For Earth Day, I want to share a few facts with you. First, birth is a natural process that has been going on since the first mammals graced our planet. Second, birth has become extremely medicalized and expensive. As of 2015, 32.0% of births in the United States and 41.4% at Canton-Potsdam Hospital were by cesarean section. The national average cost in 2011 for a cesarean section ranged from $17,859 to $23,923. Hospital vaginal births ranged from $10,657 to $13,749, while a vaginal birth at a birth center was $2,277.
Don’t get me wrong – hospitals are great if something goes wrong. I would much rather see women have access to a cesarean when they need one than to not have access. Medical interventions can mean the difference between mother and baby surviving and not. As a member of the human race and someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and helping laboring women, I know how valuable interventions can be. But that doesn’t mean that everyone should be spending tens of thousands of dollars to give birth. And a woman who is healthy should have the option to give birth in a space that doesn’t come with the costs and risks associated with hospitals.
Why are hospital births so expensive? There are a lot of pieces in play there. Adriana Lozada of the Birthful Podcast has an excellent interview with Nate Dallas that goes over the expenses of birth and how to finance for yours. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of what you’re paying for and how to afford it, listen to this podcast. But the short answer is that hospital births are expensive because they need to plan for all the possible problems and they also have a lot of waste. All the sterile only-to-be-used-once items need to be purchased for each patient and then thrown away. All those Peri Bottles and non-slip socks cost money. The packaging for your blood draw costs money. The mandatory Pitocin drip following birth to prevent hemorrhaging (standard practice at CPH) costs money.
I don’t think that everyone should be giving birth in a field with no medical support. I also know that we have to work with what we have. But, when many people are able to have complication-free vaginal births, they shouldn’t have to choose between giving birth in a hospital and having an unassisted birth. As of June of this year, we will no longer have a licensed homebirth midwife in St. Lawrence County. We have no birth centers here. There are very few options for how women can give birth and this is absurd.
I’ll end by leaving all the human-rights and feminist arguments aside and just speaking for the Earth. If we want to leave the smallest impact possible on our planet, we need more options for birth here. We and the Earth deserve that.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.