No one would argue that having a child isn’t worth the money, but there’s no question it can be expensive. Along with their first steps and unconditional love, a little baby can come with some big bills—and those costs can start adding up before your child is even born. But keeping finances in check isn’t impossible: it just involves planning ahead, doing some smart budgeting and taking advantage of insurance benefits and government programs designed to help parents. Keep reading to find out how to manage costs each step of the way from conception through your baby’s first year.

  • Fertility

    When nature needs a little help taking its course, many hopeful parents turn to fertility treatments. Take a look at the cost of different medical options for various fertility treatments, as well as some free or inexpensive methods to try first.

  • Pregnancy

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and employer-based health insurance all offer benefits for pregnant women and their partners. Learn about what’s covered for nutrition, prenatal testing and parental leave options, as well as what other expenses to expect.

  • Baby

    Diapers, clothes and strollers—those are just the basics. There are plenty of other baby necessities to keep in mind (cradle cap brushes and nasal aspirators, anyone?). Find out what costs to expect and discover strategies to get through the first year without going bankrupt.

Financial Fundamentals Before You Have a Baby

From a financial perspective, there’s rarely a perfect time to have a child, but if parents examine their spending before getting pregnant, they’ll get a better idea how to handle new baby costs. Here are some basic steps to take before your baby arrives:

Make a Budget

Does your budget have room for a baby? Now’s the time to figure out how—and how much—you spend. Some things, such as car payments and utilities, will likely remain fixed after the baby, but others will probably change to reflect shifting priorities. Money spent on dining out, for example, may be channeled into diapers. Make a budget to see where you have wiggle room.

Check Your Insurance

Does your insurance cover pregnancy costs? Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans are entitled to get health insurance plans that provide essential health benefits—including maternity coverage. All plans obtained through the federal and state Marketplaces meet these standards, as well as most that are available through individual employers. But there are some exceptions: if you obtain your insurance privately, or have grandfathered into the ACA regulations with an existing plan, your benefits may differ. Families who need fertility treatments should also compare insurance plans to find the best benefits.

Look Into Maternity or Paternity Leave

Some expecting parents work at companies with maternity and/or paternity leave policies that allow them to take extended time off. These leaves may be provided with pay, with partial pay or without pay. Factor in the amount of leave you expect to take, how much you’re covered and what the impact will be on your budget.

Decide if You’re Staying Home

Child care is expensive, especially for newborns, and the costs can be steep for families where both parents work. Full-time child care can easily run $5,000—or more—per year, and although married families can get up to $1,050 back as an income tax credit, for some families it’s not enough to offset the cost of outside care.

How Much Does Pregnancy Cost?

Although every family’s costs will vary depending on whether they’re covered by insurance—and to what extent—in general, it’s important to expect some additional expenses during pregnancy. Medical expenses are perhaps the most expensive line item, but it’s also important for pregnant women to budget for a healthy pregnancy diet, maternity clothing and other lifestyle changes.

right-pink

Is Your Prenatal Care Covered Under the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, revamped the face of U.S. healthcare with a body of reforms that aimed to make healthcare available and affordable to all Americans. Under the ACA, prenatal care costs are free through qualified insurance programs, and won’t even require a copay, whether the insurance was purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace or through an employer (as long as it is certified as a qualified health plan).

In addition, women don’t need to worry that their pregnancies will be considered pre-existing conditions and disqualify them; under ACA, they may receive coverage even if they’re already pregnant. Finally, ACA-approved health plans protect women even if they experience difficult—and expensive—pregnancies, prohibiting insurance plans from imposing a dollar limit on the total amount paid.

ACA coverage is designed to protect women at every stage of pregnancy and beyond. According to Dr. Kacey Durant, a practicing family physician, most pregnant women see a doctor every four to five weeks during their first and second trimesters, and then increase the frequency to every one to two weeks during the final third trimester. This equals eight to 10 routine prenatal visits in an uncomplicated pregnancy, all of which will be fully covered with ACA coverage.

