Health Insurance

The Cost of a C-Section Is More Than $9,000 Greater on Average Than a Vaginal Delivery

The Cost of a C-Section Is More Than $9,000 Greater on Average Than a Vaginal Delivery

Despite the new rule on price transparency, figures are difficult for consumers to track down and understand.
A pregnant woman.
A pregnant woman. Source: Getty Images

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 $12,915 on average.

Key findings

The cost of having a baby can fluctuate by more than $33,000 depending on the state

Having a baby costs uninsured patients $12,915 — 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.

For this reason, 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 was 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 giving birth was highest in Maryland. Uninsured mothers giving birth here pay an average of $37,220, even without complications. This represents an increase of 188% compared to the average.

On average, getting a C-section costs $9,297 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 was $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 were separated by just $2,196.

The cost difference between a C-Section and a vaginal birth

State
Difference in cost
Louisiana$22,401
Indiana$21,772
New Jersey$21,201
Maryland$21,195
California$20,424
New Hampshire$18,544
South Dakota$15,484
Arizona$15,295
Minnesota$12,943
Idaho$12,770
Pennsylvania$12,721
Missouri$12,367
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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 already 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 users 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 that can be required during any pregnancy.

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.

Service
Cost
Vaginal delivery$2,406
Hospital visit$442
Labor fees$535
Vaccine administration$48
Total$3,431

Costs shown are pulled from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s Shoppable Services list.

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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 will 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.

State
Expanded Medicaid?
AlabamaYes
AlaskaYes
ArizonaYes
ArkansasYes
CaliforniaYes
ColoradoYes
ConnecticutYes
DelawareYes
District of ColumbiaYes
FloridaNo
GeorgiaNo
HawaiiYes
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Methodology

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 that don’t include an estimate were excluded because hospitals required uninsured patients to contact administrators directly, or because estimates were unavailable for that service.