You’re prepared for all the lifestyle changes that come with having a new baby—the sleepless nights, the diaper changes, and the herculean task of choosing the right stroller.
But one of the biggest hurdles in starting a family is often one that we rarely talk about: the cost of motherhood.
There’s no getting around it. Growing your family is expensive. New parents will need to navigate the costs of fertility services, prenatal care, birth and delivery all the while preparing for the cost of childcare, maternity leave and not to mention the fact that you now have a tiny human to take care of.
That's why this International Women's Day, we're getting loud about the economic inequities of parenthood in our latest campaign, The Motherhood Gap. Like the gender gap, the #motherhoodgap highlights how the cost of parenthood falls disproportionately on women. And in our mission to advocate for change, we've also pulled together a complete resource guide to help you in your own financial journey when starting your family.
Read on below for a step-by-step readiness checklist to help you prepare your finances when trying to conceive, navigating pregnancy, and after your baby arrives.
How to Financially Plan Before Starting Your Family
Before you start trying to conceive, sit down with your partner and take your financial pulse.
☐ Assess your financial foundation.
Do you have a reliable source of income and health insurance? Can you comfortably cover your expenses each month? Are you building up your savings, or do you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck?
If money is a source of stress for you, start discussing possible ways to increase your income or tighten up your budget to improve your financial footing.
Not sure if you’re on track? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a financial wellbeing assessment that can help.
☐ Adjust your budget.
Make sure you have enough wiggle room in your current budget to accommodate the costs associated with having a baby. This includes:
- Healthcare. Even with insurance, the average healthcare costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth are on average almost $19,000, including $2,854 paid out-of-pocket, though that number changes depending on insurance coverage and your state.1 Not to mention, this number may increase if you experience any complications or need fertility support.
- Groceries. Your grocery budget will increase as you stock up on diapers, baby food, and other necessities. Even if you’re thrifty, the USDA estimates that a one-year-old child will add $109 to your monthly food budget. 2
- Childcare. If you and your partner plan to continue working, start researching childcare options and average costs in your area.
☐ Set up a family emergency fund.
Ideally, you should have money set aside to help you weather unexpected financial setbacks like a layoff, a leaky roof, or a major car repair. Experts typically suggest that an emergency fund should cover at least three months’ worth of expenses.
If you need fertility support, this can require an extra layer of financial planning for pregnancy. Fertility treatments aren’t always covered by insurance, and the costs can be steep. The average IVF cycle, for example, costs between $15,000 and $30,000.3
Here are a few steps you can take to lessen the financial strain.
☐ Research your state’s fertility insurance coverage laws.
Some states have mandated infertility coverage. Visit the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to learn more about the specific insurance laws in your state.
☐ Find out what your insurance plan covers.
Before you meet with a fertility specialist, reach out to your health insurance provider or your employer’s HR department to discuss what your current plan covers.
Here are a few key questions you can ask:
- Who is eligible for fertility care? Is there a waiting period before qualifying for specific treatments?
- What’s the typical coinsurance for fertility care?
- Are initial consultations covered and can you meet with more than one fertility specialist before choosing your path?
- Which diagnostic tests, medications and treatment options are covered?
- Is there a lifetime cap on the number of treatments that may be covered?
☐ Explore your options for financial assistance.
If your insurance doesn’t cover fertility treatments, don’t panic. You may be able to offset the cost with grants, discounts, and financing options.
IVF Warrior, a community-based fertility resource, offers a list of available fertility grants. Application fees, eligibility requirements, and processing times may vary, so be sure to read the fine print for each grant before applying.
Fertility financing is another option. Your fertility center may offer a payment plan, or you may be able to take out a personal loan. Some lending companies offer loans specifically for IVF.
If you need help navigating your options, Sunfish offers fertility financing support and resources. A financial advocate can estimate the cost of your fertility journey and direct you towards grants, discounts, and lenders that fit your needs.
Throughout your pregnancy, there are a few things you can do to keep your finances on the right track.
☐ Review your health insurance.
Most major insurance plans will cover pregnancy and childbirth. 4 However, you can reach out to your health insurance provider or your employer’s HR department with a few specific questions to help understand exactly what will be covered under your plan:
What to ask your insurance during pregnancy:
- Is your current OB/GYN in your network?
- Is the hospital or birthing center where you plan to deliver in your network
- Are all prenatal appointments and tests covered?
- If your pregnancy will straddle two calendar years—for example, if you’re due in February—will you be responsible for any additional copays, deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums?
- After delivery, how many nights in the hospital will your insurance cover after a vaginal birth vs. a Cesarean birth?
- What will your estimated out-of-pocket expenses be? (Keep in mind this number can increase dramatically if you encounter any complications with your pregnancy or delivery.)
- What’s the process for adding your baby to your insurance plan? If you and your partner are each insured through your employers, whose plan should your baby be added to?
Last but not least, discuss your birth plan with your doctor. Your insurance may not cover certain services—such as a doula, a lactation consultant, or an out-of-network birthing center—so make sure you allow yourself enough time to start budgeting for any potential out-of-pocket expenses.
☐ Know your employee rights.
You may be wondering how your pregnancy might impact your job security and career mobility.
If you work for a company with more than 15 employees, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) offers federal protection from pregnancy-based discrimination at work. You may also have the right to receive certain accommodations that allow you to do your current job safely while pregnant. You can learn more about your rights as an employee through the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission.
If you decide to pursue a new career opportunity while pregnant, a prospective employer can’t refuse to hire you based on your pregnancy.5 You’re also not required to disclose your pregnancy during the interview process, though some may choose to do so as broaching the topic can help you establish trust and gauge how family-friendly the company is.
Offered a new job at a different company? Be sure to review your benefits package closely to make sure your current doctor will still be in network and you won’t have a gap in coverage.
☐ Plan your parental leave.
Meet with your employer to discuss when your leave will start, when you expect to return, and whether any portion of your leave will be paid.
Your parental leave may be protected by federal or state law:
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons, including childbirth. Find out if FMLA applies to you.
- Certain states mandate paid family and medical leave. Find out if your state is one of them.
Even if it isn’t mandated by your state, you may be able to negotiate with your employer for paid leave. The Skimm created an email template you can use to start the conversation.
You may also be able to get a portion of your leave paid by applying sick days and vacation days or using short-term disability insurance.
If your leave will be unpaid, revisit your budget with your partner. Calculate how much money you’ll need to cover expenses for the duration of your leave, and brainstorm ways to reduce your expenses.
Bottom line: While money matters can be stressful, financial wellbeing is an important part of pregnancy self-care— ust like healthy eating and prenatal vitamins. Taking steps to secure your financial footing now will set you up for a smooth transition into motherhood later.
Join the conversation. Get loud about the #motherhoodgap on social and join our mission of making parenthood a more equitable experience for moms. Read next—let's normalize the journey of motherhood, together.
1 Kaiser Family Foundation; Women who Give Birth Incur Nearly $19,000 in Additional Health
2 U.S. Department of Agriculture: Official USDA Thrifty Food Plan Costs, Including $2,854 More that They Pay Out of Pocket; Jul 2022
3 IVF Warrior: Financing Fertility Treatments
4 Healthcare.gov: Health coverage if you're pregnant, plan to get pregnant, or recently gave birth
5 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.