Expected Pregnancy Costs and How Health Insurance Covers (and Sometimes Doesn't Cover) Them

Having a baby can be expensive--even if everything goes as planned. Here's how much various components of a "typical" pregnancy tend to cost and how your health plan is likely to cover (or not cover) them.

pregnant woman holding piggy bank

It's often said that having a baby is expensive.

Most articles and websites about the subject, though, hem and haw when it comes to outlining just how expensive a pregnancy can be.

A case in point: one such write-up tells readers "prenatal care and delivery costs can range from about $9,000 to over $250,000."

That's not to suggest the estimate above is wrong. The fact is, what one woman spends out of pocket over the course of her pregnancy can differ a great deal from what another woman spends. Why? Because no two pregnancies are exactly alike.

Some women have great health insurance that covers almost every doctor visit, medication, test, and procedure they need to have done. Others have plans that require them to pay for most of that care themselves. And then there are those who are uninsured.  (If this last sentence describes your current situation, check out this article about how to choose the best health insurance plan for your pregnancy.)

Also, you've got women who encounter no problems whatsoever and who end up having a rather uneventful--as far as these things go--delivery. But you've got women who need Cesarean sections, or who experience a number of complications, or deliver well before their due dates, too.

Given all that, it's easy to see how one woman may barely owe anything after giving birth while another may owe tens of thousands of dollars or more.

If you're wondering what you might have to pay during your own pregnancy, you've come to the right place. In this article, you'll find cost estimates of the doctor visits, tests, and other procedures that pretty much every mom-to-be deals with on the way to giving birth.

(Read more about some of the more unexpected pregnancy costs health insurance may or may not cover.)

Just keep in mind that the prices shared here are approximations. How much you'll pay depends on where you live, where you give birth, how you give birth, whether or not you have any complications, and more. The only way to know for sure what you’ll be billed is to contact care providers and health insurance companies directly.

Prenatal Vitamins

Most experts suggest that all women of childbearing age, and especially women who are actively trying to conceive, should take prenatal vitamins containing folic acid. (Mainly because studies show they help prevent certain birth defects.)

Your doctor--or obstetrician or midwife--may prescribe these, but you don't need to wait for his or her go-ahead to buy them. You should be able to find these vitamins at your local drugstore.

That said, if you have health insurance and your doctor prescribes prenatal vitamins, you'll likely pay less than you would otherwise. All you'll be responsible for is a copay.

And what if you don't have insurance? Look to pay between $10 and $20 for a one-month supply.

Prenatal Doctor Visits

Assuming yours is a typical pregnancy, you'll probably see your physician or obstetrician about 12 times between when you first become pregnant and when you deliver your baby. That means once a month for the first two trimesters, then every other week or even weekly for the third one.

During these visits, your doctor will weigh you, check your blood pressure, monitor the fetus' growth, and more.

If you don't have health insurance, expect to pay somewhere between $100 and $200 for each trip to see your physician or obstetrician.

If you do have insurance, you should only have to deal with a copayment of $15 to $35.

Diagnostic Tests

Even if your pregnancy progresses as smoothly as possible, your doctor is sure to order a number of tests and screenings in the nine or so months that lead up to you giving birth.

Some will be simple blood tests. Others may check for anemia, diabetes, HIV, or STDs. Screenings for various birth defects are common, too.

What you pay for this kind of lab work depends on your deductible. If you've met your deductible for the year, you shouldn't pay anything. If you haven't, you could pay up to $100.

Without health insurance, you'll likely be billed around $50 to $200 for each test or screening. Costs vary widely depending on who does them or where you have them done, though, so do your research before scheduling anything.

Ultrasounds

Most mothers-to-be undergo at least one ultrasound during their pregnancy. Many undergo more than one.

How many you and your doctor schedule before your due date depends on a number of factors.

Also, there are a number of different kinds of ultrasounds. Some are more invasive, others are less so. (Fetal and pelvic ultrasounds are examples of the former, while the transvaginal ultrasound is an example of the latter.)

