I’m really fascinated by birth stories. It’s absolutely exciting to hear how a baby enters the world and all the circumstances surrounding the event. While I’ve heard some great stories, the most interesting ones involve home births. I’m intrigued by the concept, but I’m also a little hesitant to pursue such an endeavor myself.
All of that aside, another thing I often wonder about home births is whether or not they are cost effective. Even without taking birth location into account, having children takes financial consideration. After all, you’ll want to plan for the best time to have a baby.
Taking into account all of the advantages and disadvantages, does it make sense from a financial aspect, to have a home birth? I’ll go through each one of the pros and cons, and give a “cost” (or value) for each. See if you agree with me.
1. The Experience
Women who give birth at home most often enjoy the experience. They are able to have their baby the way they want without the pressure of medications and the interference of a hospital setting. There are no rules and no monitors strapping them down. The mother does not have to endure routine medical interventions; she, alongside her support system, is in control. The Experience = Priceless
2. No Temptation
For women who want to give birth naturally, doing so is easier at home than in a hospital. Most simply, the mother does not have ready access to anesthesia or narcotics, and therefore does not have the backup available when the going gets tough. An added benefit to natural birth is a quicker recovery time. No Temptation = Varies by the individual
3. Support Group
A woman giving birth at home can choose the people who are present for the experience. Typically, that includes a midwife and possibly, a doula. A midwife is a Masters level nurse who has been trained specifically to deliver babies. A doula gives encouragement and support to the mother during labor and birth through massage, coaching, and other techniques. These are people that a woman knows and trusts. At a hospital, a woman may have several nurses if she is in labor over shift change. Support Group = Varies by the individual
4. No Hospital Bill
Since a home birth is not in a hospital, there is no hospital bill. In addition, there is no anesthesia bill or nursery bill. No Hospital Bill = $0
5. Expenses (If Woman Is Without Insurance)
The main expense of a home birth would be the midwife. She could charge anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. Typically, home births are not covered by insurance, so there is a good chance that this would be an out-of-pocket cost. To put that in perspective, all the bills from the birth of my son added up to around $700 after insurance was applied (otherwise it would have been more like $10,000).
You never want to go without health insurance, but if you don’t have it, a home birth could save you a lot of money. Other than the midwife, the other expenses include supplies, labs, and a doula. A doula’s services range in cost from a few hundred to a thousand dollars. Expenses = Between $1,500 and $5,000 (Compared to $10,000+ at a hospital)
1. Emergency Situations
Home births are safe as long as the woman has had a healthy pregnancy, and the baby is thriving. However, there is always the risk of an emergency situation arising. In the event of a home birth emergency, the delay in care could have grave consequences. My son was a meconium baby and needed immediate respiratory care by the NICU staff upon his birth. If we were not at the hospital when he was born, my son could have had long-term health problems or worse. I had a healthy pregnancy, but for whatever reason, the situation presented itself. Emergency Situations = Costly
2. No Postpartum Medical Help
One of the best things about being in the hospital is getting help from the staff. Nurses and Patient Care Techs are very caring individuals who are there to help you recover. If you have a home birth, you will not have this type of help unless you have family members willing to stick around. No Postpartum Medical Help = Varies depending on the woman’s family
3. No Time Away From Home
When you are in the hospital, you are away from your home and your other kids. If you have a home birth, you are still in that environment, and it would be more challenging to remove yourself from the role of wife and mother. Some women would want to get away from their home for a day or two. Other women may not like that at all. No Time Away From Home = Varies by the individual
4. Expenses (If Woman Does Have Insurance)
If a woman does have insurance, and her insurance will not pay for a home birth, she will be paying considerably more for the home birth. If a woman’s insurance will pay for the home birth, she may be paying about what she would for a hospital birth. Expenses = Between $1,500 and $5,000 (Compared to about $1,000 at a hospital)
1. Birthing Center
For the woman who wants an experience similar to home birth, she has the option to go to a birthing center. A birthing center encourages natural birth and allows the woman to have more control in the decision making. If an emergency should arise during the birth, it can be handled more quickly than at home. Also unlike the hospital, the woman and baby go home a few hours after the baby has been born. The cost is somewhere between that of a home birth and that of a hospital, and it is usually covered by insurance.
2. Hybrid Approach
Another alternative is for the woman to labor at home, and go to the hospital right before giving birth. It would be wise to have someone assist the woman with laboring at home, such as a doula. Also, it’s advantageous if the hospital is close to home and the route is well-known. This is a good option for women who want a natural birth but want the help of a hospital staff during and after the birth.
The cost effectiveness of a home birth is dependent upon the woman and what she values most. It is also dependent upon her comfort with taking risk.
Although home births are safe in general, there is some amount of risk involved. I am not one for risk-taking, and because of the previous incident with my son (which is fairly common), I would opt for another hospital birth rather than a home birth. However, I would consider a birthing center, as it seems to be a good compromise between the two ends of the spectrum.
As far as the actual dollar amounts are concerned, I am not sure that there is a big enough difference to impact most decisions on where to give birth. The best way for a pregnant woman to save money on medical expenses is to live a healthy lifestyle and remember to take her vitamins!
What is your take on the costs of home births? Have you or someone you know had experience with home births?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)