Whether you've been planning a natural birth from the day you first saw those pink lines on a pregnancy test or it literally just crossed your mind, you're probably starting to think about details. Which means, I know you're wondering how much a natural birth costs. I'd love to give you a straight answer, but unfortunately, the price of your adorable bundle varies dramatically based on where you live, what insurance you carry, and exactly what goes down on the exciting day.
On average, insured families pay $2900 for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, according to a statistical study undertaken by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. C-sections cost more, ringing in at a cool $4700.
Obviously, new moms have a lot on their minds, but if you're pregnant, "it's critical to understand exactly how your insurance works," writes The Feminist Financier in an email interview with Romper. Now's the time to go all Nancy Drew and investigate exactly what's covered. For example, while hospitals might offer water births, you may be left holding the bill. Your type of coverage makes a difference, too.
"High-deductible health plans (HDHP) incur the highest out-of-pocket costs," writes Ms. Financier. If you can cover the premium, she generally recommends Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, which create savings through a provider network, but are more flexible than HMOs.
This is my hospital bill. We paid an additional $444.40 for the baby's care, and months later, my epidural bill rolled in like a tumbleweed with a $1,125 price tag. After insurance, we paid $75.39. In total, I shelled out $2001.99, and I'm grateful. That's less than average in a country where giving birth costs more than anyplace else in the world. Uninsured, I'd have paid $13,473 for my Oahu baby. So Obama, if you're reading this — and I'm pretty sure you are — thank you.
I didn't have a "natural" birth. I was induced, but neither the epidural nor the induction added much to the total damage. Had things gone differently, I could have paid dearly. Induction puts you at greater risk of requiring a C-section, according to Mayo Clinic, and even an epidural can transform into a major expense if the anesthesiologist on-call is an out-of-network doctor not covered by your HMO.
Like natural disasters, hospital bills are deeply geographically determined. In Oregon, an uncomplicated vaginal birth cost the system an average of $7,848 in 2010, according to Childbirth Connection, while in California, it incurred a whopping $15,760.
What's behind this madness? To better understand the Kafka-esque world of healthcare policy, Romper spoke with Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She explains that one factor is the lack of transparency. "We don't know how much healthcare costs. It's unlike anything else we buy." Want to know exactly how much it will cost to have a baby at the nearest hospital? Too bad. Here's why:
The hospital can't tell you how much your birth will cost, because it depends on your insurance. Your insurance can't tell you, because it depends on your doctor, and your doctor can't tell you because birth is unpredictable. (Did I say Kafka-esque world? I meant Escherian stairwell.) Healthcare is based on a fee-for-service model, and since you don't know what's going to happen in the delivery room, you can't predict the price. Even if a genie revealed how that baby would be born, down to the exact dosage of your antibiotics, you still couldn't say for sure, because health plans can negotiate cases differently.
"You can’t figure it out even if you have a will to figure it out," says Kozhimannil, sounding deeply exasperated. Later, she rallies:
"The positive side of this is that we're all in this together as moms. Regardless of whether our pregnancies are low risk or high risk, birth is an extremely costly event — uniquely costly in the United States — and a lot of people are vulnerable."
If you do take a serious financial hit on your baby's birthday, don't be afraid to send an SOS. "I find women can struggle to be vulnerable enough to ask for help," notes Ms. Financier. "But, flip the tables for a minute — what if your friend or family member was in debt to a hospital for several thousand dollars?" You'd help, right? Yeah.
I paid $2,001.99 for my daughter's birth and count myself lucky. These are frightening times, and Trump's healthcare plans could seriously hurt women. According to Elle, the bill might let states opt out of maternity care, potentially throwing new families into chaos. Guys, things are hard enough for parents. It's time to get political to keep the crazy from getting crazier. Doing nothing just isn't worth the cost.