The cost of childbirth varies greatly depending on location, any complications that occur, and whether its a normal delivery or a cesarean section, but today, the average expectant couple can anticipate the doctor and hospital's charges on their insurance statements to be anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000. Comparing this to the cost of giving birth more than half of a century ago, and many may wish they were born in a different era:
Cost of labor and delivery in the 1940s and '50s
Childbirth receipt from 1943. Total of $29.50. We all know even a single Tylenol will cost you way more than a dollar in today’s hospitals. Then there is five dollars for anesthesia.
The 1940s was a time when you couldn't chow down during delivery and even the dad was relegated to the waiting room, often with a burning cigarette in hand. Childbirth had been moving to the hospital from the home during this time, and hospitals were trying to take extra care in ensuring moms and babies were safe. This led to a couple of decades where it was considered safe to keep the baby mostly away from the mother during their stay, and you'll often hear stories of mom seeing their babies during limited "visiting" hours.
Also as of this time, the modern pregnancy test had not yet been invented, and the only laboratory tests available to confirm pregnancy involved injecting the mother's urine into either a mouse or a rabbit.
Throughout the '40s and '50s, epidurals were exceptionally rare, there was no such thing as an ultrasounds to hear the baby's heart beat or discover the baby's sex, …
… and butter was a separate, seventh food group.
Rising cost of childbirth for the 1970s
By the 1970s, doctor's offices could perform a pregnancy test in as few as two hours, epidurals were becoming more common but twilight sleep was still a thing, ultrasounds still weren't too common, and butter wasn't in any of the four food categories after having become one of the undesignated "other foods."
In 1978, Good Housekeeping published a table showing the average cost of childbirth in select cities. Altogether, the average came out to about $1,500.
Cost of labor and delivery escalates quickly through the '90s
If the cost of giving birth had kept to the cost of inflation since the 1950s, a normal delivery would run around $1,000 today. Obviously, this is not close to the case. From 1996 to 2013 alone, the prices tripled. Then there are those rare occurrences where labor and delivery and other factors come together to create eye-opening viral photos like these:
The picture above, originally posted by Twitter user @YumiYoko, shows the expenses for a cesarean section at a hospital in Philadelphia.
In 1943, a $30 bill for childbirth would account for 1.5% of the average annual income of $2,000. By 1978, a $1,500 bill for labor and delivery grows to 14% of the average annual income of $10,550. If we were to pin current expenses at around $10,000—again it varies greatly—and the average household makes $52,000, child delivery accounts for 20% of that first year's income.
These figures may make it seem like the cost of delivery has unnecessarily risen these last decades, but today's child delivery does include many technologies not available more than half of a century ago. Epidurals alone account for a large portion of the cost of delivery today but were not available in decades past. In addition, thanks to various safety measures and discoveries in science, the infant mortality rate has decreased by 88 percent. In this respect, any additional costs are well worth the future well-being of the child.
Cord blood banking can be considered one step toward taking control of the rising cost of healthcare. By preserving a baby's cord blood stem cells, parents could save thousands in medical fees including the estimated $40,000 it currently takes to retrieve matching stem cells from a public cord bank.