Procedures that pregnant women undergo correspond to common concerns and potential problems during pregnancy. During the early prenatal visits, for example, doctors typically administer blood tests to screen for infections or other conditions that could complicate pregnancy. These all fall under ACA guidelines. Tests conducted later in pregnancy, such as screenings for gestational diabetes, as well as ultrasounds, are also covered.

What Most Insurance Plans Cover Under the Affordable Care Act
  • Prenatal doctor visits

  • Ultrasounds

  • Screening for infections such as hepatitis B and syphilis

  • Screenings for anemia

  • Screenings for Rh (blood) incompatibility between mother and baby

  • Counseling about genetic testing (and genetic screening, if appropriate)

  • Tobacco use counseling

  • Breastfeeding counseling and supplies

Does Your Income Qualify You for Medicaid or CHIP?

Low-income families may be eligible for coverage under the government-sponsored healthcare programs Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Medicaid includes prenatal care and delivery services to families with incomes less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level. CHIP covers children whose families earn too much to get Medicaid, but too little to afford a Marketplace insurance plan. It covers regular checkups for children, and in many states may also be used to cover pregnant women.

For more information on these programs and other benefits for lower-income individuals and families, see our guide.

How Much Does Prenatal Care Cost Without Insurance?

For women who don’t have insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, being pregnant can get very expensive. Even for a healthy pregnancy with no complications, families will be responsible for significant out-of-pocket expenses. There are some options for reducing your costs, however.

  • Work with your doctor

    Not having to go through insurance saves doctors and hospitals time and money, so ask if there’s a special rate for uninsured patients. It’s often quite a bit less, especially if you pay with cash.

  • Join a discount plan

    Pregnant women can join a discount program such as Ameriplan. Members pay a monthly fee to receive discounted services from certain healthcare providers. It’s worth investigating these programs thoroughly; they could be worth their money, but aren’t always.

Regardless of which combination of the above routes you take, there will still be some out-of-pocket costs. While they vary depending on the area and individual provider, a fair price for a fetal ultrasound, according to Healthcare Bluebook, is about $385. Amniocentesis, a prenatal genetic test, is listed at $307. A vaginal delivery is listed at $12,413 and a c-section is listed at $14,606.

Work with your doctor to determine what prenatal care is essential for the health of your baby and what elective care you can safely skip if cost is a concern. The Text4baby program, which sends free text reminders on everything from scheduling doctor visits to taking prenatal vitamins, can also help you keep track of your care.

How to Budget for Your Pregnancy Diet

Even women with healthy eating habits will probably have to tweak their diet when they become pregnant. Notably, it’s recommended to completely avoid some foods and beverages such as alcohol—which has been linked to fetal alcohol syndrome— and some types of soft cheeses, raw fish and deli salads —which can harbor bacteria. The good news is that cutting out these items frees up money for other groceries.

One essential for pregnant women is prenatal vitamins. The Mayo Clinic recommends these to get concentrated levels of folic acid, which helps prevent brain and spinal cord defects, and iron, which helps the baby grow. The good news? Prenatal vitamins are fully covered by qualified health plans offered by employers and through the ACA Marketplace.

For some women and their partners, pregnancy comes with a big shift in dining habits, and can mean added expense. It helps to create a weekly meal plan and budget, stick to buying what’s on the list, and buy things in bulk or on sale.

For people who cannot afford to regularly buy essentials, other options exist. Local food pantries can be found by calling the USDA hotline at (866) 348-6479. Another option is WIC, a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children. WIC provides some basics—such as eggs, produce, tuna, beans, bread, cereal and peanut butter — free to eligible women who do not meet minimum income thresholds; this online tool allows you to see if you qualify.

The 5 Best Foods for Pregnant Women

Not sure which healthy foods will give you the most bang for your buck? Dr. Kacey Durant shares some of the top foods for mom and baby to stick in your cart when you hit the grocery aisles:

Avocados
Avocados

Avocados are laden with healthy fats that help the baby’s neurological system develop.

Chicken
Chicken

This lean meat is a good source of protein and iron, both of which are essential to a healthy pregnancy. Plus, chicken is served fully cooked, making it a lower risk for foodborne illnesses that could cause complications in a pregnancy.

