Cost of C-section vs. vaginal birth

When you’ve got a baby on the way, thinking about how you’re going to deal with the financial side of medical care can feel like the least of your worries. That, or it can seem like the end of the world. Either way, it’s probably one of the least exciting parts of preparing for the newest member of your family.

It’s also not a question that’s easy to answer – between the differences in costs for healthcare in the US based on location, insurance coverage, and each individual, there’s so much variation that coming up with a specific estimate is difficult.

Averages by delivery method

According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost of a C-section has fluctuated, in the time between 2009 and 2013, between around $15,000 and around $20,000. On the other hand, in the same timeframe, average vaginal birth costs have fluctuated between around $10,000 and around $12,000.

Nickels and dimes

One of the major differences between the American healthcare system and that of many other countries is that individual pieces of the birth experience in a hospital come with different price-tags. This means that births with more complications tend to cost more, and so do longer hospital stays. C-sections tend to cost significantly more than vaginal births, and each type of intervention, from induction to epidural, comes with its own separate charge. Hospitals also generally charge for room and board, more for each additional day at the hospital.

Babies generally get their own bill as well, complete with any medication they needed, and their own charge for room and board, even if they spent most of their hospital stay sharing with mom. If they’re necessary, stays in the neonatal unit also add up.

Ways to save?

Some hospitals offer a discounted fee for bills that are paid off all at once, instead of in installments, which is worth asking about. Some providers might be willing to negotiate a flat rate for care with patients not covered by insurance. And every state in the US offers some assistance program for prenatal medical care for women who meet qualifications. Since C-sections can be costly, you could also try looking into ways to avoid a potentially unnecessary C-section, some of which include taking natural birthing classes and speaking to your provider ahead of time to state your preference. Your provider can tell you more about ways to reduce your likelihood of a C-section.

Aside from that, picking a birth location and healthcare provider based on your insurance coverage or on the cost estimates can help you stay inside your budget.

  • “National and State Statistics on Hospital Stays by Payer: Medicare, Medicaid, Private, Uninsured.” Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Web.
  • V.A. Kazandjian, et al. “Does a Cesarian section delivery always cost more than a vaginal delivery?” J Eval Clin Pract. 13(1):16-20. Web. February 2007.
  • Elisabeth Rosenthal. “American Way of Birth: Costliest in the World.” New York Times. New York Times, June 30 2013. Web.
  • “Prenatal care fact sheet.” WomensHealth. Office on Women’s Health, July 16 2012. Web.
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