• Thu, Feb 20 - 9:00 am ET

Birth Costs Are Bogus, So Cheap Asses Should Consider Home Birth

shutterstock_128153381I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—one of the reasons that my husband and I chose midwife-assisted birth for our kids was because of price. My husband and I had terrible insurance as self-employed workers. Even so, I was surprised to find when I got pregnant for the first time that insurance didn’t cover any prenatal care or birth-related expenses.

We could have used a hospital and paid out-of-pocket, but I’m not a big fan of hospitals myself. Just a matter of preference—though I would definitely go to a hospital if I had a broken leg. We did a bit of research and quickly found out that birthing center costs were far cheaper: $3600 in total, with absolutely no hidden expenses tacked in, unlike many of the horror stories I’ve heard related to hospital bills.

Our first son was born in a birthing center for $3600. Our second son was born at home, because that was where our midwife offered care at the time, for $3600. Compared to other nightmarish insurance tales we have heard from friends, we got a pretty good deal.

2013 estimates for the average cost of birth in the US added up to $30,000. This cost estimate was for vaginal delivery and did not include the cost of a C-section:

“The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section…with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866.”

I understand that many times you can’t predict the outcome of a delivery. What was thought to be a simple pregnancy could cost you more than you ever expected in emergency hospital bills. I’m not a medical professional, so you can toss my advice right out the window if you want to. I just know that the only way I was able to afford to have two kids was because of low-cost home birth.

Home birth isn’t for everyone, especially a high-risk pregnancy. But one great benefit to the entire process, besides not having to leave my house to pop out a baby, was knowing that we would pay exactly what we were quoted by our midwife, and not a penny more. Those that are interested in a midwife-assisted birth and feel it’s the right choice for them can add one more advantage to the list: It’s a helluva lot cheaper.

(Image: Michelle D. Milliman/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
Share This Post:
  • littlemommyv

    I think birth center and home birth are amazing options. I will say there is one caveat to choosing this option simply because it is cheap. We were having a birthing center birth with our daughter and ended up getting transported to the hospital and having an emergency c-section. Not sure what other places do, but we had to pay for both the c-section and birth center. So not cheap! Although obviously we would have paid whatever amount of money to ensure our daughter was safe and healthy. That all being said we are going to try for a home birth with our second so we still totally support out of hospital birth, but not having anything to do with the cost.

    • Bethany Ramos

      So true! The exact same thing would have happened to us if I had needed hospital intervention. Either way, I would be paying out-of-pocket. Good luck on your second birth. :-)

    • geckomommy

      We had the exact same thing happen. Planned and paid for a birthing center birth, ended up being rushed in an ambulance to the hospital for an emergency c-section. Luckily we have good insurance, but we still ended up with quite a few unexpected bills.

  • Kay_Sue

    And now I want to puke, because we paid more than $3600 just to cover the expenses that our insurance didn’t. And we actually did have insurance that covered the majority of our prenatal and maternity costs. Dammit.

    • Crusty Socks

      For your next baby, you should post a Kickstarter.

    • Kay_Sue

      Psssh, next baby. HA. I seriously do need a Kickstarter to pay for the swear jar we started though. I agreed to pay my kid a quarter every time. *sighs*

  • That_Darn_Kat

    My first pregnancy was a perfect pregnancy…until about 34 weeks. All of the sudden, my normally perfect blood pressure shot up high (for me) and caused complications. My daughter was born at 35 weeks for her safety and mine. After insurance, I still wound up with a $7,000 bill. Apparently, insurance wouldn’t cover a private room….and my hospital offered nothing BUT private rooms (SMH). With my son, I moved to a new state, and had to get new insurance, at 7 months, so I had a hospital birth, too. I wanted to kick the nurses in the face because I always have back labor, and with him it was really bad back labor, and they kept wanting me to lay on my back which was the most agonizing thing in the world (at the time). I’m hoping, if we ever wind up with a 3rd baby, that I can have a home birth…or at least a birthing center birth.

    • Alex Lee

      “blood pressure shot up high (for me) and caused complications”

      Wouldn’t this automatically place you in the “high(er) risk birth” group and disqualify you from a birthing-center?

    • That_Darn_Kat

      I would have thought so, but everything went just fine with my second pregnancy, and my doctor said I wasn’t considered high risk with him.

