In the past few weeks, the issue of contraception as valid health care has come into the spotlight. While I’m not surprised that the Republican party has decided to rally against it under the guise of “religious liberty,” I am surprised that, for a party that claims to be fiscally conservative, they wouldn’t acknowledge the economic facts of birth control, pregnancy, and birth.
As a woman who gave birth last year with health insurance coverage, I am relatively lucky. In the end, I only needed to pay $3,804 out-of-pocket. The total cost (charged to my insurance) of my entire pregnancy, from the first official positive test at my doctor’s office to being discharged from the hospital with my new baby, was $37,223.50.
No, seriously. $37,223.50. In comparison, if I was to decide that I didn’t want children and chose to continue using my preferred method of birth control (the Mirena IUD), the estimated total cost (without insurance) for the rest of my child-bearing years would be $3,806, according to this Mother Jones calculator. Yes, two dollars more than how much I paid out-of-pocket to have one baby. The cost of carrying one child to term and giving birth costs almost ten times as much as it would to keep me child-free for the next twenty years.
How does this end up costing so much? Here’s a breakdown, based off of my insurance claims from October 2010 to July 2, 2011 (excluding visits to my primary care doctor):
For my first official diagnosis, it was $196. Yes, $196 to pee on a stick in an office and have a doctor look at it to verify that I was knocked up.
For my first prenatal visit (including a blood workup and Pap smear), it was $991.25.
I had twelve prenatal massages due to chronic pelvic and back pain from pregnancy, totaling $1,140.
I had one full-scale ultrasound at 20 weeks for $964.
Blood sugar testing for gestational diabetes was $302.
One visit to the ER for severe leg pain was $5,353. (It turns out I was too warm and my blood vessels ached. The fear was a clot.)
Getting my membranes swept on my due date was $83.
Getting an ultrasound and checkup when I was a week overdue was $219.
Thus far? That’s $9,248.25, and I hadn’t even had the payoff of having a baby yet.
Once I get into the hospital, the charges really started racking up. The base charge from the hospital was $14,849.93. This included all of my basic prenatal checkups, which were once-a-month visits with a nurse-midwife to measure my uterus, listen to the fetal heartbeat, and take my vitals.
In addition to the hospital charges, it was $4,106 for the services of my nurse-midwife, who was my primary caregiver throughout the process and worth every penny. I cannot say enough wonderful things about my midwife. If you are able to see one, I really recommend it. She wasn’t just a medical professional, she was emotional support before, during, and after the process, and I will seek her out for child number two.
My blessed epidural was $3,145 (and worth EVERY PENNY).
After the birth, an OB had to step into the room to see how my midwife’s stitching was on my tearing (Gabe basically burst out of me like the Kool-Aid man). That five minutes, during which she did not actually touch or interact with me, was $429.
The hospital doesn’t just charge for my care, however. I walked in by myself and walked out with a plus-one, who had his own set of charges. Gabe’s hospital stay base cost for two nights was $4,492–and he never left our room! In addition, a quick checkup from the neonatologist on call was $239, and two full visits from the on-call pediatrician totaled $715.
To keep track, that means that a vaginal birth in a hospital with few complications (I tore and had an epidural) cost $27,975.93.
The grand total, from getting knocked up to being turned loose with my new baby, was $37,223.50
If the Republican party wants to say they’re fiscally conservative, that’s fine. Understand the basic economic reality of pregnancy and birth, as well as birth control. If they think that spending cuts are the key to a healthy economy, commit to that idea. What better way to cut spending than offering women the tools they need to keep spending down? I mean, the GOP is so terribly invested in what happens in our wombs, so why not commit to fiscal responsibility from the uterus on out? After all, from everything I’ve seen, their goal is to make government small enough to fit through our cervices. While they’re at it, they may as well help us stay childfree as we choose.
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