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Understanding The Cost Of Private Maternity Care In The UK

Note: You may also wish to read an updated version of this article which specifically covers the costs involved in giving birth in a private maternity hospital in London, UK.

So, you’ve decided to opt for private maternity care. You’ve weighed all the options, considered the different factors and, really and truly, you want the reassurance. You know what a great job the NHS does, but when it comes to your pregnancy, you want one-to-one care in immaculate surroundings. Whether it’s your first baby, you’re an over-35 mum, or simply a woman who expects the best, it’s perfectly understandable. But it’s important to know and anticipate – how much does it cost?

The good news is that we can guide you – the bad news is that the answer isn’t straightforward. We’ve presented an overview to help you understand the different factors on which costs depend. You can then approach your desired consultant or hospital to work out a more accurate figure.

A good starting point is understanding the essential components that make up private maternity care costs.

  • The Obstetrician Fee
    This is usually between £3,500 and £8,000, and depends on how far you are into your pregnancy when you engage your consultant’s services. Fees around the £8,000 mark will see you through all your antenatal check-ups from the first trimester, and include delivery. If you begin obstetrician-led care later in your pregnancy, say week 35, you can expect to pay less.

  • Routine Antenatal Scans and Blood Tests
    Set aside around £500 for routine pathology tests such as chicken pox, antenatal profile testing and Group B Streptococcus. In certain instances, additional blood tests may be required, which can increase the cost up to £2,000.

    Scanning will cost around £1,000 and usually includes all those detailed in our Pregnancy Scans Guide, apart from the Reassurance Scan. Some couples choose to get their two free NHS scans – Nuchal Translucency Scan or 12 Week Scan and Anomaly Scan or 20 Week Scan, and have the rest undertaken privately, in which case that figure would be several hundred pounds lower. Some (although not many) consultant packages will include scans and pathology tests in their overall package fee.

  • The Hospital Fee
    The hospital fee varies. For a normal vaginal delivery with no complications, fees range from £1,600 (outside of London), to around £5,900 for a delivery in London’s most exclusive private maternity hospital. Remember that there will be things that this fee does not include – such as anaesthetist fees and paediatrician checks. You should also account for any possible Contingencies and Emergencies, for example a caesarean, or neonatal care.

Midwife-led Care
A few private maternity hospitals offer midwife-led care options for low risk, expectant mothers. This is a package in which all antenatal care appointments and the delivery itself is undertaken by an experienced midwife. With this option you do not pay an additional consultant obstetrician fee, however if your status changes to high risk during your pregnancy and you need to be transferred to consultant-led care, you would be charged at consultant-led rates.

When you go for an initial consultation, your medical history will be discussed to ascertain whether you are eligible for this option. You are more likely to be considered low risk if you have had a baby before, however, if you are diabetic or you have a history of pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, you may not be deemed suitable.

A midwife-led care package in one of London’s leading private hospitals is priced at £8,550 from the 12th week of pregnancy.

Contingencies and Emergencies
Be aware that when you sit down to do your figures, they can only ever be a guesstimate. Even if you’re deemed low risk, even if you’ve secured the best antenatal care possible, childbirth is unpredictable, so it’s best to pre-empt all scenarios.

For instance, you may require more time in hospital. An extra night’s stay will cost in the region of £1,000 per night, and, if you need an emergency caesarean, it will generally raise the cost of delivery by £1,500 or more. An epidural will sometimes be included in costs, others will include the first dose and charge for any extra top-ups.

In the unlikely event that your baby requires neonatal care, a private hospital may be able to provide it at an extra charge. This can be in excess of £3,000 per day in some instances. If you are particularly worried about any such costs then one option is to choose a private wing attached to an NHS hospital. Assuming you are eligible for NHS care in the UK, your baby would then receive expert neonatal care free of charge in the NHS unit.

Cost scenarios
Ultimately the more outcomes you consider, the better. It can be unpleasant to plan this way – but it offers a greater peace of mind ahead of your delivery. We have put together a couple of scenarios so you can have an idea of the overall cost in a top London based, private maternity hospital.

Example 1:

Obstetrician fee:£7,000
Routine antenatal scans:£1,000
Routine blood tests:£500
Hospital fee for a normal delivery plus first 24 hours:£5,900
Epidural including anaesthetists fee:£890
10 hr postnatal midwifery care:£1,000
Total:£16,290

Example 2:

Obstetrician fee:£7,000
Routine antenatal scans:£1,000
Routine blood tests:£1,000
Hospital fee for an emergency caesarean section plus first 24 hours:£7,300
Three additional nights in a standard room:£4,200
Epidural including anaesthetists fee and top up:£965
10 hr postnatal midwifery care:£1,000
Total:£22,465

Please note that these examples are indicative costs only. The estimated prices are correct as of August 2012.

Are you insured?
Most UK insurers view pregnancy as a choice, rather than a medical condition, so antenatal care and delivery will most likely not be covered, except in cases of a medically necessary caesarean.

However, there are exceptions – often for foreign nationals who have international insurance policies. Even in such an instance, many of these companies view pregnancy as in effect a ‘pre-existing condition’ – so you would need to be covered before you actually become pregnant. If in doubt, the best thing to do is to check with your insurer. And even if you are one of the lucky ones who is covered, you must make sure you check exactly what for – it’s highly likely that there will be exclusions.

Best facilities
For many expectant families a major benefit of private maternity care is receiving world-class consultant-led care, in some of the UK’s leading Private Maternity Hospitals. Ensuring your stay is a happy and memorable experience is of utmost priority and naturally, you can expect the best in modern facilities. Some hospitals will offer upgrade options to deluxe rooms or suites after the first 24-hours, which offer hotel-like services for an additional fee. All hospitals have different benefits included, so it’s well worth comparing facilities on an individual basis.

As you’re adding up the costs and making important decisions regarding your care, it’s a good idea to consider your priorities, to help you to make the right choices. It can be time-consuming and expensive but it’s wise to remember why you’re doing it. Private maternity can provide you with the very best support throughout your pregnancy, and offers the most comfortable surroundings available to women during this special time.

(Please note that these examples are indicative costs only. The estimated prices are correct as of August 2012).

Related Video: What To Expect From A Private Maternity Hospital

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