  • Guest

    I would have died if I’d given birth at home, despite being young and no known complications or risks etc. Since I’m the sole breadwinner for my family, I can’t think that would have been a frugal choice. Sure, I have nearly a million bucks in life insurance but penny wise, pound foolish.

    • Rachel Sea

      I don’t know your specific circumstances, obviously, but generally that notion is based on a false premise. Homebirth is best recommended to people who live near enough to a hospital that being picked up by an ambulance in case of an emergency is not out of the question. It takes the same amount of time to prep an OR in the event of major complication whether you are in L&D or in an ambulance, so the timing is not much different either way.

      Plus, with the risk of complication being elevated by unfamiliar surroundings, hospital superbugs, and interventions, overall a home birth carries lower risk than a hospital for low-risk pregnancies.

    • Guest

      No, you don’t know my circumstances so it’s sort of rude (and at a minimum, based on a false premise) to suggest that I am wrong about whether I would have died had I given birth at home.

    • Rachel Sea

      I’m not saying you are wrong, I’m saying it’s generally not the case. People develop negative opinions about homebirths because of ‘I would have died’ anecdotes, but more often than not those stories are about how crap hospital staff or interventions caused a medical emergency, so I wanted to provide alternate perspective.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    Wait, you had insurance and you still had to pay that much?

    • Bethany Ramos

      Yes, it was BULLSHIT insurance!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      that scares the shit out of me.
      I’m self employed and my partner sadly is out of work, like so many.
      Terrified of the birthing costs…

    • tSubh Dearg

      Did I mention that there is a grant you can get from the Irish government towards a home birth? They keep really quiet about it because they don’t want anyone to claim it. It basically entitles you to what it would cost to have the birth publicly in a hospital (which is mainly free to you, but the medical costs – maybe around 2 – 3k) because Constitution!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      WHAT?!
      NEVER heard of this!!
      How the hell would you even apply for this?

      That’s incredible.

      Also- well done Ireland, let’s encourage women to be more involved in birth planning and let’s not *evil cackle* tell them that there IS HELP OUT THERE MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    • tSubh Dearg

      Correction, it is not a grant, it is a legal obligation to pay some of your home birth’s costs because (as I said before) CONSTITUTION! Sometimes our shitty ass basis for a nation does work in a lady’s favour ;)

      You can apparently find out about it from the Irish Childbirth Trust. This has been an information message delivered from my Beau who knows more about these things than I.

    • Tea

      Our last insurance has a 10,000$ deductible. We had to drop it because paying insurance meant we were too broke to just pay for a doctor visit in cash.

    • Rachel Sea

      High deductible insurance, also called catastrophic insurance, only kicks in after you’ve spent $10-20 thousand out of pocket. It’s just to reduce the chances that you go bankrupt in the event of major illness or injury.

    • JLH1986

      We have a $5k deductible and then we still have to pay 20% after whatever (except for preventative stuff, they cover that) so potentially, in our area, for a completely “normal” birth, hubby and I are looking at roughly $7-10k depending on the hospital etc.

    • Psych Student

      That’s horrible. So, no one can afford to have a child (in America), and yet too many people want to prevent the government from providing access to low-cost birth control and sex ed. Stupid, fucking country.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    I’m a total homebirth advocate.
    Heard too many stories from close friends about loss of control or bad treatment in hospitals.

    I understand this is not the case in all hospitals but I’m a homebird.
    If I can squeeze a little punk out at home as opposed to being forced on my back and have a huge audience, I’ll take sitting in my bathtub any day lol

    • Angela

      It’s one thing to advocate for home birth as an option though and another thing for women who want or need hospital births to not have access because they can’t afford them. Personally I wanted to give birth in a hospital and I’m glad I did. And I also know women who would have preferred home birth but opted for hospital because that was the only option their insurance would cover. I feel like insurance should be required to cover prenatal and birth-related expenses whether at a hospital, a birthing center, or home. The choice of where and how to give birth should be based off of what a woman believes is best for her and her baby, not because it’s the only option she can afford.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Of course, I realise there are so many more reasons a family would want to have their child at home, in a hospital or elsewhere.
      FOR ME, personally, if possible, I would love to birth at home, but that’s just me. =)

  • ALPEA

    Well…really glad I live in Canada right about now- 30-50k for a birth?! INSANE! I complain when I have to pay the 5% co pay on my prescription drugs…

    • Tina

      YES. Insane was exactly the word I was thinking of too. I live in Canada as well and it’s a completely foreign concept to me to have to think of the cost of anything, birth or otherwise, when having to go to the hospital because it’s just not an issue.

