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Readers respond: Birth centers should be 'more available option'

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Wednesday on this blog and on Take Two, I delved into the cost of having a child at a birthing center. I explained that it can definitely be cost-effective, at a societal level, for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth outside of the hospital. But I pointed out that it's harder to determine whether individual mamas will save money using a birthing center.

That led me to ask our blog readers and Take Two audience a couple of questions: Did you have a child at a birthing center? If so, was it cost-effective for you?

Several people responded and provided thoughtful answers on KPCC's Facebook page. Their answers are below. If you've used a birthing center, or have considered this option, please join this conversation!

She'd use a birthing center if insurance covered it

Hilary Schardein says she's given birth in both a birthing center and a hospital. She says the birthing center should've been less expensive, but it wasn't.

When she gave birth at the birthing center, she says she used no medication – not even an IV. She went home three hours after her daughter was born.

But, she says, she was unpleasantly surprised to learn that her insurance plan "only covered 60% of what they deem to be reasonable cost, not 60% of the actual bill." In the end, she says, she paid more than $5,000 out of pocket.

She later had her son at a Kaiser hospital. For that birth, she says, she had an epidural and spent two days in the hospital.  She says she paid $500 up front and never received another bill.

"The experience of the birth center was something I'm glad I had, but the financial cost wouldn't be worth it to me to do again," Schardein writes. "If insurance actually covered it, I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Birthing centers should be "a more available option"

Erin Senge had her first two children at a Kaiser hospital in Southern California and recently had her third at a birthing center in Washington.

The hospital births included epidurals and cost just $250 each. "At that rate, it didn't make sense for us to spend thousands more on a birth center, or even a doula, since Kaiser insurance wouldn't cover either option," Senge writes.

Under her new insurance plan in Washington, she estimated that a hospital birth would cost her between $6,000 and $7,000 out of pocket. Meanwhile, at a birth center nearby, she was told the out-of-pocket cost, including prenatal care, would be about $1,850.

She went with the birth center, because of cost and because she says she was interested in "a more natural birthing experience." This time, she was in labor for two hours with no medicine or interventions, and recovered there for two hours, she says.

She says she's still awaiting the bill but described the experience as "wonderful." 

"I wish birth centers were a more available option for every woman, even within the hospitals," Senge says.

Whether you had your baby at a birthing center or a hospital, we want to hear from you: Share your childbirth costs here with our #PriceCheck project. If something shocked you about your bill, you can also e-mail me at And please help us spread the word about #PriceCheck and our #JustAsk initiative on social media!