Having a baby in the US? Hospital, midwife, and delivery costs

TransferWise content team
07.27.18
6 minute read

Nearly 4 million babies are born in the US each year. If you’re a visitor, tourist, or expat planning to have a child in the US, you’re in for a shock. When it comes to health insurance and medical expenses, the system is beyond complicated. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to understand what costs you’ll face, before you start seeing bills.

Here’s a breakdown of the pregnancy and healthcare landscape in America. While you’re bound to feel frustrated at times, the good news is that there are a number of resources to help you.

How much does having a baby cost in the US with or without insurance?

You can pretty much bet that going through the labyrinthine American medical system as a foreigner will get confusing. It’s confusing for Americans who have spent their whole lives in the US, much less expats who are going through it for the first time.

Lately, political battles have raged over the state of health insurance in America. There is a public healthcare option, instituted by the Affordable Care Act, but you still have to pay fees in the form of premiums and deductibles to use it. Some political contingents are pushing for a universal healthcare system, while other more conservative parties are intent on further privatising the industry. This fight continues to play out on a national level and does not appear to be ending anytime soon. Until it does, the state of American health insurance for the average person is constantly in flux.

To give you some idea of what you might pay, here is a summary of some average costs associated with childbirth. Costs will vary widely depending on your health insurance and even what state you’re in, as well as how your delivery goes:

  • (No insurance) Total average hospital bill for a regular birth: $30,000
  • (No insurance) Total average hospital bill with a c-section: $50,000
  • (With insurance) Total average hospital bill for a regular birth: $3,400
  • (With insurance) Total average hospital bill with a c-section: $3,400

Can a non-resident or visitor on a tourist or other visa deliver a baby in the US? Is birth tourism a thing in the US?

A tourist or visitor would have to be a little crazy to embark on birth tourism in the US, one of the most complicated and expensive healthcare systems in the world. People are more likely to flee the US in search of better healthcare treatments. Non-residents and visitors are welcome to deliver babies in the US, but they will have to pay out-of-pocket for the privilege unless they have extensive travel insurance or are able to enroll in US insurance.

Average costs of delivering a baby in the US

The money used in the United States is the US dollar. Its currency code is ‘USD’ but more frequently, you’ll see it represented by the symbol ‘$.’ If you’re looking to compare cost in dollars with your home currency, use this quick online currency converter.

Baby delivery medical procedures in the USAverage cost - without insurance (USD)Average cost - with private insurance (USD)
Prenatal doctor visit and care$100-$200$0-$200
Prenatal ultrasound$200- $300$0-$300
Birth and delivery in the hospital$3,000 - $37,000A couple hundred dollars to tens of thousands, depending on your coverage
Cesarean section in the hospital$8,000 - $71,000A couple hundred dollars to tens of thousands, depending on your coverage
Home birth and delivery with midwife$1,500 - $5,000$0-$1,000

What’s the average stay in an American hospital like after having a baby?

In many hospitals, moms can get acquainted with their baby immediately after birth, by engaging in skin-to-skin contact. There are some standard procedures that need to take place quite soon after the baby is born, including getting cleaned and being evaluated. If you’re lucky, you’ll have access to a private room where you and your partner can spend time together and get to know your new family member.

Average hospital stay for new moms in the US

US hospitals are largely privatised, so with incentives to turn over hospital beds, hospitals keep the average stay as brief as can be. New moms stay in the hospital for an average of 1 to 2 days for a normal delivery. If you’ve had a C-section, the average stay is between 2 and 4 days to monitor for any abnormalities.

Items moms need to bring to the hospital when delivering a baby

Given the short turnaround time, you don’t need to overpack to go to the hospital for delivery. However, it’s good to stay prepared. Here are some key items you may want to bring:

  • A robe or nightgown
  • Slippers
  • Your own pillow
  • A camera
  • Snacks
  • Something to read or watch
  • Your cell phone charger
  • Toiletries
  • Nursing bras
  • A going-home outfit for your baby
  • A swaddle blanket

What documents do I need to have a baby in the US?

When you give birth, bring the following documents to the hospital:

  • A valid photo ID
  • Your health insurance card
  • Your birth plan
  • Any medical records you have paper copies of
  • A will
  • Life insurance

How do I register my baby in the US?

At your child’s birth, the hospital will issue forms you’ll need to file for your baby’s birth certificate. The hospital may submit the paperwork for you, as well as a Social Security form, to your county clerk. Then, you’ll go to the clerk in-person to register for your baby’s birth certificate. You’ll need:

  • Your passport or a valid photo ID
  • The paperwork provided by the hospital proving your baby’s birth
  • The baby’s name
  • Money in case you’d like to make extra copies of the certificate

If I am not an American national but have a baby in the US, will my child have to choose between nationalities or will they get US citizenship?

If your child is born in the US or a US territory, they will become a US citizen. A person can have dual citizenship with the US and another country, but the law varies depending on the American relationship with the other country. American citizenship law is complex. Look into the specifics of your home country for additional information.

How long is maternity leave in the US? What about paternity leave?

The US is 1 of the 4 countries in the world that doesn’t legally mandate paid maternity leave, along with Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea. It goes without saying that there’s no legally mandated paternity leave.

Compared with your home country, you’ll probably find American maternity policies to be quite unforgiving. If you’re employed, your leave is instituted by the company for which you work. This leave can range from 0 days to several months, depending on the size and generosity of your employer. The average leave is about 10 weeks. Often, moms and dads cobble together maternity leave through a combination of sick days, holidays, and accrued time off.

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Becoming a new parent in America is a complicated process, so it’s that much more important to do your research ahead of time. Refer back to this guide when you need a resource for addressing your questions and concerns.

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