(NewsNation) — While the happiness of welcoming a child into the world may seem priceless, the hospital bills that come along after the birth may be daunting.
A new study from QuoteWizard by LendingTree takes a closer look at the most expensive and least expensive states to bring a bundle of joy home to in the U.S.
The company compared the average cost of health insurance, child care, and child birth of both vaginal and Cesarean deliveries for people with and without insurance to come up with an average total cost in each state.
Researchers marked Alaska as the most expensive state to have a baby in with a total estimated cost of $37,261. The average cost of health insurance in the Last Frontier came out at $6,864 with child care at $11,104 and childbirth at $19,294.
After Alaska in the top spot, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin and New Jersey followed for the five most expensive places in the nation to have a baby. Each have a total cost of more than $32,000.
On the opposite end of the list, the study shows that Arkansas is the least expensive state to have a baby in with a total cost of $20,637. The state has an average cost of health insurance sitting at around $4,832, an average cost of child care at $6,184 and childbirth at $9,621.
Following Arkansas, the five least expensive states to have a baby in are Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico and Kentucky.
Nick VinZant is one of the co-authors of the study. He explained that a lot of the statistics are related to the services and cost of living in each state.
“Alaska is a little bit of aberration in that it’s not a very populous, very high cost of living state. But if you look at the other states that ranked very highly like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, those are all states that cost a good amount to live in,” VinZant said. “It pretty much follows that general pattern across the board. You look at the end states that are less expensive like New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, those are states that aren’t as costly to live in as the other states.”
Regardless of the state, VinZant believes having a child comes at a financially high price for parents in America.
“You look at it, anecdotally, the cost of other countries and the United States, even in the least expensive states, is paying significantly more,” VinZant said. “This is with health insurance, for the most part; if you don’t have health insurance, you could be paying three times more. I certainly think that we have reached the point where people are having to make a choice not to have children, because they can’t afford it. I can speak for my family. I have two children, I would love to have a third, but I don’t think that we can afford it.”
According to federal government officials, the birthrate in the U.S. had been on a steady decline since 2014. That’s until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System released data showing a 1% increase in the provisional birthrate when comparing 2021 to 2020. The 3,659,289 births in 2021 represents a year-over-year spike of around 46,000 births in the U.S.
From 2020 to 2021, the National Vital Statistics System reported that birth rates declined in women aged 15-24 and increased for women in age groups 25-49. Some believe people are waiting to have children until they are older due to career goals along with the expected and unexpected costs.
While VinZant says no two births are the same, some of the unexpected costs of having a baby may include: extra prenatal doctor visits; diagnostic testing; NIPS testing; Chorionic Villus sampling; additional ultrasounds; lab fees; the services of an anesthesiologist and epidural if used; extra medications; and nursery charges. This is not to mention the possibility of complications like anemia, dangerous umbilical cord positioning, heightened blood pressure or jaundice.
The costs have some people looking at alternatives to a hospital birth. Data from the CDC shows that from 2019 to 2020, home births spiked by 19% going from 38,506 in 2019 to 45,646 in 2020. Still, the National Institute of Health reports that the majority of people give birth in hospitals. In 2017, roughly 98% of women had their children in a hospital setting.
“I don’t think people really know what things cost, especially when we talk about health care. It’s very unclear and vague exactly how much something is going to cost you because there’s so many variables involved,” VinZant said. “I think that when you look at health care, a lot of times, the only thing you know going into it is what your premium is going to be and everything else is a little bit of a mystery.”
With that in mind, what can parents do when preparing to welcome a new baby into the world? Vinzant says to look closely at your insurance plan and examine the bills you receive from providers.
“Make sure that you understand and ask questions about the bills you are getting. In my personal experience when my wife and I had our oldest child, we were billed for things that were not correct,” VinZant said.
On a national scale, VinZant’s study says the average for childbirth is $11,687 with child care at $10,075 and health insurance at $5,227.