For couples with limited insurance or none at all, the expenses related to delivering a baby in the U.S. are comparable to that of a new car, or in extreme cases, that of a down payment on a house. Costs are so inconsistent that the ballpark estimate for prenatal care and delivery range from around $9,000 to more than $25,000, according to thebump.com. The total amount you can expect to pay depends on a variety of factors, including the extent of your insurance coverage, where you live, whether your birth is high-risk or has any complications, and whether you have a vaginal birth versus a cesarean section.
Because it’s nearly impossible to predict the costs of giving birth, many families don’t know how much to save or wouldn’t be able to save enough even if they did. Fundraising for pregnancy medical expenses to cover part of the expenses can provide parents with a buffer in the event of pricey complications or set them up for a debt-free pregnancy so they can save for the myriad other expenses associated with raising a child.
The Grim Reality of Pregnancy Costs
- U.S. pregnancies are the most expensive in the world. A conventional delivery costs an average of $9,775, according to the International Federation of Health Plans, more than twice the amount of a delivery in Switzerland, and more than three times the cost of a birth in Chile. And yet U.S. rates of infant and maternal death are among the highest in the industrialized world.
- Charges for delivery in the U.S. have roughly tripled since 1996, according to a survey conducted by Truven Health Analytics for The New York Times.
- Health insurance is no panacea. Many plans don’t even cover pregnancy-related expenses, and of those that do, patients are expected to take on around 10 percent of the cost, according to CDC statistics. However, if you’re insurance is through your employer, it could cover as little as 25 percent, and often extends only to the most basic care.
- Many hospitals charge for services piecemeal, tacking on exorbitant fees for such amenities as extra monitoring, simple tests, an epidural during delivery or even diapers for the newborns. One couple interviewed by The New York Times agreed to submit to a fetal heart scan that their doctor recommended—a 30-minute test with an estimated cost of $265 that showed no problems—and were later billed $2,775.
The Power of Many
For the uninitiated, crowdfunding refers to online fundraising efforts in which a large group of people donate various amounts of money in support of a cause. If you’re looking to raise money for pregnancy expenses, you can create a free campaign, publicize it on your social networks, and collect donations from concerned friends and family or anyone who wants to help. Many future parents have turned to crowdfunding to raise enough money for their pregnancy-related expenses, often for cases in which a complication made the delivery especially costly. If you don’t have insurance or are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, consider starting your fundraising online even before your child is born.
YouCaring Pregnancy Fundraisers
When Rob and Mindy Seay were informed that Mindy’s pregnancy was high-risk and likely to face serious complications, the couple was suddenly faced with both the horrible fear of miscarrying their baby and the financial burden of extra care and treatment. They learned that their unborn child would likely suffer from multiple “complex and severe” heart defects and require professional care beyond that available in their home state of Alaska. Mindy traveled to Portland, Ore., to give birth, and she spent over a month there afterward while doctors monitored her newborn son’s progress. Though he was delivered successfully and is doing well, Lincoln needed emergency open heart surgery, among a variety of other procedures, leaving his parents with a pile of bills and ongoing expenses. As a result, Mindy created a fundraiser on YouCaring. She’s raised more than $5,600 so far, while also using the platform to keep her community informed by posting frequent updates.
When Erica and Andrew Penrose headed to the doctor’s office for a routine 20-week ultrasound, they got some big surprises. Erica was carrying identical twins. Her second surprise, though, was much bleaker: the twins suffered from a rare disease called “twin transfusion syndrome,” in which one receives more blood and nutrients and the other struggles to grow. The couple started a fundraising page, realizing that the extraordinary conditions would require more care than they’d expected. Erica was hospitalized for the months leading up to the pregnancy, and sadly, one of the babies didn’t survive. During this difficult time, they received an outpouring of kind words and support, and they eventually raised $2,400. While the money can’t remedy the emotional toll of the miscarriage, it can at least relieve some of the financial pressure adding to their stress.
A Conversation With YouCaring’s Own
Barbera Bushong, Head of Social Media at YouCaring, is seven months pregnant. She spoke with me about her experiences thus far and how she’s handling all of the pregnancy-related costs and planning.
Grace Culhane: Did you and your partner have a good picture of what expenses would be like?
Barbera Bushong: No, not at all. Now I have a better idea. I didn’t realize how many appointments it entailed, and each one has a bigger price tag than a regular doctor’s visit.
GC: What’s that like?
BB: It starts with an appointment every month for the first six months, and then by the seventh, you start going in twice a week. For the last month you have weekly appointments. On top of that they want you to do different types of testing, and ultrasounds come with a whole different price tag. It gets expensive, and also a commitment in terms of time—getting to the doctor’s office, taking time off work—it’s a lot.
GC: Is that the most grating part for you?
BB: It’s definitely a lot. I wouldn’t say grating, exactly. Actually, I’m pretty confident in the care I have received. I think I’ve covered all my bases, but I don’t know what it’s like with all the other plans. I just wouldn’t want to be surprised with something. For our next child, we will definitely do more research to ensure we have the best health care option for that specific need.
GC: So to you, the expenses so far are worth it?
BB: Well the appointments seem like a lot of money and time, paying for simple procedures. They take your blood pressure, record your weight, listen to the heart beat—if it’s a smooth pregnancy, it almost seems like things I could do at home. But you never know. I’m grateful it’s ‘so far so good.’
GC:Have you felt blindsided at all?
BB: It hasn’t blindsided us, but we were surprised by the frequency of visits, for how much they cost. Some [testing] you can get out of, especially if you don’t mind surprises. But it’s hard because you want what’s best for your baby, and a lot of that starts with health. I have a feeling we will be a bit surprised when we see the hospital bill after the delivery!
Fortunately, Barbera has had a healthy and uneventful pregnancy so far, but her last response summarizes a dilemma that many less-fortunate moms face as well: how do you know which expenses are absolutely necessary, and which you can forgo? Many parents feel trapped in a system in which you can’t afford all of the tests and add-ons, and yet you can’t afford not to get them. All parents want the best for their child, but when you can’t afford the best, it might be time to rely on your community for help.
Ready to help supplement the expense of having a baby? Start a free YouCaring fundraiser now to help cover the cost of a pregnancy.