Renee Martin, 31, compares her experience with maternity expenses to "a used-car lot." Martin and her husband were both covered under employer-provided healthcare insurance although maternity expenses were excluded. She wanted to know what to expect financially, so she asked around.

Her local hospital told her they didn't know how much maternity expenses were, but upon further questioning, gave her a price range: $4,000 to $45,000. "...Unreal," said Martin.

The New York Times recently commissioned Truven Health Analytics to explore the cost of maternity care in the US and discovered it has tripled since 1996. So why are American babies the most expensive in the world? Truven analysis indicates:

  • 4 million births each year cost $50 billion.
  • Other developed countries pay far less for the same degree of care and technology.
  • American parents pay per service (each ultrasound, blood scan, etc.) so more services are ordered. 
  • In the US, pregnancy, delivery and newborn care are billed separately. 
  • Elsewhere, maternity expenses cover all phases as one expense. 
  • Employer-provided healthcare coverage means ever-increasing co-payments, deductibles, and maternity coverage is often excluded. 
  • Of privately insured individuals in 2011, 62% did not have maternity coverage.
  • Today's typical new mom pays $3,400 in out-of-pocket expenses. 
  • Twenty years ago, parents paid nothing unless choosing to upgrade to a private room or have a TV. 
  • Hospitals charge about $20 for a splash of gentian violet to disinfect the umbilical cord. 
  • Walgreens charges $2.59 per bottle. 
  • Hospital stay in US = day or two / insurance says it's not a medical necessity. 
  • Elsewhere - A week to heal and learn to breast-feed.

For the period 2004 through 2010:

  • $30,000 = the average cost of pregnancy, vaginal delivery, and newborn care in the US.
  • $18,329 = the average amount paid by commercial insurance providers.
  • $50,000 = the average cost with C-section.
  • $27,866 = the average amount paid by insurance.

Many developed nations consider maternity care vital to the health of future generations so it's very inexpensive, often free, as it is in Ireland's public hospitals. Maternity care costs a maximum of $4,000 in France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection, says "we've created incentives that encourage more expensive care" rather than what's "good for the mother."


  • Rosenthal, Elisabeth. "American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World." The New York Times 30 June 2013. Web. 3 July 2013.
Keyword Tags: