The financial website WalletHub has ranked states on how baby-friendly they are using metrics like cost, quality of care and environment. Where does your state fall?
September is one of the most popular months for babies to be born, so if you're one of the many moms-to-be whose due date is approaching, you're probably doing everything you can for baby's arrival. A new study compared the experience of having a baby in all 50 states and D.C. to help expectant parents like you plan for newborn expenses, choose hospitals and doctors, and know what to expect from life with an infant.
For this year's rankings, the financial website WalletHub looked at states across three key dimensions: Budget, Health Care and Baby-Friendly Environment. Their analysts then broke down these categories into individual metrics, like average hospital delivery charges, average annual infant care costs, rate of preterm births, number of OBs and pediatricians per capita, parental leave policies, and even air pollution. Number 1 on the list was Vermont, with North Dakota and Oregon rounding out the top three. The worst state was Mississippi, with Pennsylvania and West Virginia coming in second and third worst.
How states were ranked
Different states vary considerably in terms of how much it costs to have a baby, which WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez tells Fit Pregnancy has a lot has to do with how each one's medical policies interact with the Affordable Care Act. "Not only does it affect the cost of an actual birth itself, but it also changes the way pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists are compensated—which in turn might make certain states more attractive than others for these types of doctors," she says. Accessibility and quality of specialists also vary greatly from state to state, according to Gonzalez.
The quality of parental life post-birth went into the decision of whether a state has a baby-friendly environment. "We saw that a state's parental leave policy fluctuated a great deal, ranging in how much one is paid and for how long," Gonzalez says, of one top factor. "A baby friendly environment should [also] have low levels of pollution, a high number of child care facilities, and places for mothers and children to meet and interact." Baby-friendly locales also have things like parks, nursing stations, postpartum support groups, changing tables in gender-neutral or family-oriented restrooms, sidewalks, and family-friendly events and activities.
Should you move to a more baby-friendly state?
If your state didn't rank high, Gonzalez doesn't necessarily suggest you move. "But if you're already considering relocating, then this is one more piece of information to take into account when looking at your options," she says. And if you are making a move, you may have to choose between cost and quality. For example, Massachusetts, which ranked 13th overall, had a very low score (44th) for budget but a very high score (third) for health care. "Ultimately, it's up to the parents to decide which sacrifices they're comfortable making," Gonzalez says. "In Massachusetts' case, a family might just need to budget more ahead of time."
Even if you're staying put, it's still beneficial for you to have more information about your state's policies when planning and budgeting for a baby. "It's important for parents to be aware of the states' weaknesses and strengths," Gonzalez says. "Just knowing what the average cost for birthing a baby within their state is a step in the right direction, so you're not caught off guard when the hospital bill arrives. Budgeting ahead of time with this number in mind is strongly recommended. Parents should also prospect hospitals so that they can find the one that offers the best quality services."
And if your state doesn't have many baby-friendly policies in place, you could even take action to help spur change and improvement. "Parents can actually take this up with local government offices," Gonzalez says. "They can also create their own 'grassroots' mom groups if their community doesn't have enough."
Visit the WalletHub website and click on the map below find out how your state scored...