When you add up everything from clothes to college tuition, the cost of having kids would make anyone gasp. The labor and delivery costs, then, are a relatively small portion of that, but they still account for a good chunk of change. Giving birth to a baby can cost you thousands of dollars, but actual figures are hard to predict because they are based on many factors--from where you live to the type of delivery. Insurance may cover a large percentage of that, if you have it, and some hospitals also offer financial aid based on income.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how much labor and delivery will cost you since figures vary by factors such as region and hospital, whether you receive an epidural and how long your hospital stay lasts.
The biggest deciding factor in cost is likely whether you have a vaginal birth or a Cesarean section.
At Akron General Medical Center in Akron, Ohio, an unscheduled C-section costs more than $4,100, and a vaginal delivery costs nearly $3,000 (as of September 2009). These figures don't include the cost of your labor room (another $120 per hour), your recovery care ($240 per hour), ultrasound ($576 to $953), drugs, supplies and a host of other fees. And that's just the bill from the hospital; you'll receive separate charges from your doctor for his services and for anesthesia administration.
The Nation's Health, a publication of the American Public Health Association, reported the results of a 2004 March of Dimes Foundation study that found the average cost of having a baby in the United States, for "women insured through large employer private plans," was more than $8,000. The study examined health claims from more than 10 million employees and their spouses and dependents.
The study found that the average cost for vaginal delivery was more than $7,700, and for C-section was nearly $11,000.
Another thing to consider where you will give birth. Some women do it at home with the help of a midwife and doula.
Others opt for giving birth in a hospital but under the care of a midwife rather than a physician.
You also may think you want a "natural" birth but decide to have an epidural once you are in labor-or vice versa.
If you have complications or an unscheduled C-section, you'll likely be in the hospital longer than expected and have to pay for things you hadn't planned on.
The best way to figure out your labor and delivery costs is to call the hospital ahead of time. Someone there can itemize your costs and give you a fairly accurate estimate, but remember how many variables can affect what you'll end up paying. Also, check with your insurance company about how much it will cover.
The hospital also can tell you about financial aid options if you are worried you can't afford it.
If you are using a midwife and/or doula, ask about their costs well before the big day.
Check with your doctor's office to estimate what you'll owe for your physician's services.
Where you live also plays a part in what you pay.
The 2004 March of Dimes Foundation study found that childbirth is most expensive for those in the Northeast and least expensive for those in the South.
The figures for vaginal delivery were broken down by region as: $8,718 in the Northeast part of the country, $7,880 in the West, $7,501 in the North Central states and $7,455 in the South.
Expenditures for C-sections averaged $12,175 in the Northeast region, $11,581 in the West, $10,969 in the North Central states and $10,317 in the South.
Health care costs, including having a baby, have increased over time.
In July 1985, New York Magazine ran an article called "The High Cost of Baby-Booming," in which the author, with help from experts at New York University Medical Center, estimated total medical costs at more than $6,000, before insurance ($614 with insurance paying 90 percent). This figure included everything from the pregnancy test to Lamaze classes to things like fetal monitoring, pharmacy fees and the hospital stay. (The article didn't specify whether this was for a vaginal delivery or a C-section.)
In 2001, Dr. Marjorie Greenfield wrote that the cost of having a baby ranged from $6,000 to $8,000 for a "normal" vaginal birth and $10,000 to $14,000 for a C-section (www.DrSpock.com).