Having a baby is one of the most momentous experiences of your life, but it can also be one of the most expensive. Spending money on essentials like baby furniture, a stroller and diapers can add up more quickly than you expect. You might also be surprised to see your hospital bill after delivery.
Average Cost of Childbirth in the US
Giving birth costs $18,865 on average, including pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care, according to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health System Tracker. Health insurance can cover most of that cost. But what if you don’t have health insurance? You can expect a hefty hospital bill.
The true cost of giving birth depends on many factors, like the type of birth you have and your location.
You can save thousands on childbirth if you have health insurance. Here’s the average cost of delivery and how much health insurance members usually pay in out-of-pocket costs.
Average childbirth costs
What Factors Into the Cost of Giving Birth?
The cost of having a baby can be unpredictable and you probably won’t know the final amount until your baby is at least a few months old and you’ve received all the bills. Here’s a look at the many variables that contribute to the price.
The cost of giving birth varies based on where you live. That difference happens even if you have health insurance.
For women with health insurance, the Health Care Cost Institute estimates that the average out-of-pocket costs for birth are highest in Nebraska and lowest in Michigan. Here’s a look at average childbirth costs by state.
Average out-of-pocket costs for childbirth by state
You can expect to visit your obstetrician’s office between 10 and 15 times for a normal pregnancy with no complications. You will need various tests, including routine blood work, a glucose test, genetic testing, ultrasounds and other screenings, which affect the cost of having a baby.
Type of birth
One of the biggest factors that impacts the cost of giving birth is the type of delivery. Vaginal births generally cost less than cesarean births, with and without health insurance.
Mother’s hospital charges
If you deliver your baby in the hospital, the cost of the hospital stay can vary significantly. For a vaginal delivery, the average hospital stay is 48 hours. For a cesarean birth, the average stay is 96 hours.
Your hospital charges could be much more expensive if there are complications during the delivery or if you need specialty care or monitoring after birth.
A medicated birth with an epidural will increase the cost of delivery. The cost of having a baby is also slightly higher if you’re induced rather than having a spontaneous birth.
Baby’s hospital charges
All babies need some basic medical care after delivery. Doctors will monitor your baby’s breathing and heart rate, administer their first vaccines and take a blood sample before you and the baby can get discharged. For babies with difficult births or babies born with certain conditions, there can be additional monitoring and tests that will add to the total hospital charge.
After your baby is born, they will need to visit a pediatrician to receive newborn care. Your baby will receive a complete physical exam and additional vaccines as part of the exam. You might also need to meet a lactation consultant within the first few weeks after delivery, which is usually covered by insurance.
How Much Should You Expect To Pay If You Have Insurance?
The average out-of-pocket cost for childbirth with health insurance is $2,854, but the costs for vaginal births are lower than those for cesarean births. The average out-of-pocket spending for a vaginal delivery is $2,655, compared to $3,214 for cesarean births.
For labor and delivery, out-of-pocket costs can include a health insurance deductible, copayments and coinsurance, depending on the specifics of your plan. Your out-of-pocket costs will be lower if you’ve already reached your annual deductible.
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You can also keep your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible by giving birth at an in-network hospital or facility. Getting care outside your health plan’s provider network may result in you paying more for care or all of the out-of-network care costs.
How Much Should You Expect To Pay If You Don’t Have Insurance?
Without health insurance, you can expect to pay about $18,865 for childbirth, based on the national average from Peterson-KFF data. But the exact cost of giving birth varies based on the type of birth (among other factors).
If you don’t have health insurance, you can expect to pay a much higher cost for pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. Without insurance, you’re responsible for all your medical expenses during pregnancy and after birth.
What Happens If You Can’t Pay Your Medical Bills After Childbirth?
You have a few options if you deliver a baby and can’t afford to pay the medical bills.
Set up payment plan: Ask the hospital if you can set up a payment plan. Breaking up the lump sum payment can make the cost more manageable. If you know you’re going to need assistance, talk to the hospital as soon as possible.
Request discounted rate: You might also qualify for a discounted rate on your medical bills if your hospital or doctor is willing to work with you and you’re uninsured or meet certain income requirements. It won’t completely erase the money you owe, but it can lessen the financial burden.
Government health insurance: Depending on your income, you may qualify for Medicaid or your state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If you meet the Medicaid or CHIP requirements in your state, your policy will cover health care expenses retroactively for three months before the application date, but you must have been eligible for Medicaid during that period.
There may also be state-specific grants or financial assistance programs. A representative from your hospital’s billing department can likely provide some options if you need financial aid after childbirth.
Can You Get Insurance While Pregnant?
Being pregnant doesn’t prevent you from getting health insurance if you qualify.
You can get health insurance while you’re pregnant through the health insurance marketplace, regardless of how far along you are into your pregnancy. You can also get Medicaid during pregnancy if you meet the income requirements.
Health insurance plans purchased through the marketplace, as well as Medicaid plans, provide coverage during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. You can also look into CHIP, which provides low-cost health insurance to children in low-income families. CHIP additionally covers pregnant women in some states.
Health insurance is available during pregnancy, but you can only enroll in a plan during certain periods. To get a standard plan through the health insurance marketplace, you must enroll during open enrollment, which starts on Nov. 1. If you qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, you can enroll at any point during the year.
You can, however, purchase health insurance outside of open enrollment if you qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). Pregnancy isn’t typically a qualifying event for a special enrollment period in most states, but giving birth can launch a special enrollment period. If you recently gave birth, you’re eligible for a SEP within 60 days of your baby’s birth. Other examples of SEPs include:
- Moving to a new state
- Getting married or divorced
- Losing health insurance through an employer
Other Childbirth Costs to Expect
Giving birth in a hospital is usually the most expensive cost associated with childbirth. You’ll also need to spend money on other things. Here’s a list of additional childbirth costs.
Costs generally covered by health insurance
How Do You Get Insurance to Cover Childbirth Costs?
Health insurance automatically covers pregnancy care and childbirth. The amount of coverage depends on your health plan and your out-of-pocket costs.
After each appointment and following childbirth, the hospital will coordinate with your insurance company to submit claims. The insurance company will determine how much of the cost it will cover and you’ll get billed for the rest. If you receive care from an in-network provider, you likely won’t be involved in the claim process. But if you go to an out-of-network hospital, you might be responsible for filing the claims yourself.
You may need to reach out to your insurance company in some instances. For example, to get a free breast pump through your insurance company, you need to coordinate with them directly and provide a prescription from your doctor if necessary.