Expected Expenses of Prenatal Care

Author: Carissa Kwan

The average length of gestation is 280 days, or 40 weeks. Mothers want to be assured that this long development process is proceeding normally, and expert consultation with an obstetrician/gynecologist can have a significant impact on the success of the pregnancy, including reducing the risk of low birth weight and infant mortality. However, many women do not seek regular check-ups during the suggested developmental milestones. There are many reasons why women would forego such prenatal care, but one of these reasons are the expected expenses. Thus, we discuss the expenses expecting mothers can anticipate after learning that they are pregnant.

graphic adapted from forbabysakesd.com

Prenatal care for a typical pregnancy usually includes routine checkups, tests and screenings, and a prenatal supplement. A pregnant woman gets approximately fifteen routine checkups throughout her pregnancy as well as a multitude of tests and screenings.1 The prenatal care is necessary to ensure the fetus is reaching appropriate developmental milestones and any abnormalities that are detected can be addressed promptly. She will also receive screenings that will test for any life-threatening conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, as well as any birth defects in the fetus.1 Lastly, pregnant women are also encouraged to take a daily prenatal supplement containing vitamins A, C, D, and folic acid to reduce the probability of neural tube defects and promote the health of the mother.2 

Maintaining the physician recommended prenatal care for the full term of the pregnancy can be a substantial cost. A single prenatal checkup can cost approximately $100-$200, averaging a total cost of approximately $2,000 over the fifteen recommended obstetrician visitations.3 Commonplace blood tests can range $50-$200 each depending on the specific test done and fetal ultrasounds can cost upwards of $300.4 Other essential screenings such as the first trimester amniocentesis used to detect Down’s Syndrome (Trisomy 21) or Edward’s Syndrome (Trisomy 18) are priced at an average of $500.5 Prenatal vitamins, while comparatively inexpensive, can total approximately $100 over the course of the pregnancy.3 If there are complications during pregnancy or if any if the initial screenings yield abnormal results, more specialized tests may be necessary. This can include more precise genetic tests, which can range from under $100 to more than $2,000.6

When determining how to pay for these expenses, the hospital system and insurance plan are the primary determinants of personal costs. The hospital plan may charge the individual as one expense covering all expenses of prenatal care and delivery in the hospital. In the US, delivery alone can cost 12,000 dollars. For delivery alone, the US has some of the highest prices in the western world. When bundled with prenatal care, the average charge of the hospital for full coverage can be about 16,500 dollars. 

Figure adapted from economist.com

Insurance coverage, regardless of plan, typically covers most prenatal care. This is also true of public insurance options covered under the Affordable Care Act. While insurance premiums may be a financial burden, they significantly reduce the cost of prenatal care and delivery should they become pregnant. For those without healthcare insurance, the burden of healthcare costs on women child bearing age making an average salary of 30,800 can be overwhelming. With improved knowledge of these financial obstacles, women can be better prepared for their pregnancy.

(figure adapted from Guttmacher.org with data provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation)

Sources:

  1. Prenatal Care and Tests. womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/youre-pregnant-now-what/prenatal-care-and-tests. Published January 30, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  2. Al-Gailani S. Making birth defects ‘preventable’: pre-conceptional vitamin supplements and the politics of risk reduction. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4275593/. Published September 2014. Accessed June 26, 2019.
  3. How Much Does Prenatal Care Cost? – CostHelper.com. CostHelper. https://children.costhelper.com/prenatal-care.html#extres1. Accessed June 17, 2019.
  4. How Much Does Pregnancy Cost Each Trimester? Parasail Health. https://www.parasail.com/2017/03/30/pregnancy-cost-trimester-chart/. Published March 30, 2017. Accessed June 28, 2019.
  5. Testing for Downs’ Syndrome and Other Abnormalities in Early Pregnancy. USC Fertility. https://uscfertility.org/testing-downs-syndrome-abnormalities-early-pregnancy/. Published October 22, 2009. Accessed June 28, 2019.
  6. What is the cost of genetic testing, and how long does it take to get the results? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/testing/costresults. Accessed June 28, 2019.

About the author: Warren Campbell

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