The Real Cost of Pregnancy: How Much Is a US Pregnancy Worth?

What are the real costs of pregnancy?

What? How could I ask such a question? You can’t put a price on a baby!

Well, it’s a very valid question for many women.

Imagine you look at the stick. “It’s a plus! It’s a plus! I’m going to have a baby!”

You jump into your partner’s arms for a celebratory embrace, and are practically jumping for joy.

That’s what most of us do when we learn that we’re pregnant.

But what if we had a more practical reaction. “Oh my god. How can we afford this pregnancy? Yes, I’m so excited to be having a baby...but oh, how pregnancy is so expensive!”

Sadly, for some women, that’s reaction. And it might not be standing in the bathroom, holding the precious stick, but it might be later, as the bills are rolling in and the real cost of pregnancy rolls up.

Because it’s difficult to calculate the total cost, we’ve looked at several different categories and potential costs. Let’s just say this: we love those babies, but they certainly aren’t cheap!

7  How Much Does Pregnancy Really Cost for American Women?

Every year, the approximately 4 million births in the US cost $50 million. That’s not cheap!

One study found that total charges for women and newborns with “employer-provided commercial health insurance” had average charges of $32,093 for vaginal births, and $51,125 for cesarean births (Thanks, work! Employers paid most of those fees.). Out-of-pocket costs averaged $2,244 for women who were covered.

Prior to Obamacare, 62% of those enrolled in insurance plans did not have maternity coverage. This meant many women paid out of pocket or high costs for their maternity care.

6 And What If You Don’t Have Insurance?

Remember: that even though these numbers are very high, it’s what a hospital will charge, versus an actual cost: the cost is generally about 30% of what is charged. Use this when negotiating costs and fees when paying out of pocket. So if you don’t have insurance coverage, try to bargain if you can. Some hospitals even offer “packages” or discounts or sliding scales, so contact your local hospital.

Also, midwives and home births are cheaper alternatives, so it might be the route to go if you aren’t set on a hospital birth.

These days, there are some great plans via the Affordable Care Act. Check out the marketplace to see what plans you could get. This could save you tens of thousands of dollars.

5 Loss of Workdays - and Pay

Many women find themselves using countless sick days during pregnancy-related sickness (like morning sickness or required bed rest) or to attend doctor’s appointments.

But not all women get paid sick days.

Women who don’t get paid sick days will be forced to lose a day’s work whenever they are ill with pregnancy-related illnesses, or to attend pregnancy-related appointments. This cost will hit them hard in the pocket.

Also, if your boss isn’t the most understanding, taking frequent sick days might make them act a bit unfavorably towards you - though this is illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If you’re concerned and think your workplace is acting illegally, contact a lawyer.

Let’s not mention maternity leave, which may or may not be unpaid! Those costs will make pregnancy even higher. If you take 12 weeks of leave without pay, which most women are eligible for under FMLA, that can be 12 long weeks without a paycheck.

4 What Other Medical Costs Are There?

A very basic cost is the prenatal vitamin. The over-the-counter version is around $10-20 a bottle, and is very critical to the development of your baby. This is one cost you cannot skip on. Folic acid (found in prenatal vitamins) is critical to prevent neural tube birth defects.

Birth classes, on average, cost $110; many women find the courses helpful, so this could be another cost to add to your baby budget.

You might find yourself buying things like antacids to counter indigestion, anti-nausea candies or tea, creams to prevent stretch marks, and other things to help make pregnancy a bit easier.

Of course, there are also lots of copayments for doctor visits, and those will quickly add up, depending upon how much your copayment is and how many visits you need.

Many elective tests are also not covered by insurance, and the costs of those can range from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars. Yep, the medical costs of pregnancy are not cheap.

3 What Does Pregnancy Cost in Other Countries?

Of course, pregnancy costs are different in other countries. One study found that in 2013, vaginal birth was $2,237 in Argentina, $2,251 in Spain, $2,824 in the Netherlands, $6,623 in Australia, and $8,307 in Switzerland. For C-sections, it’s $2,844 in Spain, $2,972 in Argentina, $5,492 in the Netherlands, $10,263 in Australia, and $10,681 in Switzerland.

Before you pack your bags during your pregnancy, there are often residency requirements to access these cheaper pregnancies.

In jolly ol' England new parents actually receive money from the hospital when they leave the hospital, and we all know Canadian health care covers the cost of all prenatal appointments as well as the hospital fees associated with birth, no tot mention that maternity leave is paid and mandatory.

2 Why Does it Cost So Much?

Maternity and newborn care is amongst the most expensive in the US, according to DiscoveryNews.com the price of birth went up 49% between 2004 and 2010. In part that's because the charges aren't bundled together in a package fee.

Even if you require the minimum amount of medical assistance with your birth, you will still have to pay a hefty price. That's in part to a discrepancy in pricing of maternity supplies and fees associated with birth. In other words, where the hospital gets their supplies and how much they pay for them will ultimately trickle down into your final payment.

Under the Affordable Care Act, maternity needs are covered as essential health care benefit category and requires insurance plans to cover pregnant women equally. Before this became law, women typically paid 81% more for her insurance coverage than a man of the same age because of her potential maternity needs.

1 Is That All?

Whew! Having a baby can be really expensive…

But then, besides medical costs, there are so many other costs, like maternity clothing costs (which can be quite expensive, depending on where you shop, or even free, if you have a generous relative or friend who recently gave birth).

Supplements, special foods (a friend of mine could eat anything but fancy crackers and this artisan ginger ale every morning because of her horrible morning sickness - the costs of that quickly added up), gas or train fare to frequent doctor appointments, medicines to help with pregnancy side effects, bigger shoes for when your foot size swells...and the list goes on. And this doesn’t even include anything after the baby is born.

Having a baby is expensive! While the medical costs are the highest, factoring in the little costs are important as well. But don’t worry, having a baby is one of the most rewarding things you can do, so in the end, it will be worth it.

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