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You are here: Home - Pregnancy - Labor & Childbirth

How Much Does it Cost to Give Birth in the US?

by Katlyn Joy | July 11, 2013 12:00 AM
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Do you know how much it will cost you to give birth at your designated hospital or birth center? Chances are, you don't. Many hospitals won't give you a dollar amount prior to birth. One reason is of course that different birth scenarios cost different amounts. Another is that hospitals charge different insurance companies different amounts. If you are uninsured you will pay more, because insurance companies negotiate prices with hospitals.

The US: Most Expensive Place to Give Birth?

According to 2012 data, the US is the most expensive of all industrialized countries to give birth. A conventional or vaginal birth cost US women an average of ,775. In Switzerland, the same birth: ,039; France ,541; in Britain ,641. For cesarean births, the US is again the solid leader at 15,041. In Switzerland women paid ,186. In France, the cost was ,441 while in Britain it was ,435. The bad news? For that increased cost, mothers and children fare no better.

Costs by Type of Birth

One factor affecting cost is both where you give birth and how. Birth centers are typically about five times cheaper than hospitals when it comes to uncomplicated vaginal births. Of course, c-sections and high risk deliveries are not options at birth centers. While you may think you are headed for a simple vaginal delivery, the truth is, no one knows how a birth will occur and what emergencies may arise.

According to 2011 data from the US Agency for Healthcare Research Quality, a simple birth with no complications cost in the range of ,657. For a vaginal delivery with complications the average was ,749. For an uncomplicated cesarean delivery, the cost was ,859. For a complicated c-section, the average amount paid was ,923.

Differences by State

While the figures above are averages for the United States as a whole, there are significant differences state by state. The data from the US Agency for Healthcare Research Quality only included statistics from the 34 states that participate in the program.

If you live in Utah, Vermont or West Virginia you will likely pay less for giving birth than residents in any other state. These states consistently stay at the lowest rates. However, the state with the distinction of the absolute lowest rates is Maryland. In Maryland the hospitals charge on average ,000 to ,500 less for an uncomplicated vaginal birth and ,500 to ,500 less for a c-section.

New Jersey mothers pay the most for both complicated and uncomplicated vaginal births, and uncomplicated cesareans, approximately ,000 to ,000 above average for all reporting states.

California has the distinction of charging moms the most for complicated cesareans and California has the biggest overall increase in birth costs since 2009.

Other higher cost states for giving birth are Florida, Nevada and Rhode Island.

Other Factors to Consider

These figures do not include charges such as anesthesia, maternal care, and newborn care. This may add significantly to the total bills for a family, especially a family without health insurance.

Childbirth is the number one source of revenue for US hospitals and over half of all hospital admissions are for birth. This is a big dollar source for the medicine. Paying attention to what you are spending and for what is your personal responsibility. For instance, all hospitals charge you for nursery care even if the baby rooms in, or stays with mom in her room for the entire hospital stay.

Moms can't set a budget for birth of course since you can't control what happens during labor and childbirth. However, you should understand that some procedures that seem routine don't necessarily need to be done such as episiotomies. The more interventions that a mother has, the higher the likelihood of a c-section. This will increase the risks of more complications for mother and child as well as the risks. Of course, there are times when a c-section is absolutely necessary and a lifesaver for mother, child or both.

To be prepared, understand your options for birth. Can you try labor without an epidural? If you had a c-section previously, will your doctor let you try a vaginal birth this time? Will your hospital give you a figure for your portion of the hospital bill if the birth is a standard, vaginal delivery so you have a general idea of costs?

Be informed and proactive about your choices in childbirth and watch your bills carefully to find any overbillings or mistakes. Don't assume everything is correct. Giving birth won't be cheap but you shouldn't have to pay for things you didn't get or don't want or need, either.

Sources: National Partnership for Women & Families, ThinkProgress

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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