Greek
Greek Yogurt

Full of calcium, which is essential for bone development, Greek yogurt also offers more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. The live cultures in it can also help fight GI problems that arise during many pregnancies.

Dark
Dark, Leafy Green Vegetables

Green vegetables are a key source of multiple nutrients, including iron and calcium, and the fiber can help relieve constipation that is common in pregnancy.

Citrus
Citrus Fruit

Citrus is chock full of Vitamin C, and helps the body absorb iron, so pair it with iron-rich foods.

Managing Other Pregnancy Costs

For nine months, expectant mothers will experience rapid changes—both physically and emotionally—and they might run into some unexpected costs as their bumps grow. Here’s what to expect.

Clothing
Clothing

You’re eating for two, and that means dressing for two. Even women who live in yoga pants will find the elastic stretching out in the later months. Maternity clothes can be expensive, but there are also plenty of gently-used, secondhand items available for much less at consignment stores or on sites like Craigslist. Keep in mind that you won’t need an extensive wardrobe: it’s only for a few months, so you’re unlikely to wear out your clothes that fast.

Choosing clothes that will pull double duty—like an adjustable wrap dress that can be worn during pregnancy and after you give birth—can help you stretch your budget. A few tricks can also help you stay in your pre-pregnancy clothes for a little longer. Try using bra extenders that snap onto the clasp of your regular bra as your breasts expand. And a rubber band placed through the buttonhole and attached to the button of your regular jeans can help them fit over a growing belly.

Comfort
Comfort

There’s no question pregnancy can be uncomfortable. Many women counteract the effects of carrying extra weight by using belly support bands and compression socks (both available for less than $20). A one-time outlay of about $60 for a body pillow helps relieve pressure on the stomach and back while you’re sleeping, but you may be able to arrange regular pillows to do the same job.

Exercise
Exercise

Staying fit when you’re expecting is an important part of pregnancy, but you don’t have to break the bank to keep moving. Many prenatal yoga or other fitness classes are offered at nominal cost through community centers. For an even more budget-friendly fitness fix, try inexpensive prenatal fitness DVDs (you can also buy them used or check them out from the library), free videos online, or even a simple walk around the block. Just remember to check with your doctor before you start any exercise plan during pregnancy.

Symptoms
Managing Pregnancy Symptoms

Just when you want to be as healthy as possible for your baby, pregnancy brings a host of aches and pains, from headaches to heartburn to hemorrhoids. Fortunately, over-the-counter remedies—provided your doctor approves them—are typically not too expensive, and for the budget-minded, it’s possible to use coupons or find generic brands that cost less.

For morning sickness, it’s also cheap and easy to sip hot water with ginger steeped in it, or nosh on a pack of saltines to settle your stomach. And if your skin is itchy and uncomfortable as it stretches, skip the expensive creams and rub in a little olive oil from your pantry instead.

Help
Extra Help

Many women want more information and support as they move through pregnancy and get ready to deliver. Courses such as Lamaze, which prepare mothers for the birth process, are available through many hospitals for about $110, and some hospitals offer free childbirth classes. One-on-one help through a doula, a trained pregnancy coach, can run $800 or more, but may be worth it for women who want personalized support. Many articles, videos and support groups are also available for free online.

Getting Pregnant: The Cost of Fertility Treatments

Some people conceive quickly and easily, but for others the journey is longer and costlier. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of women of childbearing age have difficulties getting—and staying—pregnant. Medical remedies may help, but they can be expensive. Discover what costs to expect, as well as some doctor-recommended fertility tips.

How Much Do Fertility Treatments Cost?

If you’re under age 35 and have been trying for over a year to get pregnant, or if you’re over 35 and have been trying for at least six months with no luck, your doctor may recommend seeking fertility treatment. With good insurance, these treatments can be quite affordable, but only 15 states require insurers to cover infertility. Even then, coverage can be quite different: some states exclude in vitro fertilization (IVF), for example, while others only include it. That leaves many people paying out-of-pocket for treatment and then trying to offset the costs through tax deductions.

