An experienced parent tells the real story.

Quick notes

– Arm yourself by knowing how much it costs to have a baby.
– Avoid hidden costs. Know exactly how your insurance policy works.
– Ask for itemized bills after the birth.

It’s no secret that having a baby isn’t cheap. Not. At. All. But while the expenses for your pregnancy and setting up your home for baby’s arrival can be expectedly significant, there’s one area where costs can add up without realizing it: hospital labor and delivery costs.

While you can’t put a price tag on the value of a healthy delivery, there are ways to keep medical expenses at your child’s birth from skyrocketing out of control. We’ve got the details.

Get to know the most basic medical birth costs

So, how much does it actually cost to have a baby? Get fluent in these facts before the baby arrives. Expect there to be costs for your delivery doctors, medications, the anesthesiologists, after birth visits from the pediatrician and more.

Once you’ve got your baseline knowledge set, it helps to know what can change. Obviously, if there are medical interventions like a c-section or induced labor the price tag will accelerate. In addition, there are a number of options for pain mitigation and a variety of specialists that might be needed for a safe birth. These also add to your hospital bill.

Knowing the basics of your plan can put you in the driver’s seat for controlling costs. Investing in some research is worth the time.

Of course, most of these decisions shouldn’t be made on the basis of cost alone. The primary goal of the delivery is a safe birth. If your doctor recommends something, do it and worry about the costs later. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of cost-saving choices in the meantime that can be made differently. Don’t be cheap, but keep an eye out for those.

Get real about what’s covered by your insurance policy

Every insurance policy is different, so get to know how yours works. Start by understanding the structure and limits of your deductible and co-pays. You’re going to want to know exactly when you’ve passed your deductible limit and the insurance policy has to cover more, if not all, of the costs.

Also, be sure to know what kinds of things are covered and what are considered out-of-pocket expenses. Is a doula or Midwife allowed by your policy terms? Are certain types of natural-medications paid for? Is a lactation consultant covered and, if so, how many visits? Also, are specialist visits to your home after the birth covered or only visits made in the hospital?

If you have a healthcare savings account, take the extra step to know what the process is for submitting expenses so that bills are ultimately paid from that account rather than by you. The savings account might cover a wider list of items including some out-of-pocket expenses that your insurance policy doesn’t pay directly.

Birth plans and pre-birth discussions can help

Before the birth, as you’re talking to your doctor about your birth plan, include a discussion about what could happen and the costs for the kinds of choices you and your doctor might make during delivery. If your doctor’s office isn’t sure about specifics for each possible cost, don’t hesitate to talk to hospital billing about it and to share that information with your doctor.

Birth plans are great tools to help you talk to your doctor and stay in control of the costs and the entire process. Take a look at this sample template to get you started, but customize it for your needs.

If you have a healthcare savings account, know what the process is for submitting expenses so that bills are ultimately paid from that account rather than by you. The savings account might cover a wider list of items including some out-of-pocket expenses that your insurance policy doesn’t pay directly.

Another area to research within your insurance policy is the list of providers they have that is considered in-network. Your doctor and hospital of choice are likely to be included on this list. However, what about the anesthesiologist or any other kind of specialist? Work with your provider or hospital to understand what these options are and try to list out preferences in your birth plan.

In short, while you can’t control which specialists the hospital will assign during your birth, having preferences detailed ahead of time may help.

After the fact, expect a lot of bills. Once you get them, follow up

Once the baby is born and you’re all safely tucked away at home, there’s a good chance that receipts for your medical bills are going to start to roll in. Be sure to understand what everything is charging for and don’t hesitate to ask for bills to be itemized if they aren’t already presented that way.

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As you’re looking through your bills, keep an eye out for any unexpected out-of-network providers and question the charge amounts for services. This is where you have to put your inner negotiator to work! In addition, be sure that everything possible has been charged against your deductible and that, if your deductible has been met, all of the costs are being paid by your policy.

If all of this seems overwhelming to do when you have a new baby to take care of, there are patient advocates available for just this purpose. They can work with you to understand your policy and talk to your insurance providers about what’s covered. They can make a difference in the quality of your life, and of your finances, after your birth.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

Want to learn more? Check out these sources:

Giving Birth Has Hidden Costs: Huffington Post

The Insane Things Hospitals Can Charge You For When You Give Birth: Vice