How to start planning for a baby
Once you’ve shifted your thinking about pregnancy from ‘maybe one day’ to ‘okay, let’s go for it’, there’s a lot to consider. You need to plan for your pregnancy physically, financially and emotionally – and the sooner you start, the better.
You need to fully understand the changes that a new baby will bring. Not just to your relationship, but your career plans, your money situation and your lifestyle. There are heaps of extra things to think about – maternity clothes, a baby shower, ultrasound appointments and all the rest. It’s an exciting time, but it will go more smoothly if you’re well organised. Here are some handy pre-pregnancy tips:
Your preconception doctor visit – what to expect
One of the first and most important steps in the journey toward motherhood is to visit your healthcare practitioner. They’ll conduct a pre-pregnancy physical exam, including a complete medical history. This should be done a few months to a year before you start trying to conceive.
You’ll answer lots of questions about your medical history, allergies, medications (including herbal supplements), birth control, vaccinations, etc. There may be questions about whether you’ve been a victim of domestic violence or suffered mental health issues such as eating disorders or depression.
Your health in regards to diet and nutrition, alcohol consumption, smoking and drug usage will also be looked at. Your practitioner might have recommendations to ensure you’re giving your baby the best possible start in life. There may also be questions about your partner: for example, whether he is exposed to toxic substances in his workplace.
You’ll probably be advised to start taking folic acid at least a month before trying to conceive. This can substantially reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects (such as spina bifida). There may be a urine test to check for diabetes and a blood test to check for specific diseases. Being underweight or overweight can affect your pregnancy, so that will be checked as well.
If you or your partner have any genetic risk factors such as recurrent miscarriages or a history of genetic disease (or, if you’ll be 35 years or older at the projected time of giving birth), you may be referred to a genetic counsellor. You’ll receive a thorough physical exam and be encouraged to ask any questions or share any concerns you may have1.
Timing is everything
When is ‘the right time’ to try and have a baby? Well, there are ovulation calculators that can help you work out the dates of maximum fertility, but well before you get to that stage it’s worth thinking about where you’re at health-wise and financially. If you and your partner are struggling financially, maybe it’s more sensible to wait until your money situation stabilises.
Or perhaps you want to quit smoking, get fitter or make major changes to your diet and nutrition habits. There may be relationship issues or employment transitions to sort out first. It’s important to temper your eagerness for a baby with the practicalities of how ready you are.
Have you had a heart-to-heart talk with your partner about your mutual expectations and how you’ll divide up domestic duties once a baby arrives on the scene? Discuss your perceptions of your new roles and responsibilities and make sure there are no unspoken expectations that could lead to conflict later on. Babies are a lot of work, and you’re going to need all the help you can get.
Many working couples struggle to cope with the loss of income when the baby’s main caregiver stops working. And if you both decide to keep working, you’ll be faced with the high costs of child care. Before you become pregnant, it’s not a bad idea to consult an accredited financial planner so you can get professional advice on how to manage your family finances into the future.
Government policies on family payments and assistance for new parents are frequently changing, so it’s important to have the most up-to-date information from official sources. If you’re planning on trying for a baby, the best place to find applicable government information is on the Families page (Department of Human Resources). Here you can click on additional pages such as ‘Family Payments’, ‘Having a Baby’ and ‘Child Care’ to get the information on payments and services that are most relevant to your needs.
The funny thing about babies is they don’t stay babies for long. They grow up, start school, raid your fridge and eventually start asking you for the car keys. And raising youngsters in Australia isn’t cheap. Latest figures show that the cost of raising two kids for a typical middle-income family is $812,000 – from birth until they leave home2.
If you’re thinking ahead and looking into the costs of child care in this country, brace yourself. According to a 2014 report, Australian child care costs have jumped 150 per cent in the past decade. For ‘long day’ child care, this can translate to as much as $170 a day per child3.
Planning ahead for the birth
In the early stages of planning for a baby, you’ll be thinking dreamy thoughts. Which baby shops to visit, where you’ll take the little one for walks and whether Jenna is a nice name. You may not be thinking about the many details (and costs) of giving birth to your little bundle of joy. Have you considered how and where you want to give birth? Your ‘model of care’ options will depend on where you live, and might include:
Public hospital, with on-duty obstetrician or midwife
Labour and birth care in Australian public hospitals is free, as is pregnancy care if you attend the hospital’s clinic. However, costs for ultrasound procedures, pathology tests, antenatal classes and pregnancy care from your local GP will be payable out of your own pocket.
Public hospital, with a private obstetrician
If you’re eligible to attend the hospital as a public patient, costs will be incurred throughout your pregnancy and birth. However you won’t pay any accommodation charges.
Private hospital, with a private obstetrician
This last option can get pricey, so it’s recommended you have private health insurance if you go this route. Check with your health insurer about exactly what you’re covered for. Including what sort of ‘gap’ you’ll need to pay, and if there are any waiting periods for your maternity cover.
The ambulance situation in Australia is a bit of a mishmash. Ambulance cover is available through either a health fund or (in some states) through your state ambulance authority. Every state has its own ambulance arrangements. What’s worth remembering is that ambulance services and emergency transport costs are not covered by Medicare.
How much your hospital stay ends up costing will depend on the choices you make in the planning stages. And remember that predictions you might make about how long you’ll be able to continue working before the birth, or when you’ll be able to return to work can prove quite inaccurate. Don’t count on ‘mummy income’ that you may not eventually get. Unexpected fatigue, medical complications, persistent morning sickness or other surprises can prolong your time away from employment.
If this is your first child, you won’t have had any previous experience in how parental leave works and what entitlements are involved. The Fair Work Ombudsman website can give you all the details you need to sort out your parental leave.
If there was ever a perfect time to brush up on your budgeting skills, this is it. With all of those extra financial commitments that entails. Do you know how much the two of you are spending each month – on everything? Have you worked out areas where you might be able to make a few changes and save some money?
Pay off your debts as quickly as you can, starting with the ones with the biggest interest payments. Try the experiment of living on just one income for a month. This way you’ll be able to see if it can actually be done before a baby arrives.
Sit down with your partner and work out your monthly budget. Start with fixed essentials like child care, transport costs, mortgage/rent, insurance, utility bills, etc. Then move on to adding up variable monthly expenses: phone bills, petrol, groceries, etc. Lastly, take a good hard look at any ‘luxury expenses’ that could be reduced or chopped out entirely.
Life insurance takes on even greater importance when you’re about to create a family – or are adding to your existing one. The number of people who rely on you is about to increase by one. But what if the unthinkable happens? You or your partner could unexpectedly pass away, become disabled or suffer a debilitating injury or illness? What would you do if a child gets sick for a long period and one of you has to give up work to stay home and look after them?
Life insurance can’t stop life’s nasty surprises from happening – but it’s the most prudent way to protect against the aftermath.
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Life Insurance