Most health plans offered in the U.S. cover at least one ultrasound. (Specifically, they usually cover an ultrasound that's performed around 16 to 20 weeks and that looks at the position of the baby and otherwise checks in on its health.) Some plans cover more than that, especially if they're considered medically necessary. To know for sure where you stand here, contact your insurer and ask when it covers ultrasounds and to what extent it covers them as well.

If you're uninsured, you may be on the hook for a few hundred dollars per ultrasound. Most cost between $300 and $600, according to parasail.com, although it isn't out of the question for them to cost even more than that.

As a result, the more "homework" you do here before agreeing to any ultrasounds, the more money you'll save.

Birthing Classes

Admittedly, not everyone considers this an expected cost of pregnancy. If you do, though, you might as well prepare for it as much as you can.

In that case, most pregnant women who take these classes, which help them prepare for labor and delivery, do so during their third trimester.

Without health insurance, you'll pay somewhere between $50 and a couple hundred dollars per class.

With insurance, you may not pay anything at all. Whether or not that's true for you depends on your plan. Call your insurer if you're unsure how your plan covers birthing classes (of if it covers them at all).

Delivery

Here's where things get interesting--if also overly costly.

That's because while everyone who becomes pregnant expects to pay for the delivery of their baby, few probably expect to pay quite as much for that important act as they do after all is said and done.

In part, that may be due to the fact that it's difficult to estimate just how much labor and delivery will cost a particular mom-to-be. As is the case with so many other aspects of a pregnancy, the charges associated with this one are all over the board.

Different hospitals charge different rates, even within the same city. Also, hospitals in certain parts of the country often charge more--or less--than others. (A number of sources suggest deliveries are most expensive in the Northeast and on the West coast and the least expensive in the South.)

And then there's the method of delivery to consider. You'll pay less for a normal, vaginal delivery than you will for an unexpected C-section, for instance. And you'll pay more if you:

Finally, the length of your hospital stay plays a role here as well. It probably could go without saying, but the longer you remain in your standard (or private) room, the more you'll pay.

With all that out of the way, here's what U.S. hospitals tend to charge for various types of deliveries:

  • For a vaginal delivery with no complications, expect to pay between $9,000 and $17,000.
  • For a  vaginal delivery with complications, your bill may be $14,000 to $25,000 or more.
  • The same is usually true of C-section without complications ($14,000 to $25,000 or more).
  • And for a C-section with complications? Don't be surprised if you're charged over $25,000.
  • If your baby is born prematurely, you'll pay even more, unfortunately. How much more depends on how long he or she spends in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Keep in mind that these prices are based on the mother-to-be staying in a standard hospital delivery room. You'll pay quite a bit more--hundreds of dollars each day--if you want to stay in a private room instead.

As you might imagine, health insurance covers a lot of these charges. Or it does if you have a great plan.

The best will only make you pay small copays or co-insurance costs--after you reach your deductible, of course. How much is "small"? Maybe $500 or less for copays, and perhaps a few thousand dollars for co-insurance (which insurers usually charge as a percentage of covered costs), according to various sources.

On a related note, your newborn will be billed for a certain amount of care, too, after birth. If you have health insurance and add that child to your plan, he or she will have a deductible that needs to be dealt with, too.

If you don't have health insurance, you could be on the hook for all of the charges mentioned above and probably a few others. Should you find yourself in this situation, contact your local Medicaid agency. Ask your physician or obstetrician if they know of any other sources of financial aid. 

One last thing: if you become pregnant in one year and give birth in the next, you'll have to pay your plan's deductible twice. (Once each year.) Consider this more of a heads up than a warning, though you'll of course want to keep it in mind if you're planning to have a baby and are at all worried about your pregnancy costs.

Giving Birth Outside of a Hospital

More and more women are delivering their babies in alternate, or alternative, settings these days. Specifically, they're increasingly delivering their babies at a birthing center, in a midwife's private office, or at home.

