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Costs of Birth by Mary Falardeau, student intern

Posted: February 17, 2014
By: Dr. Drew Rubin
     Just this week, the Today Show made a post on Facebook entitled What's it cost to have a baby in a hospital in California? The answer may shock you. The answer was truly outrageous: the average costs for delivering one child into the world in a California hospital are between $3,000 and $37,000! According to the cited UCSF study, For a simple, uncomplicated vaginal delivery, prices ranged from $3,296 to $37,227. For a C-section, women were billed between $8,312 and nearly $71,000.  However, the increased fee wasnt necessarily for extended hospital stays. The researchers looked at a variety of hospitals, types of visits, and insurance companies. They also recommended asking about costs before care starts, as each hospital determines its own price, and people often overestimate the amount that will be covered by insurance.
     What the article doesnt address is the cost-effectiveness of home birth. According to, an average uncomplicated vaginal birth costs about 60% less in a home than in a hospital. The average midwife-based home birth costs about $2,000 to $3,000. For some midwives, this fee covers all of the pre-birth consultations, as well, which can present significant savings. 
Home births are certainly not for everyone.  Some women are choosing midwife-assisted births in hospitals that have birthing centers with many holistic options such as water birthing rooms. According to a January 2013 study by the American Association of Birth Centers, women who receive care at midwife-led birth centers incur lower medical costs and are less likely to have cesarean births compared to women who give birth at hospitals. The study findings suggest that the use of birth centers also decreases direct and indirect costs to the US health care system. Given lower costs in the birth center setting, as well as low rates of cesarean birth, the 15,574 births in this study may have saved more than $30 million in facility costs alone based on Medicare/Medicaid rates, not including additional savings in costs of additional providers, anesthesia, and newborn care in hospital settings.
No matter what your birth plan entails, its important to do your homework, and always ask questions regarding your care, whats necessary versus a luxury, and about any associated costs.

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