The Cost of Delivering a Child in the U.S. Continues To Rise

Supermajority Education Fund

January 10, 2020

The average cost of raising a child in America today has been reported to be close to $240,000. That number alone is unaffordable for most, but like any big project, building a family comes with some pretty intense start-up costs, too. According to a new study from Health Affairs, the average new parent with insurance will pay $4,500 for their pregnancy, labor, and delivery in an American hospital. 

The study takes into account the 12 months before delivery, as The Atlantic notes. The study’s researcher explained that some health costs incurred during pregnancy might not be coded by insurance companies as pregnancy-related even if they were, so including costs of 12 months before a baby is born is more accurate to what parents might spend. 

In the past decade alone, the cost of delivery has gone up astronomically, according to the study. In 2008, a vaginal delivery cost $2,910, and by 2015, the cost had risen to $4,314. A cesarean section cost $3,364 in 2008, and seven years later, it was up to $5,161. 

The study notes that people who are not planning on getting pregnant take on the most financial burden because they might not have set aside the appropriate savings to pay their healthcare bills or signed up for insurance that covers the cost of delivery. Per the Guttmacher Institute, 45 percent of pregnancies are unplanned. In 2011, for example, 48 percent—nearly half—of the pregnancies in the U.S. were not planned. 

“Research from the Center for American Progress shows that parents’ incomes decrease significantly before and after childbirth and that the majority of family income loss occurs on the mother’s side,” Cristina Novoa, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress (CAP), told Supermajority News. “A new baby means parents need more space, leading parents to spend more on housing. CAP’s research also shows that parents accumulate significant credit card debt shortly before and after the birth of a child to pay for new expenses like baby clothing, furniture, and child care.”

The high cost of pregnancy is one reason why many families consider alternative birthing options. Osub Ahmed, a senior policy analyst for women’s health and rights at CAP, told Supermajority News that while women choose to have babies at home to gain more autonomy over their bodies, they also make this choice to avoid the steep bills. 

“Although high hospital bills influence some parents’ decisions to give birth at home—after all, not all parents have $4,500 lying around to cover the average cost of a hospital birth —it’s not the only factor pushing women away from hospitals. The number of uninsured Americans has been growing since 2016, especially in states that have not expanded Medicaid, making hospital deliveries financially challenging for some women.”