Approximately 10,000 babies are born each day in the United States. For many parents, the life-changing experience is welcomed with open arms and, less enthusiastically, with open wallets. 

The cost of diapers, formula, day care and more, all add up. Many expenses begin accumulating even before a baby is born.

“Prenatal care and childbirth are very expensive,” says Jamie Daw, an associate professor of health policy and management at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.  

“It can be tricky to figure out the costs of anything in the U.S. health care system.”

That’s especially true during pregnancy, when you want to focus on more important things, like your health and the health of your baby.

Experts say it’s important not to forego recommended care to save money, but if the costs and bureaucracy of the insurance process seem daunting, there are tips to keep in mind to help you prepare.  

First, if you’re not already insured, look into getting medical coverage as soon as possible. 

You can start by researching Medicaid options. Even if you were not previously eligible for Medicaid, you might qualify while pregnant, regardless of immigration status.

“Pregnancy Medicaid is required for all states to offer,” says Daw, “and actually, almost half of all births in the US are covered by Medicaid.”

If you qualify, Medicaid will help cover virtually all costs associated with prenatal care and delivery. If your income makes you ineligible, there are other options to consider.  

“You can get emergency Medicaid that will at least cover the costs of your delivery,” says Daw.  

In some states, pregnancy also allows you an opportunity to sign up for marketplace insurance outside regular enrollment periods.

Once you are insured, you can prevent some unexpected costs by finding an in-network OBGYN —meaning your appointments will be covered by your insurance plan.

Making sure your OBGYN is in-network is crucial, but Daw says there’s another important consideration. “You want to make sure that if you’re seeing that provider, the hospital they’re affiliated with is also in network.”  

Once you’re insured, and you’ve checked that your doctor and hospital are in network, you’ll also want to find out what care is and is not covered under your plan.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, prenatal care is exempt from your deductible and has to be covered at no cost to you. So that means there’s no co-payments for your prenatal care,” Daw explains.  

However, that only covers doctor’s visits. Procedures like bloodwork and ultrasounds may not be covered in your plan. 

Then there are the costs associated with delivery, which can vary widely depending on the type of delivery and even which hospital you go to.  

“I think the average vaginal birth costs out of pocket around $2,600 for the average cesarean birth for someone who’s privately insured is closer to $4000.” 

With so many variables, it’s hard to predict exactly what prenatal care and delivery will cost. 

But most insurers have online tools that will allow you to estimate a range so you have some idea what to expect. Experts suggest doing your research well before you’re in labor, so when the time comes you can focus on giving birth, and not worry about the math.  

“It’s not incredibly transparent,” says Daw. “It requires patients to do a little digging, unfortunately, but it’s worth spending the time to try to get those answers in advance.”