profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Why This Couple Was Charged $39.35 to Hold Their Newborn

Were you nickle and dimed for delivery?
PUBLISHED ON 10/05/2016

Having a baby and raising a baby both come with a price tag. And apparently, so does holding that baby. That’s the surprise Utah parents Ryan Grassley and Lidia Cuevas Toribio faced when they received their hospital bill. So naturally, Grassley shared a snapshot of the labor and delivery charges online.

“I had to pay $39.35 to hold my baby after he was born,” Grassley writes on Reddit, sharing a photo of the bill with the $39.35 “skin-to-skin after c-sec” charge highlighted.

“The nurse let me hold the baby on my wife's neck/chest,” Grassley continues. “[She] even borrowed my camera to take a few pictures for us. Everyone involved in the process was great, and we had a positive experience. We just got a chuckle out of seeing that on the bill.”

While he shared the photo to get a laugh, Grassley inadvertently started a conversation about the state of health care in America. In the United States, the average cost of a vaginal delivery is $10,808, while c-sections average $16,106. As international folks made very clear on Grassley’s Reddit thread, those prices are extremely steep.

“Canadian here. I've never even seen a medical bill! I had no idea it cost $13G to deliver a baby.”

“Brit here. All free! And less of our taxes go towards [health care] than [in] the US system. Seeing a lactation consultant is also free because breastfed children are statistically less reliant on health services in the future. So it's actually a benefit to the health service to encourage breastfeeding. Health care should never have a profit motive.”

Janet Frank, a spokesperson for Utah Valley Hospital where the baby was born, explains the seemingly-ridiculous fee to PIX11, noting it covers the cost of an additional nurse in the room to facilitate skin-to-skin.

“In general, Utah Valley Hospital is an advocate for skin-to-skin contact between a mother and newborn directly after birth. Skin-to-skin is a best practice with proven benefits for both mom and baby. We do everything possible to allow skin-to-skin after both vaginal and c-section births,” Frank says. “In the case of a c-section, where the bedside caregiver is occupied caring for the mother during surgery, an additional nurse is brought into the operating room (OR) to allow the infant to remain in the OR suite with the mother. This is to ensure both patients remain safe. There is an additional charge associated with bringing an extra caregiver into the OR. The charge is not for holding the baby, but for the additional caregiver needed to maintain the highest levels of patient safety.”

Grassley has no qualms about paying the fee. “It was a very positive experience for us. This isn't the only bill we will receive but we knew what we were signing up for and have some money saved up,” he says. “All these internet points I've been showered with make me feel better about the $40. This could be my proudest moment as a father.”

It could also be Grassley’s last proud-new-dad moment. Continuing to poke fun at the bill, he started a GoFundMe page specifically for the $39.35 charge. “Any money donated over the $39.35 will be put towards a vasectomy because I never want to go through these sleepless new-baby nights again,” he writes in the description.

He’s currently $1 over.