Photo by Stephanie Sunderland
When you are anticipating childbirth, especially for the first time, it can be daunting. It’s important to have a doctor you trust and to talk to them about your birth plan. Most women expect to give birth vaginally, but according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of all births in the U.S. are by Cesarean section (c-section).
Although sometimes c-sections can sound better than giving birth (avoiding contractions and pushing), and scheduling your time of birth seems attractive, c-sections do cost substantially more. Unless medically necessary, you should aim to give birth vaginally when your baby is ready to come out. It will help you save on out-of-pocket medical costs and you will bounce back more quickly physically.
The cost of having a baby
In the U.S., we are billed the most for physician and hospital costs for childbirth of any country in the world. Many other countries charge a flat fee for prenatal care and delivery, but the U.S. health care system charges for each service individually, which drives up the total amount. The cost of vaginal deliveries has increased from $4,918 to $9,294 over the last fifteen years and the average cost of c-sections has risen 70 percent from $8,268 to $14,055, according to Truven Health Analytics.
According to the 2013 report, The Cost of Having a Baby in the United States, the cost of a c-section could vary widely depending on where you live, and if you are uninsured, the news isn’t good. You could be charged as much as $50,000 for a c-section and $30,000 for a vaginal birth.
If you are on Medicaid, there is hope. The program covers over 40% of births nationwide and that number could go up with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. However, in 2013, Medicaid began to try to save money by encouraging hospitals to eliminate elective C-sections due to excessive costs. Now, both Texas and South Carolina deny Medicaid payouts for elective C-sections.
Why have an elective c-section?
If you are thinking of scheduling an elective c-section simply because it seems easier, you should certainly talk to your health care provider about how much you will be expected to pay for it. Even if you think it might be medically necessary, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead. During my first pregnancy, I had placenta previa, where the placenta blocks the cervix making it dangerous to give birth vaginally, so I had to have a c-section.
My health care plan required that I pay a percentage of my bill up to a capped amount, so having a c-section certainly increased the total and the likelihood that I would have to pay the top fee.
Be aware that a c-section can cause you to have more c-sections in the future. If you have already had a baby by c-section, giving birth to subsequent children vaginally could be problematic, the issues growing with each c-section. I was encouraged to have another c-section during my second pregnancy because I was having twins and my doctor said it would be safer. Some doctors prefer to play it safe, both to avoid harming the mother or baby and also due to potential legal issues if something were to go wrong.
A 2010 poll reported that 29% of obstetrician college members admitted they were performing additional c-sections in an attempt to avoid being sued. Therefore, it is really important to make sure that your doctor is a good fit for you and you trust their judgment on the best way for you to give birth. Luckily, I did trust my doctor and had good physical outcomes both times, but our bill for both births was high.
Is there anything you can do to avoid paying these high costs? Most of these are associated with your hospital stay, where 59% of vaginal birth costs and 66% of c-section costs are reported to be facility fees. You shouldn’t suddenly decide to have home birth to save money, but you can start by talking to your doctor and other health care professionals early to see what your options are (cheaper facilities or other potential savings), any payment schedules you can work out with your insurance company and anything else you can do to minimize your final bill.
When the time comes, whether you give birth vaginally, at home or through c-section becomes necessary, planning ahead will help you feel more prepared and perhaps reduce your financial burden.
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