      And that complaining about 5% co pay thing? So true #canadianproblems

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      Me too. I can’t even begin to understand all of this. I think I paid $40 for the ambulance for my home birth turned hospital birth, including all my prenatal visits, tests, 6 weeks of aftercare with my midwives, etc. #healthcarebrag

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      Yeah. I moved to Germany a couple years ago, and I’m reading these numbers like, “Thank god I did not get knocked up in the U.S.!” I <3 healthcare.

    • darras

      Me four! Norwegian birth was total winning. Three nights in a ‘birth hotel’, not a hospital kids but a HOTEL manned by midwives who could come at any hour if you pulled the ‘please come and tell me I’m doing this right’ cord, plus three midwives and two doctors at the birth itself (my son played silly beggars with the heart monitor) and all care. Didn’t pay a thing. Healthcare is SO GOLDEN! Get with it USA, it’s about time American people had health care too.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Birth hotel!!! #howdareyou :)

    • darras

      hashtag! Yay! #TotalWinning

  • G

    My cost at a hospital with a midwife will be far, far lower than that. Regardless, we made sure we had a “baby account” set up with the max out of pocket that we could possibly pay under my insurance ($4500), not just the $2k deductible. Because even though we want a complication-free, vag birth, there are no guarantees. That was one of the reasons I decided against a birth center, actually– the only birth center around here still charges you the full $3k if you transfer to a hospital, so it could actually end up being more!

  • kay

    I’m so thankful that we have amazing medical insurance. It covered 100% of prenatal visits, ultrasound, bloodwork, postpartum visit, etc. All we had to pay was the charges for 2 nights in the hospital. My diaper bag cost more than the birth. A homebirth would’ve cost us a lot lot more.

  • Lauren_Alli

    I know too much about insurance and I’m wanting to delve into all that right now, but that is another ballgame. I ended up with an emergency C-section and we paid a total of slightly over $500 when all was said and done, for the prenatal care, labor, birth, and postnatal care. I don’t even fully understand how we skated by so easily on that front, but considering my entire labor was a mess because of unnecessary interventions (another thing I shouldn’t get into right now), I feel like the price was right.

  • Angela

    I’m not opposed to home births at all IF that’s what the mother really wants. If you want a natural, unmedicated birth at home then fine. BUT I’m outraged by the idea of women being forced into it because they can’t afford a hospital birth. If a woman wants an epidural and the resources that hospitals have to offer then she should have that option. If there’s a complication she shouldn’t have to worry that getting appropriate treatment will bankrupt her. Maybe this is at least part of the reason why the infant mortality rate in our country is so high.

    • the_ether

      …not sure if you’re implying that home births are the cause of rising infant mortality?

    • Angela

      I’m blaming the fact that some women skip prenatal care or delay seeking treatment for complications because either they have crappy insurance or none at all.

    • the_ether

      well that’s OK then

  • Snarktopus

    My kiddo was born by emergency C-section and we paid a grand total of $11 for the surgery. Her stay in the NICU was a lot more than that, of course, but you kind of expect that.

  • SA

    We have pretty good insurance so I didn’t think too much about it; however getting the bills that showed what was charged and what insurance paid left my mouth hanging open. I think it was something like $500/night (probably more) for the infant room. The infant room? The hospital I went to doesn’t have a nursery, it is all sleep-in….the ‘infant room’ was the plastic bucket they wheeled in for her to sleep in.

  • the_ether

    *hugs Australia’s problematic but largely excellent free healthcare*

  • Ashie

    Love that I live in Canada. I loved that I didn’t have to think about anything financial pertaining to my births and could relax and enjoy my births. In Ontario (where I live) midwives are covered by our healthcare too, so no out of pocket costs!!

  • Reba

    I WISH I could afford a home birth, but alas, I’m on medicaid which doesn’t allow it. However, I’m thankful for medicaid helping me pay for it in the first place of course :)

  • Pingback: What Is My Parenting Style? Don't Start With Your Birthing Style

  • Pingback: Teen's Hidden Pregnancy Is Not A Botched Home Birth