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Financially preparing for a baby

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Baby wearing a hooded towel

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For many, having a child is a milestone and an exciting time for expectant parents. However, the delivery in and of itself — especially at a hospital — can be extremely expensive and can potentially derail future financial goals.

To avoid being caught off-guard due to a hefty medical bill, here are all of the costs involved with giving birth, the average cost of delivering a child in the US and what you can do to financially prepare.

Family Planning

Key childbirth statistics

  • August is the month with the highest average birth rate in the US

  • Due dates truly are estimations. According to 2017 CDC data, 73 percent of babies were born before their due date.

  • Considering no complications arise, the average cost of vaginal childbirth runs between $7,507 and $17,556, varying widely depending on what state the birth takes place in, according to the Healthcare Cost Institute.

How much does it cost to have a baby?

The cost of having a child in America will range based on several factors, including the birthing facility costs and location, the type of delivery, the length of stay, any medications taken — such as an epidural — and any complications that may arise during the birthing process .

The total cost will also depend on health insurance details and whether or not the birthing facility accepts health insurance. For example, many women choose to forgo birth in a hospital and instead opt for a birthing center, which may not accept all forms of insurance.

Cost of a birthing center vs. a hospital

Birthing centers focus on holistic birth and typically don’t offer the same medical options as hospitals, such as epidurals and labor induction, making them an option for women with low-risk pregnancies.

Keep in mind that hospitals are medically considered to be the safest places to give birth, so birthing centers aren’t ideal for women with pre-existing conditions that may put them at risk for complications. Even though birthing centers are typically run by midwives and may have a resident OBG/YN or pediatrician on staff, birth centers aren’t considered medical facilities. They are typically free-standing buildings, although some may be attached to hospitals.

Women generally choose to give birth in these centers due to the comfortable and serene environment, the increased control over their birth process and the lower costs. In most cases, the majority of the cost of a birthing center comes from midwifery services. The average prenatal care and delivery without complications costs around $3,000 to $4,000 without insurance.

Compared to double-digit delivery costs in a hospital, low-risk women who can assume the risk of a doctor not being readily available and want a more natural birthing experience can save thousands of dollars at a birthing center.

vaginal vs. c-section costs

In the US, vaginal deliveries have been the most popular —and least expensive — delivery option for many years. According to the latest CDC data, only 32.1 percent of live births in the US were cesarean (c-section) deliveries in 2021.

C-sections are typically more expensive than a vaginal delivery because they’re considered an intensive surgical procedure and thus require a longer hospital stay than vaginal births. There are also surgical resources such as anesthesia and additional fees associated with c-section procedures that don’t come with vaginal births.

Here are the average costs of both delivery methods with and without insurance:

Procedure

Average out-of-pocket cost (with insurance)

Average cost (without insurance)

Vaginal delivery

$2,655

$14,768

C-section

$3,214

$26,280

Despite the higher costs and longer recovery, there are medical reasons why someone might elect a c-section over a vaginal birth. A c-section may be necessary to protect the birth parent and the baby due to complications during pregnancy, an emergency during labor and delivery or if the birth parent has a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes.

Additional hospital delivery charges

Knowing what you’re paying for when giving birth at a hospital is important. Between the fees, room costs, blood work and ancillary recovery expenses, the costs can add up quickly.

As many as 80%. of American medical bills contain errors, according to experts, so asking for an itemized receipt and reviewing it against your insurance coverage (if you have it) can be a valuable effort. If any items seem out of line, you can check information against the Healthcare Blue Book, a free online tool. Hospitals are also required to facilitate cost transparency per federal law, so checking costs on your healthcare facility’s website can also bring clarity.

The charges and cost breakdown will look different for each mother, depending on the ancillary resources they choose to pay for. For example, anesthesia will only be charged to mothers who choose pain management, and only those who elect to have a certified nurse midwife will be charged for that service.

Also, it’s not uncommon to receive two bills — one for the birth parent and one for the newborn. However, the newborn’s birth should be covered under the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Act of 1965, so to have that pediatric care covered, the baby will need to be enrolled in the birth parents’ health insurance plan within 30 days of being born.

