Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Session 4

We’ll find out about the cost of having a baby in different countries. We’d also like to hear from you. What are the traditional beliefs about childbirth where you live?

Sessions in this unit

Session 4 score

0 / 9

  • 0 / 9
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 3

Activity 1

The cost of childbirth

How much do women have to pay?

The cost of giving birth is very high in some countries and very low, or even free, in others. We read about the BBC’s Mariko Oi, who gave birth in Singapore. She compares her costs with those in some other developed countries.

To do

While you are reading the article, answer this question: How many different countries are mentioned?

This text is based on an original BBC News article.

Read the text and complete the activity

Different countries, different systems

“Money should be the least of your concerns when you are in labour. But when I was about to push my baby out I noticed that the epidural was running low, and before asking my doctor to top it up I thought to myself: ‘Would that be another $500?’”

Three days later, Mariko was presented with three different hospital bills; one for her, another for her baby daughter and a third one, which she cannot even remember.

The cost of her delivery in Singapore was around US $6,700, rising to around $7,600 for the whole birth, including the prenatal check-ups.

Mariko is from Japan and her husband is from the UK. Starting a family in those countries can be much cheaper. In Japan, new parents are given an allowance by the government. In the UK, people are covered by the taxpayer-funded National Health Service.

In Singapore, if you are a citizen, you get a ‘baby bonus’ of $4,400 and other subsidies because the government wants people to have more children. It is regarded as a very fair system. Unfortunately for Mariko, expatriates living in Singapore pay the full price for all medical treatment.

However, compared with the costs in some countries, $6,700 can seem cheap. The US is said to be the most expensive country to give birth in. The average cost of a natural childbirth is $30,000 according to Truven Health Analytics. Bills for complicated deliveries can be over $100,000 - a huge amount of money for those without medical insurance.

In contrast, France provides universal health coverage through health insurance contributions from employers and employees. This means that people do not receive a bill when they have a baby.

"A uniform, high-quality medical service is available throughout the country and medical care is available to all, so no distinctions are made between rich and poor," says Professor William Haseltine, president of ACCESS Health International. He thinks the French system is one other countries should learn from.


To do

So, how many different countries are in the article? The answer is five: Singapore, Japan, the UK, the US and France.

What else did you learn about giving birth in different countries? Do the quiz to find out.

Childbirth around the world

9 Questions

How well did you understand the article? Do the quiz to find out. Choose the best word or words to complete the sentences.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y


So, the cost of having a baby can be very different depending on where - and who - you are. Next we’d like to hear from you. Are there any traditional beliefs about childbirth in your country? Does advice vary from country to country?

Session Grammar

  • We use the first conditional to talk about future situations (or 'conditions') we think are certain and their results.

    We make the first conditional with
    if + present simple with will + infinitive

    If I feel tired, I'll have a nap.

    I'll have a nap if I feel tired.

    If we don’t hurry, we’ll miss the train.

    How will he feel if he doesn’t get the job?

Session Vocabulary

  • developed countries
    those with advanced economies e.g. Singapore, France, the US

    (here) the process of giving birth

    an injection, usually given in the lower part of the back, that reduces pain

    (here) the act of giving birth

    before birth; during pregnancy

    medical examinations to find any problems

    an amount of money which is given for a specific reason

    (here) provided for; protected

    paid for by people who pay tax

    someone who legally belongs to a country

    money which the government pays towards particular costs

    people who live in a country that is not their own

    medical insurance
    a system where people pay a regular fee to an organisation that then pays their medical bills

    universal health coverage
    a system that gives medical care to everyone

    (here) regular payments towards the cost of something

    people or organisations that pay people to work for them

    people who are paid money to work for a particular person or company

    (here) not changing; the same for all people

    (here) different treatment for different people