What Happens If You Can’T Pay For Childbirth?

Giving birth can be an extremely expensive medical procedure in the United States, with the average cost being over $10,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Most hospitals will still deliver your baby even if you can’t pay the full cost upfront, but you’ll likely receive bills afterwards and damage to your credit.

There are options like payment plans and financial assistance you can look into.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about what happens if you can’t fully pay for the costs of childbirth, from how much giving birth costs, to what hospitals can and can’t deny you, steps to take to reduce expenses, and how to deal with medical bills and impacts to your credit afterwards.

Average Costs of Giving Birth in the U.S.

Bringing a child into the world is undoubtedly a joyous occasion, but it can also come with a hefty price tag. In the United States, the average cost of giving birth can vary significantly depending on various factors.

It is important to be aware of these costs and plan accordingly to avoid any financial strain.

Vaginal delivery vs. c-section costs

One of the key factors that can impact the cost of childbirth is the method of delivery. On average, vaginal delivery tends to be less expensive than a cesarean section (c-section). According to a study conducted by Health Affairs, the average cost of a vaginal delivery is around $9,000, while a c-section can cost upwards of $15,000.

This significant difference in cost is primarily due to the additional medical procedures and longer hospital stays associated with c-sections.

Itemized costs – doctor/anesthesia fees, hospital/facility fees, etc.

When considering the cost of childbirth, it is essential to understand the various components that make up the total expenses. These typically include doctor and anesthesia fees, hospital or facility fees, prenatal care, and any additional medical tests or procedures.

According to the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the average cost breakdown for childbirth in the U.S. is as follows:

Item Average Cost
Doctor and Anesthesia Fees $3,000 – $5,000
Hospital or Facility Fees $4,000 – $10,000
Prenatal Care $2,000 – $4,000
Additional Medical Tests/Procedures Varies

It is important to keep in mind that these costs are averages, and actual expenses can vary depending on factors such as location, insurance coverage, and any complications during childbirth. To get a more accurate estimate, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider and insurance company.

It is crucial to plan ahead and be prepared for the financial aspects of childbirth. Consider exploring different insurance options, such as employer-provided plans or Medicaid, to help alleviate some of the financial burden.

Additionally, saving money and creating a budget specifically for pregnancy and childbirth expenses can provide peace of mind and ensure a smoother transition into parenthood.

Your Rights: What Hospitals Can’t Deny You

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA)

When it comes to childbirth, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) ensures that hospitals cannot deny you access to necessary medical care, regardless of your ability to pay. This federal law requires hospitals that participate in Medicare to provide emergency medical services, including childbirth, to anyone who seeks treatment.

So, if you find yourself unable to pay for childbirth, you can still receive the care you need without being turned away.

Laws prohibiting demands for upfront payment

Many states have laws in place that prohibit hospitals from demanding upfront payment before providing necessary medical services. These laws recognize that childbirth is a fundamental aspect of healthcare and should not be denied based on financial circumstances.

Instead, hospitals are required to provide the care needed and work out payment arrangements with patients afterwards. So, even if you can’t afford to pay for childbirth upfront, you still have the right to receive the necessary care.

Non-discrimination protections

It’s important to know that hospitals are prohibited from discriminating against patients based on their ability to pay. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes provisions that protect individuals from being denied care or being treated differently because they cannot afford to pay for childbirth.

These protections ensure that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, has access to the same quality of care during childbirth.

Additionally, hospitals that receive federal funding are required to comply with non-discrimination laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that they cannot deny you care based on your race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

If you believe you have been discriminated against during childbirth, you can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s important to be aware of your rights when it comes to childbirth and healthcare. If you find yourself unable to pay for childbirth, remember that there are laws in place to protect you and ensure you receive the care you need.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to local resources or organizations that can provide assistance or guidance in navigating the healthcare system.

Steps to Take Before Giving Birth to Reduce Costs

Having a baby is an exciting and life-changing event, but it can also come with significant financial responsibilities. If you find yourself unable to pay for childbirth, it’s important to explore your options and take proactive steps to reduce costs.

Here are some steps you can take before giving birth to reduce the financial burden:

Look into hospital payment assistance programs

Hospitals understand that not everyone can afford the full cost of childbirth, and many offer payment assistance programs to help families in need. These programs can provide financial aid or discounts based on your income level and other qualifying factors.

It’s worth reaching out to your chosen hospital or birthing center to inquire about any available assistance programs. They may have specific guidelines and requirements, so be sure to gather all the necessary documentation.

Negotiate costs and payment plans in advance

Don’t be afraid to discuss the costs of childbirth with your healthcare provider or hospital. In some cases, they may be willing to negotiate a lower price or offer a payment plan that works within your budget.

It’s essential to have these conversations well in advance, so you have time to explore all your options and make informed decisions. Remember, healthcare providers want to ensure that you and your baby receive the care you need, so they may be more willing to work with you than you think.

