Maternity Care In The USA: What The Options Are And How To Decide On A Birth Plan

If you’re planning to give birth in America, it’s important to do your research ahead of time. Healthcare in the country is of a good standard, but it can be very expensive. Read on to learn about your options. 

 

How much does it cost to have a baby in the USA?

Having a baby in the United States is by no means cheap, and if you’ve previously lived and benefited from a national healthcare service where delivery is free, the costs may come as quite a shock! Nonetheless, nearly four million babies are born in the United States every year.

Unfortunately, you can’t accurately budget for the delivery of a baby. This is because treatment, pain relief and extras are all itemised separately on the bill, so you won’t know the exact costs until you have given birth. However, to give you a rough idea, here are some example prices. 

Without health insurance, you can expect to pay:

  • Prenatal doctor visit: $100 – $200
  • Prenatal ultrasound: $200 – $300
  • Vaginal birth in hospital: $3,000 – $37,000
  • C-section in hospital: $8,000 – $71,000
  • Home birth, with a midwife: $1,500 – $5,000

With health insurance, you can expect to pay:

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  • Prenatal doctor visit: $0 – $200
  • Prenatal ultrasound: $0 – $200
  • Vaginal birth in hospital: $700 – $13,000
  • C-section in hospital: $900 – $40,000
  • Home birth, with a midwife: $0 – $1,000

There are large variations in these prices, because the exact cost depends upon the type of birth, what pain relief is used, and how the birth goes. For example, if you require surgery or intensive care, then you will need to pay more. The following will help to give you an idea of the bills people usually take home:

  • Vaginal birth at hospital, with insurance – $3,400
  • Vaginal birth at hospital, without insurance – $30,000
  • Cesarean birth at hospital, with insurance – $3,400
  • Cesarean birth at hospital, without insurance – $50,000

Medical costs in the US are no joke. So, if you’re in a position to obtain health insurance, do so, as it will help lower your medical bills. The health insurance system is a bit of a labyrinth—even for those who have lived in the country for years—which is why the majority of expats tend to obtain independent private medical insurance, rather than going through the American health insurance system. 

If you plan to purchase insurance, you will need to find out what the policy’s maximum coverage limit is. Although one million dollars may seem like a large amount, American medical treatment costs can quickly add up and exceed that.

 

Can non-residents deliver a baby in the USA?

Due to the associated medical costs, birth-tourism isn’t really a thing in the United States, and so those who give birth in America tend to either be living there at the time or have no other choice!

The healthcare system in America is complicated, expensive, and—unless you’ve already enrolled in health insurance or have a comprehensive travel insurance plan in place—you’ll have to pay out of pocket to have your baby.

When the time comes to give birth, you’ll need to have certain documents with you at the hospital, including:

  • A valid form of photo identification, such as a passport
  • Your health insurance card or details
  • Copies of your medical records
  • Your birth plan

Some hospitals will also request that you bring your life insurance details and a copy of your will. However, this will depend upon the facility.

 

Creating your birthing plan

Your birthing plan should outline what you’d like to happen during labour. You don’t necessarily need to have one, but it may help you to know what to expect at each stage of the process. 

The options available to you for your birthing plan will depend upon your medical history, personal circumstances and medical facility or maternity service. Your midwife will be able to help guide you through the process.

It’s important to note that sometimes even the best birthing plans fall to the wayside. For example, you may need an emergency C-section. Nonetheless, the process of going through your plan is helpful. It will provide you with an opportunity to think about what type of birth you want (vaginal, Cesarean, water birth) and what type of pain relief you’re open to receiving. You may want gas and air, an epidural, a pethidine injection, a TENS machine or nothing at all.

This template, from the United Kingdom’s national health service, lists what you should include in your birthing plan.

 

Packing your overnight bag

Once you are approaching your last trimester, it’s important to have an overnight bag packed. This is essentially a “grab bag” and should contain everything you need for the hospital, in case you go into labour unexpectedly.

You shouldn’t have to stay in the hospital for long, when you go to give birth, but it’s always best to be prepared in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Items you should consider packing include:

  • Your own pillow
  • An array of snacks that are sugary, savoury or healthy
  • Toiletries
  • Your phone charger
  • A comfortable robe or dressing gown and slippers
  • Something to read, watch or keep you entertained
  • A change of clothes
  • Nursing bras
  • A swaddle blanket
  • A going home outfit for your baby

 

Aftercare

The type of aftercare treatment that you’ll require will depend upon the delivery. Vaginal deliveries tend to have shorter recovery times than Cesarean deliveries. If you do have a C-section, you’ll need to ensure that you follow the doctor’s orders closely and don’t lift anything for a minimum of six weeks.

Regardless of delivery type, you and your baby will have ample time to get acquainted with one another. Soon after the baby is born, the medical staff may need to take them away for a short period. This is a normal process, and it means the baby can be cleaned, weighed and evaluated. Afterwards, midwives are on hand to assist with skin-to-skin bonding and latching techniques, should you wish to breastfeed.

 

How to register a baby in the US

Once you have given birth, the hospital will issue you with the paperwork required to file for a birth certificate. In some cases, the hospital may even submit it for you, but this will depend on whether you have all of the required paperwork ready. To submit the birth certificate, you’ll need:

  • The hospital paperwork proving your baby’s birth
  • A valid form of ID, such as a passport
  • Your baby’s name
  • Money for copies of the certificate

Once this is done, you’ll have time to completely relax and enjoy your baby! Maternity care in the US isn’t legally mandated, so the amount of time you’ll have off work will depend upon your circumstances and the generosity of your employer.


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