion. In this case, the fetus would be asymmetrically growth restricted (the fetus's head and brain are the normal size but the rest of the body is smaller).

Your doctor will diagnose the condition with a prenatal ultrasound, which can cost up to S$1,753 at a private hospital. Your doctor may also monitor the fetus's heart rate and movements, look for infections and conduct an amniocentesis test—which may cost between S$643-S$1,336—to see if the IUGR is caused by genetics. Generally, your doctor will monitor your condition and recommend a nutritious diet. In some cases, you may need to undergo an IOL so you can provide nutrition externally. Since this condition is covered by MediShield Life, you won't have to bear the full cost of the IOL and depending on your ward, your costs may be fully covered.

4. C-Sections and VBACs

In some cases, you will need to get a C-section, whether it be for one of the conditions listed above or because you are not healthy enough for a natural birth. In this case, you can expect to pay anywhere from S$2,261 at a subsidised C-ward to S$12,782 at a private hospital. C-Section births have become much more common in Singapore, increasing from 10-15% of total births in the 1990's to 40-45% of births in the late 2010's.

This table shows the average cost of natural and c-section births in Singapore based on type of hospital ward

Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is when you opt for a natural birth after your prior pregnancy that involved a C-section. VBACs are opted for if you are planning to have more children, to lower the risk of surgical complications and promote a shorter recovery time. A vaginal birth is also cheaper than a C-section, with the average cost ranging between S$1,204 and S$8,456 before accounting for MediSave. It's worth noting that you won't be a candidate for VBAC if you have a past history of uterine surgery, uterine ruptures or high vertical uterine incision.

Saving on Pregnancy Expenses

One of the best ways to save on pregnancy conditions is to draw from your MediSave Maternity fund or file a claim with your maternity insurance or MediShield Life. The MediSave Maternity Package will cover you up to S$3,150 for a 3-day stay at the hospital if you will have a normal vaginal delivery or up to S$4,950 for a 4-day stay at the hospital for a C-section delivery.

This table shows the MediSave Maternity Package limits for vaginal and c-section births

However, besides MediSave, MediShield Life, private health insurance and grants, there are other ways to save on your pregnancy bills. For instance, you can pay your medical bills with a cashback credit card that lets you get cashback on healthcare. Another way to reduce costs is to opt for cheaper hospital wards and do a cost comparison of different hospitals. Lastly, the best thing you can do to reduce your chances of paying large out-of-pocket bills is to reduce your risk of developing avoidable pregnancy complications. This means you should aim to eat healthy, exercise and reduce your stress during your pregnancy.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.