Average cost of a birth

I’ve finally found a chart that looks at the cost of an average birth in the U.S., depending on whether it was vaginal or C-section, complicated or uncomplicated. Finally! (I’ve previously blogged about this subject here and here.) The chart lists average costs in 2003, 2004, and 2005. These costs do not include any anesthesia (anesthesiologists are typically billed separately from the hospital), newborn care, or “maternity provider charge” (I’m assuming that’s the woman’s prenatal care, but it could be costs billed directly by the doctor who attends the birth, similar to the separate billing by anesthesiologists — if anyone knows for sure, feel free to leave a comment.) For the most recent year, an uncomplicated vaginal birth was nearly $7,000; a complicated one was almost $9,000; an uncomplicated C-section was over $12,000; and a complicated C-section was about $16,000.

Oh, and a birth-center birth was about $1,600.


13 Responses

  1. Nice.

    I think my birth center was about $1900 not including prenatal care.

    Midwifery rocks, plain and simple.

  2. All four of my pregnancy’s and births cost $80.00 Total. Yes, that’s $20 dollars each. That’s what it cost for the Black and Blue Cohosh to help my labor progress well and the sterilized shoe laces to tie the cord after the birth.
    By the way, I caught each of my own babies at home. It was the most empowering and awesome things I’ve ever done in my life.

  3. Hi I was just curious as to what the difference between a hospital and a birth center is? And do you know how I could find one in my area? Thanks!

    • Mary,

      Some hospital maternity wings are labeled “birth centers” but are not what is typically under consideration when people use the term “birth center.” I think it’s done to deliberately confuse and mislead the public, so that they think they’re getting a more naturally-oriented place of birth, when in reality, they’re just getting a standard hospital birth, with just a name change to hide the truth.

      What I think of when using the term “birth center” is a free-standing, independent place of birth, typically run by midwives, that does not answer to the hospital, nor has its practices run by nor dictated by the hospital. It may be located near a hospital, but would not be in a hospital. However, some hospital-run “birth centers” are not necessarily located within the four walls of a hospital, so location is not necessarily a guarantee.

      A birth center is going to be similar to a home birth, except instead of midwives coming to your home to attend you, you go to the birth center (which is likely where you will have prenatal visits) to give birth. “House of Babies” on The Discovery Channel (or TLC?), is a good example of a birth center. You will have to be low-risk, and if you need or want an epidural or some other medication or intervention, or if certain complications arise, you will have to transfer out of the birth center and into a hospital.

      The advantage of a birth center over a hospital is that since the midwives and nurses deal with normal, healthy, low-risk birth on a daily basis, they typically don’t use interventions at the level of the typical hospital, which may serve to introduce risk for little or no benefit. Hospitals may have protocols which effectively limit women to lying in bed for the entire labor, whereas at birth centers (like home births), women will be encouraged to move around and be active to help with labor. Most of the routines that hospitals have are not common in birth centers.

      To find a birth center near you, as well as to answer other FAQs, you can check out the American Association of Birth Centers website.

  4. […] Pretty much the entire cost of the whole maternity hospital of Santa Monica back in 1952.  Click here for some current average costs of hospital […]

  5. hey kathy,

    i was wondering does any one have more recent costs of giving birth??

    mainly in the Boston area ……

    i would appreciate it

    • I do not know. Perhaps you can call to different hospitals, say you’re pregnant and without insurance, and wondering how much it will cost to give birth in their hospital if you have a vaginal birth or if you have a C-section. They *might* be able to tell you. [It seems fairly logical to me that *someone* would be able to tell you, but it may depend on whether you have someone on the phone who will actually find that information and tell you.]

  6. They probably won’t tell you, unless you ask if they have a cash pay plan and what the prices are for that. You typically have to pay in advance to get those prices. If they think you have insurance they clam up and fight it out with the insurance company. At least, that has been my experience. I have had 2 home births that cost less than $500, a home birth that cost about $2500, a hospital birth that cost about $30,000 (NICU admission) and this last time my prenatal care cost $5000 (1/2 for an ob and 1/2 for a midwife) and 2 FAILED hospital inductions cost $7500 EACH! It is time for transparency in health care.

  7. Hi Kathy

    I was just wondering if you had any up to date information on the average number of Cesareans, epidorals, episiotomies etc. in the United States. Or perhaps you know where I could find that information.

    Thank you,

  8. Hi there,
    I’m responding to the “maternity provider charge” question. I have given birth in two different hospitals in Louisiana and both times, I received bills separately from the obstetrician. This is in addition to paying the OB monthly during my pregnancy for my prenatal care.
    So, in my case, the bill from the hospital was just for the hospital, not for the doctor standing there and watching me catch my own baby– for which he charged $1800, by the way!
    I am so excited to be using a midwife for a home birth this next time! : )

  9. My first birth was in a hospital, induced (3 methods tried), with an eventual epidural and stitches for tearing. Even with my husband arguing with the nurses our baby wasn’t put on my chest for 40 minutes. She had to stay in the nursery treated for jaundice for a day and a half after we had to leave. Total bills were about 20,000. Our insurance covered a lot, but that still left us with around 4,000 out of pocket. This pregnancy we’ll be having a home waterbirth. Midwife (we started seeing her around week 30 when we made this decision) and supplies totalling less than 2,000 – and most importantly we won’t be subjected to someone else’s schedule.

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