The United States is one of the most expensive places to have a baby. Over three years, women who give birth incur $18,865 more in health care spending than women who do not give birth.
The average cost of having a baby can vary depending on the type of care provider you’re using and where you give birth (e.g., $8,303 at a birthing center or $4,650 for a home birth) and delivery type (e.g., $14,768 for a vaginal birth or $26,280 for a cesarean birth).
A financial advisor can be a helpful resource in helping you develop a plan to save to cover the cost of having a baby and the costs that come next—like caring for the baby and even contributing to the child’s college fund.
It’s exciting to welcome a new bundle of joy into your family. Being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have in life. But the reality is this: Becoming a parent is also one of the more expensive transitions you’ll make.
Before you budget additional costs for food, clothing, traveling sports teams and college, you'll need to figure the cost of having a baby into your budget. Here we’ll give you a firmer idea of the costs associated with having a baby—from prenatal care through caring for a newborn.
How much does it cost to give birth in the U.S.?
Pregnancy and childbirth are unpredictable experiences—so, the costs are, too. Healthy pregnancies can be less expensive than pregnancies requiring management of preexisting health conditions or conditions the baby develops. Other variables, like having multiples or needing additional postpartum support (like admitting a baby to the NICU or receiving mental health services for postpartum depression), can leave you with costs well over the average. Healthy pregnancies may need far less.
Generally speaking, the average health care costs in the U.S. associated with a pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care total around $18,865, which results in women who are enrolled in health insurance plans paying an average total of $2,854 in out-of-pocket expenses, according to a 2022 study by the Peterson Kaiser Family Foundation.
In fact, the United States is one of the most expensive places to have a baby. An interactive map from Coyne College illustrates that across the globe, costs can range from $1,271 (for a natural childbirth in South Africa) to $7,901 (for a C-section in Australia). The U.S. outranks almost every country in the world in terms of childbirth costs.
The costs of having a baby stem beyond the childbirth experience itself. Here is a breakdown of some of the costs associated with having a baby along with average amounts spent in the U.S.
Cost of being pregnant
Once you become pregnant, you’ll likely begin receiving prenatal care to ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy development of your baby. Appointments typically start off monthly but increase in frequency as you near your due date (up to once per week for the last week of pregnancy).
Appointments with an OB/GYN can run $100 to $200 per appointment, and that doesn’t include any additional screenings, labs, ultrasounds or labs you may need. Depending on your policy, your health insurance may cover a good portion of pregnancy costs, but there are still additional expenses you’ll need to account for.
Becoming pregnant may also be a challenge for some couples. Infertility treatments can be expensive (starting at $15,000–$30,000), and often they’re not covered by insurance.
Labor and delivery cost
Though you may frequently visit the doctor before the birth, the bulk of the costs of having a baby will come from the delivery. How much your delivery costs will depend on what type of care provider you’re using (an OB/GYN vs. a midwife), where you give birth (a hospital vs. at home) and your type of delivery (vaginal vs. C-section). The costs associated with labor and delivery can also vary quite a bit depending on whether you have insurance and, if you have insurance, what type of insurance you have.
Roughly half of women who give birth per year carry private health insurance policies (like those offered through an employer), and the other half are covered by Medicaid. Regardless of the policy, it’s very likely that pregnancy is a condition that will be covered. (It’s one of the 10 essential health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act.)
Here are the average birth costs for each type of delivery in a hospital:
Vaginal birth: $14,768 ($2,655 out of pocket)
C-section birth: $26,280 ($3,214 out of pocket)
Today, most women choose to give birth in a hospital, but birthing centers and home births account for about 1 percent of U.S. births as of 2019. When choosing this alternative, prenatal care is typically included in the cost of birth (though it’s not always covered by insurance).
Here are the average costs for deliveries outside a hospital:
Birth at a birthing center: $8,309
Home birth: $4,650
Natural birth isn’t the only way to grow a family. In 2021, 54,200 children were adopted in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To grow a family by adoption is a bit more expensive (and not always covered by insurance).
Here are the average costs to adopt:
Private adoption: $30,000–$60,000
Intercountry adoption: $20,000–$50,000
Costs to care for a baby
Babies are dependent on their parents for virtually everything for at least their first year of life. You’ll want to account for some necessities (and some nice-to-haves) to get you through this period.
