Having a baby can be an expensive proposition, but not all childbirths cost the same. In general, you can expect to pay more for a C-section—but not always.

When comparing a vaginal delivery versus a scheduled C-section, there are a few factors that affect the overall cost, no matter how the baby arrives: whether the patient is insured, if any complications arise, the location of the hospital, and the length of the hospital stay (taking into account the length of labor as well as the postpartum recovery).

Here are more details about each of these important factors:

Geographic location—Having a baby is most expensive in the northeast and least expensive in the south.

Insurance coverage—If you have insurance, childbirth is much less costly. Depending on your coverage, a vaginal childbirth can cost anywhere from between $500 and $3,000, in addition to out-of-pocket expenses. Those not insured can expect to see bills ranging anywhere from $9,000-$17,000 for a vaginal delivery, and $14,000-$25,000 for a caesarean birth. What coverage you have (or don’t have) is important to know before deciding to have a child. Luckily, it’s never to late to acquire coverage. Starting in 2014, health plans can no longer treat a pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, nor may they charge an increased premium because a potential policy holder is expecting.

Complications—In 2009, the average cost of a hospital vaginal delivery without complications was $9,617, and $12,532 if there were any complications. Caesarean births average cost was $15,700 and $21,495 with and without complications, respectively. Additional medications, use of anesthesia (such as an epidural), and the cost of time to use the operating room all greatly increase the cost of childbirth. In the event a baby is born premature or unstable and NICU stay is required, costs to a patient can accumulate quickly.

Length of hospital stays—The average postpartum hospital stay for a vaginal childbirth is 24-48 hours, and at least 72 hours for a C-section procedure. Depending on the hospital, circumstances, insurance coverage, and region, additional stays can be very costly. Additionally, a prolonged or induced labor can also increase the amount of time a woman spends in the hospital and therefore the overall cost. On average, a childbirth-related hospital stay alone can cost an uninsured patient $3,500, not including the prenatal, delivery-related, or postpartum health care.

Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, November 2018

Takeaways

  • Patients with insurance can expect to pay between $500-$3,000, depending on the route of birth. Uninsured patients out of pocket payment varies for a vaginal delivery and a caesarean birth.
  • Complications during childbirth can greatly increase cost.
  • The average length of a vaginal childbirth postpartum stay can be expected to be 24-48 hours, and usually up to 72 hours for a C-section.

References

  1. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Labor and Birth.
  2. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Statistical Brief #31.
  3. Childbirth Connection. Birth Charges.

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