When you’re pregnant, you need more than an annual visit to a primary care professional to stay healthy. You need prenatal care. This means a lot more visits to a doctor, midwife, or nurse practitioner.
If you don’t have health insurance and are worried about how to pay for prenatal care, there are many organizations that offer low-cost or even free care during pregnancy.
You have several options for finding low-cost or free prenatal care. Some options are completely free, while others use a sliding scale, meaning your price will depend on your ability to pay. Resources include:
Your local health department
Your local health department is a great place to start your search for prenatal care. They can connect you to a prenatal clinic in your area and to other local resources.
You can find your local health department by calling either 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229) for English or 1-800-504-7081 for Spanish.
Community health centers
Community health centers are federally funded healthcare facilities that provide free and low-cost care. They provide both primary and prenatal care. Your cost will be based on your income.
Find a Health Center is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) service to help locate a community health center in your area.
The Hill-Burton Act, also called The Hospital Survey and Construction Act, is a 1946 law that provides federal funding to hospitals and healthcare facilities. In order to receive that funding, facilities need to provide service without discrimination and are required to provide free care to a “reasonable amount” of people each year.
That free care includes prenatal care. You don’t need to be a United States citizen, so Hill-Burton facilities are a great option for undocumented immigrants who need healthcare. However, you’ll need to meet income requirements to qualify for the program.
Apply at your local Hill-Burton facility by contacting the admissions office in your state or area.
Planned Parenthood provides a wide variety of healthcare services and resources. You can get care such as pregnancy testing and also get connected with other low-cost facilities for prenatal in your area. Planned Parenthood can even help you figure out if you qualify for health insurance in your area. They use a sliding scale for payment, so you’ll only pay what you can afford.
You can find your local Planned Parenthood using their website, or by calling 1-800-230-PLAN.
Local medical schools
Medical schools often run health clinics that offer prenatal care. A study from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School identified 111 student-run clinics in 25 states in the United States. These clinics are often located on the medical school campus or in the surrounding area. The clinics are staffed by trained doctors, residents, and medical students. Nurses, Midwives, and other professionals are also onsite.
You can use the internet to search for medical schools in your area to see if they offer free or low-cost prenatal care.
Local charities and other nonprofit organizations might be able to help you access maternity care. Services will vary depending on where you live, but you might be able to receive care, counseling, referrals, and more.
Here are a few examples of nonprofit organizations that offer prenatal services:
You might qualify for insurance at a low cost or even no cost to you. Insurance options will be based on your income, age, and location. Some options are detailed below.
Medicaid is a federal health insurance program for people with limited incomes. The income limits and coverage offered for Medicaid depend on your state, but will always include prenatal care services. Many people who qualify for Medicaid can receive completely free care. You’ll need to contact your state’s Medicaid office to get started. You can also use the Health Insurance Marketplace to see if you qualify for Medicaid. There is no enrollment window for Medicaid, so you can apply at any time.
Children’s Health Insurance Program
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is another federal health insurance program. It provides coverage to uninsured children. Families with a limited income that is too high to qualify for Medicaid are often able to get CHIP coverage instead. In most states, CHIP only covers children. However, in some states, it also provides prenatal care. Currently, this includes:
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
If you live in one of these states, you can apply for CHIP coverage by contacting your state Medicaid office or using The Health Insurance Marketplace. You can enroll at any time throughout the year.
The Health Insurance Marketplace
The Health Insurance Marketplace allows you to apply for insurance. If you have a limited income, you’ll receive a tax subsidy to help cover the cost. However, you’ll need to apply during an open enrollment period.
Pregnancy isn’t a qualifying life event to apply for coverage outside of yearly open enrollment. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment is open until August 15, 2021. Typical annual enrollment will be open from November 1, 2021, until December 15, 2021.
Self-pay and discount plans
You can ask most healthcare facilities about payment plans or discount rates. Often, there will be discounts for people without insurance, and many billing departments will work with you to negotiate payment plans.
You can also contact a discount medical plan organization. This isn’t insurance, but it can help you save money. You’ll pay a low monthly fee and receive discounted prices for prenatal services.
Support groups can be a great resource. Not only will you find people to discuss pregnancy with, but you’ll also frequently find information on local resources. A support group in your area might be able to help you find facilities that offer free or low-cost prenatal care you might not have found on your own. Plus, you can find support groups that match your specific situation and circumstances. This can help you find care that is safe and supportive in addition to being low-cost. Some great support groups are listed below.
- Mocha Moms. This group is dedicated to providing support and community for Mothers of Color during all stages of pregnancy and motherhood. You can find support online or at a local chapter.
- Black Mom’s Pregnancy, Postpartum & TTC Corner. This Facebook group provides support during and after pregnancy
- LGBTQ+ Moms. This Facebook group offers community and support to LGBTQ+ moms and families.
- Hand to Hold. This group offers support during a high-risk pregnancy both in-person and online. Spanish language support is available.
- Meetup.com. This site may help you locate pregnancy support groups meeting in your area.
Prenatal care helps ensure that your pregnancy is going smoothly and that both and the baby are healthy. During your prenatal exams you’ll get care including:
- tracking your weight
- tracking the baby’s growth
- monitoring for the baby’s heartbeats
- testing for gestational diabetes and other pregnancy conditions
- ultrasounds to check the baby’s gender, development, and health
You’ll also be able to discuss your pregnancy with the healthcare professional, including any symptoms you’re having, how much movement you’re feeling, and more. It’s important to go to prenatal visits throughout your pregnancy. This means you’ll need an appointment:
- once a month in weeks 4 through 28 of your pregnancy
- twice a month in weeks 28 through 36 of your pregnancy
- once a week in weeks 36 through 41 of your pregnancy
Prenatal care is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. There are many ways to find free or low-cost services to help you get the prenatal care you need. Exact options will depend on your location but include community clinics, Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, and more.