How Much Does an Epidural Cost?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 9, 2018

An epidural refers to the space around the dura mater of one’s spinal cord where a pain-killing treatment, or anesthetic, is inserted through a fine tube.  This blocks the nerves from sending and receiving signals, allowing the patient to feel no pain in the area below the epidural.

Most often, an epidural is associated with a pregnancy, although it can also be applied for the treatment of sciatica and neuralgia.

jlb_birth-97 by MammaLoves, on Flickr
jlb_birth-97” (CC BY 2.0) by MammaLoves

How much does an epidural cost?

The costs of an epidural will depend on the hospital you’re attending the anesthesiologist you’re using.  On average, plan on budgeting around $800 to $1,800 for an epidural without any sort of insurance.  If you do have health insurance, check with your policy to see what is going to be covered.

Forum members on What To Expect talked about what they had paid for an epidural.  According to the replies, one woman was billed $1,500, whereas another was charged $900.  In both circumstances, their insurance policy paid the bill and they were only responsible for their deductibles.

On BabyCenter.com, forum members also talked about the prices they had paid, and according to their responses, the costs were anywhere from $1,200 to $2,200 for those who didn’t have any sort of insurance.

Lastly, TheBump.com had another large forum thread, with members reporting paying anywhere from $1,000 to have insurance covering close to 80 percent of the bill.

Epidural overview

Before the epidural is even administered, fluids will be started to help keep your blood pressure stable, as this is a common side effect for those who receive an epidural.  These IV fluids will also make it easier to administer the drug.

During the process, you will be asked to lie on your side or sit leaning forward, curling up tightly so the anesthetist is able to see the path of your spine.

After your back is washed with a cold liquid and sanitized using a special formula, a hollow needle will be inserted between the vertebrae in your back, followed by a thin tube which will be passed through.  The anesthetic will be introduced slowly through the tube to numb the lower portion of your abdomen.  It can take up to 45 minutes before the medication will take full effect, but in most circumstances, some relief can be felt in as little as 10 minutes.

What are the extra costs?

The epidural, of course, is just part of the birth process.  Birth delivery, on a whole, can reach well into the thousands when your epidural is factored in.  We went more in depth on baby delivery costs here.

Tips to know:

Using an epidural to reduce pain during labor can be very effective; however, it also poses some potentially negative effects.  An epidural can affect the hormones, and this can have quite a few adverse effects.  First, a woman may become loopy and unable to follow instructions given by the doctor.  Second, it is thought that having an epidural will cause your labor to be much longer than it would have been without it.  Another negative outcome of having an epidural is that you are 2.5 times more likely to need a C-section.  These are only a few of the reasons why some people think epidurals should be avoided.

Other minor side effects include numbness, headaches, a blood pressure drop, backaches, nerve damage, and/or shivering.

Epidural anesthesia is one of most popular, albeit controversial, forms of treatment to reduce pain in labor and childbirth.

How can I save money?

Again, check with your health insurance provider to know how they would cover this procedure.  As long as it’s deemed medically necessary, most health insurance companies will cover it, but in some circumstances, even if they say they will cover it, it may be only a portion of it.  For instance, on Babble.com, someone reported they had insurance covered all but $120 of their $1,200 epidural fees.  For those who do not have a health insurance policy, eHealthInsurance.com can help you sort through thousands of options.

To keep costs low, consider having a natural birth.  While painful, it does mean you won’t need an epidural, Pitocin, etc.


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