Flashback – Cost of Birth in America in 1957

My mom emailed me the coolest thing today. A copy of the hospital bill that my Grandmother received when my mom was born. She stayed at the hospital for 5 days after the birth and it cost only $19/day. Baby care was only $4/day. The delivery room charge was $20 and drugs were $16.05. Her total hospital bill? $196.80 with a $20 copay. Amazing.

I tried to locate the hospital bill from having my daughter, Camden, in 2004 but was unable to find it. I did find the bill for the anesthesiologist and the cost of only the epidural was $1302.00. Quite the difference.

Just to throw in some fun statistics that I’ve been playing with:

The average income in 1957 was about $5000/yr. So if you take insurance out of the equation the bill would have been approximately 3.9% of the household income.

Compare that to today. The average vaginal birth is estimated around $9,000 (according to the March of Dimes, as of 2004) and the median household income as of 2006 was $48,000. So, without insurance the average vaginal birth is 18.6% of the median household income.

A huge difference.

That also doesn’t take into account that the hospital stay back then was for 5 days for both mother and baby and the typical stay for a vaginal birth today is 24-48 hours. The 3.9%  in 1957 becomes 2.6% if you change it to a 2 day stay for both mom and baby.

Also, from my own experience a typical vaginal birth costs much, much more than $9,000. I was actually shocked by this statistic since my own experience and hearing the experience of others I had heard that typical vaginal births are more like $15,000-$20,000.


  1. Phil White · April 17, 2009

    Thanks for the info — I’m going to place your link in my soon to be released book called Men at Birth — wow what a clue to how medicine has changed. You can read excerpts from the book at the website above.

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  3. Melissa from Pittsburgh · August 5, 2008

    That is amazing insight … thanks for sharing.

  4. americanmum · August 5, 2008

    The actual dollar figures didn’t surprise me a whole lot…but two things jumped out…

    1) my mom is from Pasadena as well; probably born in that same hospital;


    2) your mother was born in 1957? I’m old.

  5. chandra · August 5, 2008

    How very interesting…

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