Although all of these options tend to be cheaper than delivering your baby in a hospital, they can still cost plenty of money.

Here's how much you should expect to pay if you decide to use one of these alternate methods of delivery:

You may pay the same amount to have your baby at a birthing center, with a midwife, or at home whether you're insured or not. That's because some health plans cover these costs and some don't For example, you might have some coverage for alternative birthing through a PPO.

"Homebirth midwives in San Diego are not in network for most insurance plans. However, we are covered as an out of network provider by most PPOs. The reimbursement for Homebirth varies, but a lot of our families with PPOs do get a couple thousand back from their insurance companies for their home births, says Brookey Ray, Certified Nurse midwife at Mother to Mother Midwifery. "Since we are in not in network for most HMOs, there is no coverage from these insurance plans."

As such, talk with your agent or someone at your insurance company before you move ahead with any of the these alternative delivery options.

Circumcision

If you have a boy, you may decide to have him circumcised shortly after birth.

This procedure typically costs between $300 and $600 depending on who performs it and where it's done.

Although most health insurance plans used to cover this cost, that's no longer the case. Some insurers have stopped covering it--likely because studies suggest fewer American parents are circumcising their sons than in the past.

As a result, you might be responsible for this charge even if you've got a great health plan.

Don't just assume this will be true for you, though. Contact your insurance company before making a decision one way or the other. What you hear from them may surprise you.

Also, if you're on Medicaid, contact your local agency if you'd like to circumcise your newborn. Many states don't cover circumcision at the moment.

Circumcision is just one of a number of medical costs you need to think about after you give birth, by the way. To learn about others, and to see how (or if) U.S. health plans cover them, check out this article of ours: "What Does Health Insurance Cover After Pregnancy?"

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much do prenatal doctor visits cost? And does health insurance usually cover prenatal doctor visits?

A: Typically, prenatal visits to your physician or obstetrician cost a few hundred dollars. That's per visit, and it's also what you'd pay out of your own pocket if you don't have health coverage. If you do, you'll probably only be charged a small copay. (Most health plans cover a number of prenatal doctor visits.)

Q: How much does an ultrasound cost? Will my health plan pay for an ultrasound while I'm pregnant?

A: First, it depends on the type of ultrasound you have done. There are different kinds, and some cost more than others. You might pay $100 or less for a few of them, but you'll pay $300 to $600 or more for most.

Health insurance often pays for at least one ultrasound during pregnancy, but don't take that to mean your plan will cover its cost completely. You might still have to deal with copays or co-insurance. Also, some plans cover more than one ultrasound when you're pregnant if your doctor thinks it's medically necessary.

Q: How much do birthing classes cost? Do health plans typically cover them?

A: Birthing classes cost between $50 and $200. That's per class, by the way. Some health insurance plans cover birthing classes, but not all do, so contact your insurer if you want to take one of these classes and you don't know how much your plan will help, or if it'll help at all.

Q: How much does it cost to have a baby in a hospital?

A: Without health insurance, you may pay anywhere from $9,000 to more than $25,000 to have your baby in a hospital. You'll pay the lower end of that range if you have a vaginal delivery without complications. And you'll pay the higher end of the range if you have a C-section or if you have any complications.

With insurance, you'll pay a lot less. It's hard to be specific about how much less you'll pay because some health plans will require you to pick up more of your delivery and hospital costs than others. (Often in the form of copays or co-insurance.)

Q: How much does circumcision cost? And does health insurance cover circumcision?

A: Circumcision can cost anywhere from $300 to more than $600. Your health plan may pay for your son's circumcision, especially in certain circumstances, but don't be surprised if it won't. Many insurers no longer cover circumcisions.

So, make sure yours gives you the green light before you schedule anything--especially if you'd rather use that $300 to $600 toward some other aspect of your pregnancy or delivery.

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