Is It Cheaper to Have a Baby or Adopt?

November is National Adoption Month, so it’s a good time to explore if it’s cheaper to adopt a baby or, well, give birth to one. Starting a family is a big deal — and it’s a lot more expensive than you think.

“Regardless of whether you choose adoption or giving birth, having a baby and adding another child to your family is expensive,” said Deb Meyer, CEO of WorthyNest, a fee-only financial planning firm based in St. Charles, Mo., that serves young families. “Even before you give birth or adopt, the cost of diapers, wipes and nursery furnishings start to add up.”

Giving birth and adopting leads to the same outcome, but they come with very different costs. Here’s what you can expect to pay in giving birth and adopting.

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pregnant mother at the doctor
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Cost of Giving Birth

The cost of childbirth in the U.S. is among the highest in the developed world. Worse, it can be hard knowing ahead of time what you’ll pay.

Just as the cost of raising a family varies state by state, so do hospital fees. Your costs also depend heavily on whether you have insurance, what type of birth you have and if there are any complications, said Jeremy Resmer, founder of FundYourAdoption.tv, which helps families adopt children at low costs.

Here are five major costs in childbirth to consider:

1. Prenatal Care

An important part of any pregnancy is maintaining good prenatal care. If you don’t have health insurance, you can expect to pay around $2,000 for this care, which typically includes a prenatal vitamin regimen and diagnostic tests, like ultrasounds and other preventive care measures.

2. Birthing Classes

Hospitals and birthing centers provide birth and labor classes, including the Lamaze and Bradley methods. You’ll generally find four- to six-week classes costing about $60 to $100, according to Parents.com.

3. Vaginal Birth

A study of maternity care costs by Castlight Health found that not only does the cost of a vaginal birth vary greatly from one city to the next, it even varied within the same cities. For instance, the average prices for a routine delivery ranged from $4,022 to $17,646 in New York City. In Los Angeles, costs ranged between $4,223 and $27,326.

Sacramento, Calif., was the most expensive city to have a routine delivery, the Castlight Health study found. There, the typical cost was around $15,420. The least expensive city, by average, was Kansas City, Mo., at $6,075.

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4. Birthing Center

If you experience a low-risk pregnancy and decide to have your baby in a birthing center, you’ll likely pay less than at a hospital. Some women prefer birthing centers, where they can have a baby in a home-like setting. The average cost of this type of delivery, plus prenatal care, is about $3,000, according to 2014 estimates from WhattoExpect.com.

5. C-Section

If you need a C-section, the procedure can significantly increase the price of giving birth. The lowest average cost among cities included in the Castlight Health study is $6,891, in Pittsburgh. The most expensive, $27,067, belongs to Sacramento, Calif.

parents with infant son
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Cost of Adopting a Child

How much does it cost to adopt a child? In truth, it varies. Many types of adoptions are available, and each has different costs associated with them. You can adopt a child living in foster care or take in a child who is expected to become available for adoption, for example. Infant adoptions are popular, with more people looking to adopt infants than there are available, according to the National Adoption Center.

See: 15 Celebrities Who Chose Adoption

Creating a Family, an adoption and infertility organization, said a domestic adoption through an agency can cost from $5,000 to over $40,000, with nearly 60 percent of these adoptions falling between $10,000 and $30,000. Other adoption agencies will have a sliding-fee scale that bases costs on your income.

Explore these five common fees associated with adoption costs:

1. Agency Fee

Your biggest cost will be the price for hiring an agency that matches you with a child. In 2011, the Child Welfare Information Gateway showed that adopting through a licensed private agency could cost between $5,000 and $40,000, whereas intercountry adoptions cost between $15,000 and $30,000. Adopting through foster care was the cheapest form of adoption, with pricing between $0 and $2,500. However, foster children might have certain needs, such as a requirement to be placed with siblings. Other foster children might be older, in a minority group or have disabilities.

2. Travel

Even if you adopt domestically, you might be required to make last-minute travel plans to get your child, especially if you are adopting a newborn and want to be there for the birth. Obviously, travel and lodging costs can add up quickly, so make sure you factor this into your overall expenses.

3. Time

Don’t underestimate how much time you’ll spend adopting a baby from an agency. Time is money, after all. The adoption process can be long, and you might be asked to document everything from taking parenting classes to having enough emergency supplies in a disaster.

4. Miscellaneous Costs

It’s a broad category, but don’t overlook budgeting for miscellaneous costs. You might have to pay for background checks, counseling for the birth mother, plus lost wages and cellphone bills.

Although adoption can be cheaper than birthing a child, your costs could come without the guarantee of having your adoption go through. Review potential costs for all the options you have before committing to starting or expanding your family.

Michael Galvis contributed for the reporting of this article.