How Much Does Having a Baby Cost?

Save Money on Having a Baby

Mid section of pregnant woman, jar with money in front
Getty Images/Jamie Grill

So, what does having a baby cost? A lot of money. Whether you have maternity insurance or not, babies are expensive. There are, however, ways to save yourself money when having a baby.

Things To Consider

  • Know what your insurance covers and what it does not cover.
    You will want to find out, preferably before you are pregnant, what you will be expected to pay. Don't be waved off with the statement that "everything" maternity related is covered. Ask specific questions. Will you have a co-pay or deductible? Will your baby have a separate co-pay or deductible? What procedures and tests are covered in pregnancy? At birth? For newborns?
  • Check your hospital or birth center bill.
    There are very likely errors on your hospital bill. If you go over the detailed bill, even if you don't have to pay it out of pocket, you can find the errors and get them fixed. Even having your insurance company save money benefits you in the end with lower premiums. Examples of hospital bill errors include being charged twice for procedures or being charged for medications or procedures you didn't have.

    For example, I was charged for a circumcision kit when my daughter was born; she certainly didn't have a circumcision. Another friend of mine was charged for a cesarean section when she had a vaginal birth. You will also hear stories of being charged for multiple epidurals or other medications.

  • Negotiate a price for prenatal care and birth package.
    If you are paying out of pocket for your prenatal care and labor and delivery see if you can get a "deal." Will you save money if you completely prepay all the fees that can be known ahead of time? Will they offer you a discount for going to a certain hospital or birth center? Do not hesitate to shop around for prices for both your practitioner and your place of birth. You are the consumer of their product.
  • Do you really need that?
    When you are getting your prenatal care, you might simply take every test that is offered to you. Before you agree to have a medical test or procedure, whether it is an amniocentesis, blood work or an ultrasound, be sure to find out why it is being offered or ordered. Get informed consent. Is this test really necessary? What do you hope or expect to find out from the test? How much does the test cost? Do you really need the test or procedure? You might be really surprised at the answers to all of these questions.
    One mother I work with asked her doctor about a test he had ordered. She was really only concerned that the doctor thought something was wrong with her baby. Come to find out that the doctor ordered it for everyone because it was available. He didn't know how much it cost but when she checked into it, the test was nearly $900 and it was not covered by her insurance and didn't really offer her baby any benefit. She declined the test rather than find a surprise $900 medical bill.
  • Prenatal vitamins. 
    This is a category that most people forget about. Your practitioner may write a prescription for prenatal vitamins. But very rarely do you need a big fancy prenatal. Most mothers are fine with the generic over the counter variety. Can you skip the $25 co-pay for fancy vitamins?

More cost saving tips for labor and delivery.

  • Twins on the way?
    Twins are tricky when it comes to medical costs. As soon as you know that you are having twins or other multiples call your insurance company. Ask if they can assign you to a case manager. This allows you the ability to call one person to handle your questions. Since being pregnant with multiples increases the risks of complications, though it does not mean that everyone will have complications, you could be looking at a much larger bill. Even if you only pay 10% of your bill, the difference between 10% of $7,000 for a vaginal birth at term and a bill of $200,000 for an extended NICU stay for premature babies is very big.

    Your case manager can let you know of special programs to help you stay healthy and increase the odds that your babies will go to term. She can also be your go to gal when it comes down to being charged multiple times incorrectly or, more commonly, having charges denied payment because it was already paid. Think of it like this, two babies, same problem, both get the same drug the same day. Your insurance thinks that the hospital is double billing and denies the second charge. Guess who gets to eat that bill?

  • Consider your birth attendant alternatives.
    Did you know that using a midwife may be less expensive? This is true regardless of your insurance status. The cost of midwifery care is a fraction of the cost of the care of other practitioners, mostly because they see only low risk women and they do not do high risk procedures like cesarean sections, forceps, etc.

    You may also find that your insurance covers some types of midwives. It may cover a certified nurse midwife in a physician's practice. Or it may cover all midwives in all practices. Talk to both the midwives you are interviewing about insurance costs and bill practices as well as your insurance company.

  • Where you give birth does matter.
    Birth center births and home births are typically less expensive than hospital births for a variety of reasons. The first is that there are no high risk procedures done, only low risk mothers are given this option. So you save money by not having to pay for those outright or even a fee because it's there in case you need it.

    Another big way that costs are kept down in these settings is the length of stay. With a home birth, you don't go in to any facility for your birth or postpartum care unless there are complications requiring a hospital. The typical stay at a birth center for postpartum care is usually about six hours.

    Some women have to pay out of pocket for this birth option. You can use flexible spending money to cover it with most plans. You can set up a payment plan. Some facilities and practitioners still barter. Even if your insurance says that they will not pay some mothers have been successful in submitting it to their insurance. It can take time and energy on your part but even a partial reimbursement is a good thing. Some states have mandated coverage for these options, your insurance company may not tell you this or the person you are talking to may not know. Be sure to ask the home birth practitioner or the people at the birth center.

  • Procedures at birth.
    One way to cut costs is to avoid costly procedures when possible. This can include epidural anesthesia and cesarean sections. You may also ask about early discharge from the hospital, say 24 hours rather than 48 for a vaginal birth.

    Some women will choose to do this while others will not. The good news is that you can try to avoid these and change your mind as needed. So let's say you decide to go without pain medications and half way through your labor change your mind, you can still do that.

  • Use a doula.
    Using a doula can help you lower the need for pain medications as well as help you reduce the need for some costly procedures. While the majority of doula fees are not covered by insurance, the small out of pocket price is worth it for many families. You can also ask a doula for a sliding scale and about bartering, as you could with all of your practitioners.

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