The Troubling Price of Pregnancy in the U.S.

Epidural: $750. Thirty-minute fetal heart scan: $2,775. One day in the hospital: $6,000. Giving birth in the most expensive healthcare system in the world: Priceless?

The New York Times published a shocking report Monday revealing a critical but often overlooked flaw in our healthcare system: maternity care. A study cited in the article estimates that, on average, the total costs associated with a single childbirth reach about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery, and $50,000 for a C-section. With about four million births occurring in the U.S. each year, that's a $50 billion industry.

Future moms and dads can pay hundreds of dollars for just minutes of a doctor's time, or be charged exorbitant amounts for standard medical supplies and outdated equipment. On top of that, misleading price estimates often lead parents-to-be to agree to procedures that are both unnecessary and overpriced. American healthcare plans often don't cover these expenses, and the ones that do still leave patients with significant co-pays. Women whose healthcare plans do cover maternity care are now paying up to four times more out-of-pocket than they would have just ten years ago.

Breaking the bank in order to have a baby is a relatively new phenomenon in the States. The ballooning costs of pregnancy procedures in the last twenty or so years can be largely explained by the new practice of parceling up services into separate item-by-item charges. The list of expenses can grow so long that many exhausted parents-to-be don't even have the will or the energy to question the bill.

Our system is also markedly inefficient compared to other developed countries. In much of Europe, midwife-assisted births are commonplace. These no-frills services are far cheaper than the endless medical procedures American doctors tend to recommend, and manage to give mothers a sense of personal care often lost in the American hospital system. Worse yet, despite our extra spending, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of maternal deaths amongst industrialized nations.

Combine all that with the fact that the U.S. remains one of the only countries in the world that does not mandate a single day of paid maternity or paternity leave, and well, you have a problem. As usual, leave it to the Scandinavians to get this one right.

To learn more, Bustle recommends checking out The Business of Being Born :