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

baby babies newborn infant FILE Changes Announced In Maternity Services

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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


#PriceCheck: How much does it cost to have a baby at a birthing center?

Birthing Center

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Elizabeth Bachner is a midwife and acupuncturist and owner of GraceFull, a birthing center in Silverlake. She's sitting on a stool that women can use during childbirth.

Birthing Center

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Elizabeth Bachner is a midwife and acupuncturist and owner of GraceFull, a birthing center in Silverlake. She demonstrates how women can use a swing to ease their childbirth.

Birthing Center

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

GraceFull, a birthing center in Silverlake, has two birthing centers. Each comes with a bed and tub.

Last week, we started crowdsourcing the cost of childbirth.

In a blog post introducing this next phase of our #PriceCheck project, I pointed out the huge variation in average charge prices between a vaginal birth in a birthing center in California in 2010 ($1,980) and an uncomplicated vaginal birth in a hospital ($15,760).

That led me to wonder: Why would the charged price in a birthing center be so much cheaper than in a hospital? Keeping in mind that charged prices are often extremely inflated, I also wondered: Once insurance is factored in, is it cost-effective for women to give birth in birthing centers?

'A safe option'

I asked the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for its opinion on birthing centers, and I was referred to Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She says accredited birthing centers using licensed midwives can be a good option for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies who want a low-intervention birth in a home-like setting.


Health Highlights: Crowdsourcing birth costs, naming babies to prevent mistakes

Will Murphy via Flickr Creative Commons

Babies are crawling throughout the news this week! Check out several stories about infant health in this week’s installment of Health Highlights.

#PriceCheck: How much does childbirth cost in SoCal?

As part of our #PriceCheck project, we’re crowdsourcing the cost of giving birth in Southern California.

Here's how it works: If you or someone you know recently gave birth, we hope you’ll grab your Explanation of Benefits and go here to share three pieces of information with us. We're looking for what the facility charged for the care, what insurance paid and what you paid.

If something shocked you about your bill, you can also e-mail me directly at

Waiting to pick your baby's name raises the risk for medical mistakes

Parents may have little control over the bill for childbirth, but they do have control over at least one thing that can affect a child's health: The name.


#PriceCheck: How much does childbirth cost in SoCal?

Howard Ignatius via Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past two months, we've been crowdsourcing the cost of colonoscopies through our #PriceCheck project.

A lot of you shared your bills with us, and we found a huge variation in charges for this common (and dreaded!) procedure. Several of you told me that you were shocked by these high listed prices, even if insurance picked up most of the tab.

Starting this week, we're soliciting prices for another extremely common condition: Giving birth.

Childbirth is a fertile topic (sorry) for #PriceCheck: It's the leading cause of hospital admission in the country, but costs vary significantly. A recent article in the journal Health Affairs finds a ten-fold variation in 2011 in the average cost of low-risk childbirths. The authors analyzed costs at 463 hospitals and found a range from about $1,200 to almost $12,000. Our friends at also found a wide range in prices.


Health Highlights: Birth control costs drop, assisted suicide bill stalls

Sarah Mirk via Flickr Creative Commons

This week's top consumer health stories are about drugs and dying. Check them out and let me know about other health stories you're reading this week.

A proposed tool to help doctors, patients weigh value of cancer treatments

I reported this week on a draft framework that the American Society of Clinical Oncology has developed for assessing the value of cancer treatment options. The society recommends that doctors and patients work together to weighing the clinical efficacy, toxicity and cost of various treatments.

I also discussed this new approach during our weekly Impatient segment on Take Two.

Are you currently weighing different cancer treatment options, or have you recently gone through this process? If so, please share your story below or e-mail me at