Breakdown of costs by states

The average cost of birth varies widely from state to state, making it difficult to financially plan for the cost of labor and delivery when looking at the national averages.

Here are the top five most and least expensive states in the US to give birth before health insurance, considering there are no complications that need to be accounted for in the total cost.

Most expensive states to give birth

state

Vaginal delivery

C-section

Californian

$16,668

$24,656

New York

$16,165

$23,347

Alaska

$15,754

$27,527

Connecticut

$15,412

$22,059.22

New Jersey

$14,786

$19,962.76

Least expensive states to give birth

state

Vaginal delivery

C-section

Mississippi

$6,557

$9,377

Arkansas

$6,774

$9,964

Oklahoma

$7,775

$11,662

Kansas

$8,355

$12,871

Missouri

$8,377

$12,116

Childbirth costs vary by state due to a potential combination of provider prices and intensity of birth cases per that state.

Other costs to consider

In addition to the delivery costs and hospital bills, there are a plethora of costs that come with being a parent. In fact, the average cost of your baby’s first year could cost you a whopping $15,775. While this cost will depend on how many children you already have and how many resources you have at your disposal, it’s no secret that children are an expensive investment.

  • Baby clothes: $984

  • Babyfood: $396

  • Baby formulas: $ 1,647 (worth noting the current formula shortage and inflation)

  • Baby room furnishings: $1,387 (including crib, mattress & bedding, changing table, rocker, dresser and other items)

  • Diapers and wipes: $1,104

  • Strollers, car seats and carriers: $575

  • Toys: $156

How to pay your hospital bills after giving birth

Even though it’d be ideal to have your birth go exactly to plan, that’s not always the case. If you get hit with a higher bill full of emergency costs or stay longer than you anticipated, it can be anxiety-inducing. However, financing options can make the amount more manageable.

  • Health insurance: Routine prenatal, childbirth and newborn care are essential services covered by all qualified health insurance plans. Depending on the insurance and the type of plan, health insurance can shave thousands off your hospital stay.

  • Medicaid: Much like employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicaid coverage includes prenatal care, labor, delivery and medically necessary costs. Medicaid is offered in all states for qualifying low-income people, including pregnant women.

  • Personal loans: A personal loan can take a lump sum hospital bill and make it more manageable by breaking it up into monthly payments. While it shouldn’t be the first resort due to potentially high interest rates, it can be used as a tool to offset lost income due to unexpected expenses. You can also calculate expenses before getting a loan with a loan calculator.

  • Alternative financing: There are plenty of federal, state and local organizations dedicated to helping new parents who don’t qualify for Medicaid. These organizations range in support, from helping women find affordable medical care to addressing food insecurity.

Ways to plan ahead for having a baby

The best thing an expectant parent can do for themselves is to financially plan for every possible scenario during their childbirth. Aside from planning out the intended birth method and facility, there are other ways to ensure no financial hardship down the road due to the costs associated with labor and delivery in the US

  • Create space in your budget: If planning for a pregnancy, start making space in your monthly budget for the anticipated birthing costs as soon as possible or as soon as you see those two pink lines. Assess your weekly spending and see what ancillary expenses you can cut out to allocate more funding toward a column dedicated specifically to childbirth.

  • Stay in-network: If you can, try to stay in-network whenever possible. Choosing pediatricians, hospitals and doctors that are in-network will ensure that your costs are covered, at least partially, by your insurance.

  • Know your insurance coverage: When crafting your financial plan, do your research and know what your insurance covers regarding childbirth, and keep an itemized list of your potential out-of-pocket costs.

  • Keep other accounts in mind: Don’t forget to consider your other accounts for your child, such as future savings or college funds. The best way to do this is to set up an account after the child is born that earns interest. To ensure each payment is submitted, set up an automatic deposit that submits a set amount of money per month into your child’s future account.

The bottom line

While childbirth costs vary widely in the US based on multiple factors, even the least expensive hospital costs are still a large chunk of change. However, with good planning and complete research, it’s possible to substantially lower those costs.

You shouldn’t need to worry about how you will pay your bills while caring for a newborn. Knowing your needs and resources at your disposal are the keys to making your post-childbirth repayment as stress-free and smooth as possible.