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How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby?

Feb. 27, 2017
Health, Medical Costs
cost of having a baby
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The cost of having a baby is just the start down a long road of expenses in the cost of raising a child.

Childbirth costs vary by hospital and by state, and complicated births can add thousands of dollars. Here’s a snapshot of the cost of having a baby in the United States.

Hospital costs of childbirth

In most cases, mother and baby get separate hospital bills, but the baby probably won’t chip in, so we’ll discuss them both together. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 2014, the latest year available, national median charges for childbirth hospital stays in the U.S. were:

  • $13,524 for delivery and care for mothers.
  • $3,660 for newborns.

Most hospitals use a fee-for-service system in which each test, visit, procedure and consultation is billed separately. The facility fee, or hospital charge, and the charge for the delivering physician make up a large portion of costs for many uncomplicated deliveries.

Aside from the hospital charge and the doctors’ fees, costs typically include lab tests, epidural, radiology and any medications provided.

» MORE: A new parent’s guide to life insurance

Childbirth costs outside of hospitals are not well-known

Only 1.36% of women gave birth at home or in a birthing center in 2012, a figure that has been increasing since 2004, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s no definitive data on whether giving birth at home or in a birthing center costs less than childbirth in a hospital.

Complications increase the cost of having a baby

“Any type of unforeseen complication will increase costs,” says Dr. Marina Maslovaric, OB-GYN at HM Medical, a women’s clinic in Newport Beach, California. Common examples are excess bleeding or blood pressure problems that doctors monitor, Maslovaric says.

» MORE: Medical Bills 101: From pregnancy to delivery

How health insurance pays for childbirth costs

Coverage for pregnancy and maternity care are included in all health insurance plans, a requirement of federal law, with two main exceptions:

  • Young adults are allowed to stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26. If you become pregnant while on a parent’s health plan, the plan may cover pregnancy and maternity care costs, but not labor, delivery and newborn care. If that’s the case, you qualify for a special enrollment period for health insurance. You can enroll in a plan up to 60 days after the baby is born, and the coverage can be retroactive to the day of the birth.
  • Grandfathered health plans, which are health insurance plans created and kept in force since or before March 23, 2010, might not include pregnancy and maternity coverage.

» MORE: Your step-by-step guide to choosing a health insurance plan

For a big expense such as childbirth, there is one key element of your health plan to look at: the out-of-pocket spending limit. That’s the most you’ll have to pay for in-network charges in a year, after which your plan must pay 100%. A health plan year is typically, but not always, a calendar year.

How much your health insurance covers depends on:

  • Copays, coinsurance, and deductibles outlined in your plan.
  • How much you’ve paid toward your out-of-pocket spending limit so far during the plan year.
  • Whether you use doctors and hospitals in your plan’s provider network.

In 2017, the maximum by law for out-of-pocket limits is $7,150 per person and $14,300 for a family. Copays, coinsurance and deductibles you’ve paid toward care during this plan year all count toward the spending limit when all services are in-network.

If you use only services and doctors included in your health plan, you should pay no more than $14,300 for delivery and newborn care in 2017, though paying that much is not likely if you have health insurance. However, the spending limit only applies to costs covered by your plan: If a doctor is not in your network, or your plan excludes certain services, those charges don’t count toward the limit.

Lacie Glover is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @LacieWrites.

Updated Feb. 27, 2017.