For Therese Allison, the pain of childbirth didn't end in the hospital delivery room. Now that her baby's born, she's dealing with another kind of pain: coming up with the cash to pay for the delivery.
Allison, who gave birth to her third child three weeks ago, runs a business with her husband and is one of many self-employed Americans with no insurance. Once she became pregnant, Allison tried to sign up for health insurance to help lighten the financial load.
But the insurance companies balked. "They said, 'Well, we're sorry, but you have a pre-existing condition and we can't insure you,'" Allison said.
It didn't take long for the New Jersey mom and her husband to learn the daunting costs of having a baby when you don't have insurance or government assistance.
Over the last 15 years, the cost of vaginal deliveries has practically doubled in the United States, shooting up from $4,918 to $9,294, while the cost of C-sections has increased 70 percent from an average of $8,268 to $14,055, according to Truven Health Analytics.
By contrast, the average cost for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery last year in Switzerland was $4,039 and the average cost in France was $3,541, according to the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP). That's nearly half to a third of what it cost in the U.S.
In fact, the United States is the most expensive place in the world to give birth, according to the IFHP. The reason, experts say, has to do with the way hospitals calculate our bills.
(Read more: Big data's powerful effect on tiny babies)
"Every time you walk into the hospital, they look at everything that happens to you and say, 'Can I bill for that?'" explained Gerard Anderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management.