A Womb of One's Own

A Womb of One’s Own: The Cost of Pregnancy

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.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

47 replies on “A Womb of One’s Own: The Cost of Pregnancy”

It’s amazing how much it costs to make people.  I’m trying to use these numbers as proof why my husband shouldn’t want kids. Why isn’t it working???  I think saying “translabial tearing” helped more than “it cost this lady $27000 bucks”.

I had my kiddo in 2009 (emergency c-sec, after 3 days of failed induction and an epidural, but otherwise uncomplicated and healthy everyone involved).  Out of curiosity, I pulled our bill from the hospital (does not include prenatal care, or the 4 extra ultrasounds my doc insisted on, as we wound up 10 days past due):

For my care: 19,820.60

For LawBaby: 3,519.75

I luckily have amazing insurance that paid every penny, but those numbers still astonish me 3 years later.

Yeah, at that point, I was epidural’d, I was dilated, and I was ready to NOT BE PREGNANT.  Between his giant noggin and my insistence on kicking him out, I ended up with second-degree translabial tearing and third-degree perineal tearing.  I’m never Googling either of those things.

But let me tell you, despite taking stool softeners, it still took me 90 minute to poop for the first time post-birth four days after he was born.  Babies fuck you up.

I just find that incredibly sad.  Everything included for the birth of my son in July last year was $0 in a public hospital here in Australia (pre-natal care, epidural, induction, 6 nights in hospital, mri because they thought I had a blod clot, my little man in special care for 4 days). I had fantastic care and am going through the same hospital again for no 2 in August.

How can all these American politicians be so pro-family when you’re practically bankrupting people who are about to give birth?  Do you have options if you don’t have health insurance?

If you don’t have health insurance, you can work out a payment plan with the hospital, I’m assuming.  When I didn’t have health insurance, I got my annual checkups at Planned Parenthood (and even when I did have health insurance, I continued to get them through PP because I wanted to support them), and they charged me on a sliding scale based on our household income.  I was in the Take Charge program for a few years, where my checkups and BC were free but donations were accepted because I didn’t make enough money for the sliding scale.

If you are under a certain income level (I’m not sure what it is, exactly), you can be put on Medicaid (I’m in NC, but Medicaid is a federal program) for your prenatal care and care for a year after the baby is born (my sister had this with both her children). The child is covered through age 18. My sister had amazing care and didn’t have to pay a cent. She had a nurse that did prenatal home visits and a doula that she got to know who was in the delivery room with her. But, yeah, universal healthcare is sooo terrible!! ::rolls eyes::

If you’re over the income limit and uninsured, well, you are just screwed, basically.

Strange.  Here if you want to pay to go to a public hospital and/or have insurance – you can.  If Medicaid can work so well for your sister, couldn’t that work for everyone?  Fund that instead of some wars?  Naivete I know -  I just find it all so frustrating.  I’m glad there are other options like Planned Parenthood for you guys but seriously I just find it so strange that people are against basic medical coverage for everyone, irregardless of circumstances.

The President has been trying as long as he’s been in office (so, over three years) to pass some kind of universal/public health care plan, and if one wants to have their private insurance, they can. But, OF COURSE, the fat cats (read: rich white men who can afford health care) have been screaming, “This is SOCIALISM!!!1!11!”, which is ludicrous. He has been able to pass some revisions to private insurance, so they can’t railroad patients quite as badly as in the past, but it’s still a mess.

I don’t have insurance and it’s been a challenge to get my needs met for mental health care. I go to a state-funded clinic and also most of my medications at a free dispensary that also runs on state funds. Applying for general basic healthcare through another program was kind of a nightmare–it required reams of paperwork and proof of lack of income, etc. I’m not eligible for Medicaid b/c I’m not (yet–I’m trying) on Social Security Disability, nor pregnant, nor over 65. If you are just Jane Citizen with low-paying job or no job, you are just out of luck.

I totally agree with you. Health care (and education) should be the priorities, not war. It just shouldn’t be this difficult. Our systems are so disordered.

It shows how sad health care costs are in this country because I thought that sounded cheap.  The hospital I just went to charged my insurance 75000 for a week stay in which I got a few tests and meds.  Also my insurance only paid about 15 grand so I wonder if people without insurance are the only ones who have to actually pay the full price.

In 2000, I spent a week in a hospital bed mostly getting IV drugs. Thank god, I had insurance, but the cost was $35,000, which was what I made in a year.

I never got bills detailing my surgery two years later, which included 3 weeks in the hospital and 5 days in ICU. I bet it was over half a million. Insane.

Health care costs in this country are insane. I don’t understand how people manage to pay their medical bills without insurance. I stopped keeping track of my medical bills for my cancer treatments when they topped 30k after two months of a six month process – I imagine now, at four months, I’m closer to 40-50k. Each chemotherapy would cost me around 2-3k and I have it every two weeks. The shots I receive for four days after each chemo clock in at $269 per shot – thankfully the insurance covers them fully. My copays and deductable have already pushed my budget to the breaking point and I’ve cleared out my savings to get me this far. I just don’t understand how people would be able to pay that without insurance. I know this article was more about the maternity and the current war on ladybits in our country but I just had to chime in. The whole system leaves me frustrated that anybody could think we don’t need universal health care in this country. I shouldn’t be ‘lucky’ to have insurance. It’s cancer. It’s not the lottery.

The charges seems nearly criminal, don’t they?

I remember about 10 years ago a friend had a baby with no maternity coverage, and with a c-section it was about $15,000. It was stunning, i 2002, but to think that it’s more than doubled (I can’t imagine what a c-section would cost these days) in ten years is mind boggling.

Of course a huge part of the problem is the insurance companies themselves- hospitals inflate the costs to provide insurers with the discounts, etc, etc.

The system is so, so broken.

I was born in 1973 & my parents have told me numerous times the cost was $300.

My mother made me a scrapbook containing events from my whole life (it’s so wonderful; I can’t even begin to tell you!) and included the bill from the hospital from my birth! My birth in late 1974 in a public hospital in North Carolina cost less than $400. That’s some serious inflation!

I don’t know if she was cheaper than an OB/GYN, but I knew I wanted a fairly low-key prenatal care regimen, and I wanted someone who approached birth as a natural event and not as a medical emergency.  That being said, I also wanted access to the good drugs if I decided I needed them.  And after having to induce, I most definitely needed them.  The hospital I gave birth at has a midwifery clinic with about a half-dozen CNMs (certified nurse midwives) on staff, and I was able to meet and get care from all of them in my prenatal appointments before birth, so I was comfortable with whomever was on duty when I went into labor.  Most of them were mothers in the area, so they weren’t just medical resources, they were also emotional resources and parenting resources.  The midwife who swept my membranes also happened to deliver Gabe and do my six-week post-partum checkup, where she cried with me when I talked to her about my depression.  I love my primary care doctor, but I would push people into traffic for my midwife.

Seconded for the midwife love.  Before I was pregnant I seriously didn’t see the point of them (“just use a doctor!”), but then I was induced and had my boy and had the *best* midwives take care of me.  They knew my name, they cared when I cried when my boy was in special care, they helped with lactation issues.  They were awesome.

I … I am staggered. Seriously. I didn’t pay a thing for care through my pregnancy, nor for labour and delivery, or for what followed after. I dread to think what the cost may have been considering the way my labour went, which was followed by a ten day hospital stay and stay in neo-natal for Juniper Junior. Thank you so much for sharing this, Ipomoea.

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