An analysis of standard charges across U.S. hospitals reveals that the average cost difference between a cesarean section and vaginal delivery for an uninsured patient is greater than $9,000.
For a C-section, the bill costs $22,646 on average, but it could climb to more than $58,000 depending on the state where the procedure is performed. Mothers who experience birthing complications during a vaginal delivery typically pay much more than those who deliver via a C-section, too. Meanwhile, a vaginal delivery without complications costs uninsured patients $13,024 on average.
- It costs an average of $13,024 to have a baby through a vaginal delivery while uninsured, but that figure jumps to an average of $22,646 for those needing a C-section.
- The cheapest state to have a child via a vaginal delivery, of the 39 states in our analysis, is Oklahoma, where the largest provider gives an estimate that's 72% cheaper than the national average.
- The largest gap between the costs of a vaginal and C-section birth in the states we were able to track is $22,401 in Louisiana — $12,778 greater than the average gap.
- Despite recent federal rule changes that require price transparency from medical providers, it can still be difficult to find easily understood, conveniently accessible cost guides on procedures.
The cost of having a baby can fluctuate by more than $33,000 depending on the state
Having a baby costs uninsured patients $13,024 — on average — for a vaginal birth without complications. This includes estimates from hospitals for normal pre- and post-delivery expenses. These expenses vary by hospital but generally include the cost of room and board and doctors' fees. Complications and unforeseen changes to the patient that result in extended stays or more medical care raise costs.
The cost of a C-section delivery is much higher than the cost of a vaginal birth. The average cost of a C-section without complications is $22,646. And complications would cause the price tag to inflate. For example, Texas hospital patients can expect to pay an average of $30,128 for a normal C-section, or up to $52,434 within the same hospital system depending on their individual traits.
The cost of a vaginal birth is most affordable in Oklahoma. If a mother doesn't experience complications, it's estimated that the cost of giving birth would start at $3,633 — even without health insurance coverage.
Conversely, the cost of a vaginal birth is highest in Maryland. Uninsured mothers giving birth here pay an average of $37,220, even without complications. This represents an increase of 186% compared to the average.
On average, getting a C-section costs $9,623 more than a vaginal birth. Since the price of both services varies by state, this number isn't uniform. The largest gap between the prices for vaginal and cesarean births is $22,401 in Louisiana.
On the other hand, uninsured patients in Vermont may find the closest costs, where the starting costs of the two types of birth are separated by just $2,196.
The cost difference between a C-Section and a vaginal birth
Difference in cost
Price transparency for hospital procedures is complicated by unclear definitions of service, in spite of new rule
The Trump administration established a rule requiring hospitals to disclose the costs of their medical procedures beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The rule was intended to make it easier for patients to avoid surprise medical bills. Additionally, the administration hoped that requiring clearer prices and enabling health care shoppers to compare prices would result in decreased costs.
While hospitals are largely complying with the rule and listing standard costs, it can be difficult to arrive at an estimate that reflects what a patient might expect to pay. When hospitals present costs without regard for the typical additional fees that accompany an operation, such as a C-section, or require multiple steps to access the information, it ultimately hampers patients' abilities to shop smartly.
NewYork-Presbyterian, one of the largest hospital networks in New York, provides people with the cost of child delivery. While the cost of a C-section isn't listed, the cost of vaginal delivery is listed as $2,406 — which would make it the cheapest starting cost for childbirth. But it's unlikely that this cost would be accurate without considering doctors' fees, the cost of an inpatient stay and care from the hospital staff, and necessary vaccinations.
The cost of delivering a baby in New York could easily increase by more than $1,000, even before factoring in the unforeseen costs of discretionary tests and procedures.
Costs shown are pulled from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s Shoppable Services list.
The cost of giving birth might increase even more depending on the type of anesthesia a doctor recommends for the mother during delivery. According to NewYork-Presbyterian's list of standard costs, anesthesia could add $144 to $281 to the cost of giving birth. Analgesic treatment, another form of pain care often used in deliveries, could cost $561. A combination of anesthetic and analgesic drugs could increase the cost even more.
How expectant parents can save money on the birth of their baby
Those without insurance have to pay the costs of delivery and prenatal care. In both cases, it's a good idea to gather estimates from hospitals or providers to find the best and most affordable source of care — and to begin a budgeting process.
While the cost of medical care may be difficult to estimate for those who don't have health insurance, you’ll likely still be able to contact the administrators at hospitals near you to get an idea of the typical charges associated with a procedure.
Finally, depending on your income level, you may qualify for health insurance with Medicaid. Those who are eligible for Medicaid can receive comprehensive coverage, including for neonatal and delivery care, along with other necessary procedures.
If you live in a state with expanded Medicaid and your household income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, you could qualify for coverage.
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ValuePenguin gathered data pertaining to the cost of vaginal and cesarean delivery services at the largest hospital systems in 39 states for uninsured patients. The data reflects the estimates provided by each hospital for pre- and post-delivery care, unless otherwise noted. The states without an estimate were excluded because hospitals required uninsured patients to contact administrators directly, or because estimates were unavailable for that service.