Apply for Medicaid or other financial assistance programs

If you’re unable to afford the costs of childbirth, it’s crucial to explore government assistance programs like Medicaid. Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage for low-income individuals and families.

Eligibility requirements vary by state, so it’s important to research your state’s specific guidelines and apply as soon as possible. Medicaid can significantly reduce or even cover the entire cost of childbirth, ensuring that you receive the care you need without incurring excessive debt.

Consider midwife/birthing center for lower-cost options

While hospitals are the traditional choice for childbirth, they can also be the most expensive option. Consider exploring alternative options like midwives or birthing centers, which often offer lower-cost alternatives.

Midwives provide personalized care throughout your pregnancy and can deliver your baby in a birthing center or even your own home. These options can be more affordable while still maintaining a high level of care and safety.

It’s essential to research and find a qualified and licensed midwife or birthing center that meets your needs.

Remember, the most important thing is to prioritize your health and the health of your baby. Don’t let financial concerns prevent you from seeking the necessary care. By taking proactive steps and exploring all available options, you can find ways to reduce the costs associated with childbirth and ensure a positive birthing experience for you and your family.

What Happens After: Dealing With Medical Bills

Childbirth is a momentous occasion in a person’s life, but it can also come with hefty medical bills. If you find yourself unable to pay for childbirth, it’s important to understand the options available to you. Here’s what you need to know about dealing with medical bills after giving birth.

Payment plans and negotiations after birth

Many hospitals and healthcare providers offer payment plans to help individuals manage their medical expenses. These plans allow you to break down the cost of childbirth into manageable monthly payments.

By negotiating with your healthcare provider, you may also be able to lower the overall amount you owe or set up a more affordable payment plan. It’s important to communicate with your provider as soon as possible to discuss your financial situation and explore these options.

Effects on your credit

Falling behind on medical bills, including those related to childbirth, can have negative consequences for your credit score. Late or missed payments can be reported to credit bureaus, impacting your ability to obtain loans or credit in the future.

It’s crucial to stay in contact with your healthcare provider and work out a payment plan to prevent any negative impact on your credit. By addressing the situation proactively, you can potentially avoid long-term financial repercussions.

Bankruptcy options

In extreme cases where the medical bills are overwhelming and you are unable to make any payments, bankruptcy may be an option to consider. Bankruptcy provides a way to eliminate or reduce medical debt, offering individuals a fresh start.

However, it’s important to note that bankruptcy should be seen as a last resort, as it can have long-lasting effects on your credit and financial future. Consulting with a bankruptcy attorney can help you understand the implications and determine if it is the right path for you.

Remember, each person’s financial situation is unique, and it’s important to seek professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. By exploring payment plans, negotiating with your healthcare provider, and considering bankruptcy as a last resort, you can navigate the challenges of paying for childbirth and protect your financial well-being in the long run.

Other Financial Impacts of Having a Baby

Lost wages/income during pregnancy and postpartum

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also come with financial challenges. One of the major financial impacts of having a baby is the potential loss of wages or income during pregnancy and postpartum.

Many women may need to take time off work to attend prenatal appointments, deal with pregnancy-related complications, or recover after childbirth. This can result in a decrease in income, especially if the employer does not provide paid maternity leave.

According to a study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, only 17% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. This means that a majority of women may have to rely on savings, short-term disability insurance, or unpaid leave to cover their time off.

Unfortunately, not all women have the financial means to support themselves during this period, which can lead to financial stress and potential debt.

Ongoing pediatric and childcare costs

Another financial impact of having a baby is the ongoing pediatric and childcare costs. From regular check-ups and vaccinations to diapers and formula, the expenses can quickly add up. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average middle-income family can expect to spend around $233,610 to raise a child from birth to age 17.

Childcare, in particular, can be a major expense for parents. The cost of daycare or hiring a nanny can vary depending on the location and the type of care needed. According to a 2020 report by Care.com, the average cost of full-time care for an infant in a center ranged from $9,000 to $22,600 per year.

It’s important for expectant parents to carefully plan and budget for these ongoing expenses. Creating a financial plan, exploring potential assistance programs, and considering options for childcare can help alleviate some of the financial stress that comes with having a baby.

For more information on budgeting for a baby and finding resources for financial assistance, visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/financial-help or https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/family-finances/can-you-afford-a-baby/.


Giving birth can be extremely expensive in the U.S. healthcare system. While hospitals cannot deny you care during delivery regardless of your ability to pay, you may still face major bills, credit impacts, and financial struggles after having a child.

Being informed on your rights as a patient, taking proactive steps to reduce costs, and utilizing payment assistance programs can help mitigate the financial stresses. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask for help—many other families face similar challenges with medical expenses for childbirth.

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