Here is a cheat sheet for how much you can expect to pay for initial baby essentials:
Diapers and wipes
Baby wipes: $17 for 500 sheets
Diapers: $70 to $80 per month
Look for deals and buy in bulk, and be strategic since little ones grow quickly. Buy just as many as you need for about a month at a time, and then reassess for sizing, comfort, etc. Some babies suffer skin reactions to certain brands, so avoid being left with an open pack. If you’re willing to put in some extra work, using cloth diapers that you wash yourself can cut the cost down, too.
Breastfeeding accessories: $300
If you choose to breastfeed, you’ll likely want to look at nursing bras, a nursing pillow, nursing covers and a breast pump kit. Many insurance plans will pay for a pump, so be sure to check if yours is covered (and order it before you give birth).
Formula: $200 to $400 per month
How much you pay per month on formula will depend on the type of formula you use and whether your baby is exclusively formula fed. Babies grow quickly—especially in the beginning—so you’ll likely be going through formula quickly.
Bottles: $5 to $30
Even if your baby is exclusively breastfed, you may want bottles and nipples in the house so you can pump to keep a store of milk in the fridge (especially if you’re planning to return to work). The benefit is two-fold: Your partner can participate in feedings, and you can (gasp!) actually leave the house once in a while.
Crib: $80 to $1,200
Baby bedding: $20 to $75
Baby monitor: $35 to $500
Stroller: $150 to $1,000
Highchair: $25 to $300
Newborn clothes: $0 to $60-plus per month
There are lots of ways to save here. Hopefully you’ll get a lot of these items as gifts or hand-me-downs, so you won’t have to buy too much. Frequenting rummage sales and seeking out buy/sell social media groups are other good ways to find discounted items.
Weekly cost for day care: $284
Weekly cost for a nanny: $736
According to the 2023 Care.com Cost of Care Report, families with children are currently spending around 27 percent of their household income on childcare, so this line item can account for a decent chunk of your budget. The average costs reported are also per child, so if you have multiple children, you’ll need to multiply this figure (though many day care centers offer a small discount when adding siblings).
Why is giving birth so expensive?
Rising childbirth costs are generally correlated with the growing cost of health care in the U.S. overall. (According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, average family deductibles have increased 17 percent since 2017.) Because pregnancies can require so much medical care—for you and for the baby—having a baby has now become a big-ticket item.
Keeping birth costs under control
Though you likely aren’t going to be able to drastically alter the cost of having a baby, there are some small actions you can take to keep costs reasonable and make sure you’re not incurring unnecessary costs. Having a good understanding of coming costs can also be helpful in planning ahead and working them into your budget as well.
Understand your insurance
If you aren’t already well versed about your health care insurance policy, get up to speed on what your responsibilities are for copays, coinsurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. That way, you’ll know what to expect as you start receiving additional medical services.
While you’ll likely want to make decisions that will support a healthy pregnancy, you may decide to forego treatments or screenings that may not be medically necessary. You also can eliminate surprises on your bill by getting in touch with your health care provider’s insurance department to understand what your out-of-pocket responsibilities will be after insurance. A billing representative should be able to compare billing codes for services you have scheduled and run them through your insurance to see if they’re covered and what you may be responsible for. It may take some detective work, but the foresight could be well worth the effort.
When selecting a health care provider, make sure you find someone that is in-network and covered under your plan. And shop around for different health care systems and providers—costs can vary there, too.
If you’re considering having children and you’re near the open enrollment period for your insurance, you might also consider looking into your options and making changes. Moving to a lower-deductible plan or starting to defer more money to an HSA or FSA could help cover added costs associated with birth.
How should I save for childbirth?
Costs of childbirth are only the beginning of the investment you’ll make in your kids in their lifetimes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that parents can expect to spend around $233,610 (or $284,570 including projected inflation) to raise a child born in 2015—and that doesn’t include the cost of college.
In short, if you’re thinking of having a baby, it’s a good idea to start financially preparing for a baby. Start putting away money to cover birth costs and completing a few other financial tasks to prepare for a baby, like looking into adding a short-term disability policy to help cover potential lost income if you don’t have paid parental leave.
To save, you’ll likely have to revisit your monthly budget and financial plan. In doing so, it can also be a good idea to make room for costs that are coming beyond the pregnancy and birth. Discuss how you’ll save for college or whether you want additional life insurance to help protect your kids if anything should happen to you. (You may even consider buying life insurance on your kids, too.)
Adding a child to your family is an important life milestone, and it comes with many moving pieces. The good news is you don’t have to navigate this change alone. A Northwestern Mutual financial advisor can help you develop a financial plan to help support your growing family and make recommendations for life insurance policies that can protect what you’ve built.