Holistic medicine has taken center stage in an era when more and more citizens are growing weary of Big Pharma’s promises and more unpronounceable chemicals make their way into foods, medicines, and treatments. Moms in particular have spearheaded movements that demand accountability for the chemicals in medications, vaccines, and other substances that affect them during pregnancy and their children.
As documented in The Longest Shortest Time, a podcast about parenthood, women have begun to equate their motherhood capabilities with natural vaginal deliveries, but there are some not so fun side effects that can accompany natural childbirth. Whereas doctors are legally required to inform women of the potential consequences of performing a C-section, there are no such legal warnings for regular childbirth. More and more women are turning to home births, facilitated by a midwife or a doula, to mitigate costs and to experience a more holistic birthing experience in the comfort of their own homes.
Studies have demonstrated that home births are generally considered safe and cost effective alternatives to hospital births for low-risk pregnancies. A 2014 study indicated that women who are aided by a birth doula experience fewer emergency C-sections and advocated for increased access of doulas to Black women, who reported that they would like a doula but could not afford one.
Insurance companies are very accustomed to covering the costs of hospital births, both natural and via C-section. Some insurance plans will in fact cover the costs of a midwife or a doula, but so few women request these services that information is often scant at best, making the process of procuring coverage cumbersome and tedious. For those that do choose to cover home births, charges are billed as an out-of-network health care provider, and the paperwork will be relatively straightforward from there, assuming your midwife or doula of choice is familiar with the working of the insurance world.
In some cases, though, it may not be so easy, and you’ll have to appeal and petition for the insurance company to cover the costs. Multiple chat forums have discussed the best ways for expecting mothers to word their requests, and many have posted templates of the letters they used to obtain the coverage they needed.
As an aside, it seems odd that insurance companies encourage women to chose the more expensive route. WhoTV in Iowa reported a story on the costs of home births versus hospital births. For one woman, the bill at a hospital totalled $20,000, all of which was covered by insurance. She hired a midwife for the birth of her second child, which costed her $5,500, all of which she had to pay out of pocket. In the case of another Iowa family, their insurance covered the prenatal care provided by a midwife, but not the actual birth.
Talk with your insurance provider to see what the pathway to coverage for your home birth would be. It may take some time and persistence, but if a home birth is the best option for you and your family, you may be able to make it work.