There are several strategies to increase fertility, depending on what’s causing the problem. Medications are among the least expensive options, while IVF can run tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, surgery may be required to correct problems affecting fertility, with costs varying according to the type and complexity of the surgery. Surrogacy is another option, but it’s one of the most difficult to gauge costs for, and is rarely covered through insurance.

Depending on test results, doctors typically encourage families to try less-invasive options first. In addition, although the ACA guarantees maternity coverage, infertility treatments are not considered essential health benefits.

The Average Cost of Fertility Treatments

Type of Fertility Treatment Median Per-Person Treatment Cost Additional Costs to Consider
Medication $1,182 Consultations, ultrasounds
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) $3,595 (IUI with clomiphene);
$8,594 (IUI with gonadotropins)
Consultations, donor sperm (optional)
In vitro fertilization (IVF) $24,373 Consultations, embryo storage, sperm freezing, pregnancy testing, medications
IVF with donor egg $38,015 Consultations, embryo storage, sperm freezing, pregnancy testing, medications

Source: National Institutes of Health

Cheap Ways to Boost Your Fertility

Some couples can increase their odds of getting pregnant and decrease the time they spend trying to conceive without fertility treatments. Here are some proven methods to try first, recommended by Dr. Durant:

Fertility tracker apps

For women with regular, predictable periods, a fertility tracker app is an easy way to identify the best times for getting pregnant.

Cost: Free
Ovulation predictor kits

Even for women with irregular periods, ovulation predictor kits and monitors can help you determine when you’re ovulating and more likely to conceive.

Cost: $10 to $400
Frequent intercourse

Daily intercourse can actually decrease a man’s sperm count, so couples should aim for an optimal interval of every other day.

Cost: Free
Monitoring of cervical mucus

Most of the time, cervical mucus is white or slightly yellow and more cream-like. During ovulation it becomes more clear and stretchy, like raw egg whites. If you are able to stretch your cervical mucus about an inch between two fingers, this indicates you are near ovulation, and therefore most fertile.

Cost: Free

The Cost of Your Baby’s First Year

Even with a well-attended baby shower with generous family and friends, parents will likely still need to pony up for many of the big-ticket items – like a stroller and a car seat – and the easily-overlooked small stuff like teethers, pacifiers, and nail clippers. And prices can be all over the map. Your basic stroller can range from under $100 to over $1,000, depending on how many bells and whistles you’re looking for. And cribs range from under $100 for a no-frills model to over $2,000 for a luxury pick.

The little things add up, too. Expect disposable diapers to run almost $1,000 for the first year, and tack on another $700 for clothes. And don’t forget college. The baby’s little now, but high school graduation will arrive sooner than you can imagine. Budget $600 to start building that nest egg now.

Your individual costs will vary depending on where you live, the type of childcare you use – if any – and other factors like whether you breastfeed or formula-feed your child, but all in, according to the USDA, a two-parent household with an annual income between $61,000 and $106,000 can expect to pay more than $16,000 for their baby’s first year for housing, food, healthcare, childcare and other expenses.

You can use the the USDA calculator to get a more personalized cost estimate for your circumstances. Or try this calculator at BabyCenter.com, which provides an estimated baby budget and allows you to alter the figures.

6 Tips to Save on Baby Costs

Even though babies are expensive, there are dozens of cost-saving measures for budget-conscious parents. Give these a try:

  • 1 Buy Secondhand

    There are plenty of deals to be found through resources like Craigslist, Freecycle and Just Between Friends. Certain items, however, are too important to skimp on. Cribs, car seats and strollers should always be bought new. And don’t forget to make sure your new-to-you items aren’t listed on the CPSC recall list before you use them.

  • 2 Take Advantage of Social Programs

    Children’s healthcare is a government priority, which is why well-child checkups and vaccinations are covered (without a significant copay) under the Affordable Care Act. If insurance isn’t an option, you may qualify for Medicaid or CHIP.

  • 3 Make Parent Friends

    Chances are, you know someone with a baby bathtub or wipe warmer gathering dust in their garage. Friends are usually happy to pass on things they no longer use.

  • 4 Don’t Overdo It

    You probably don’t need much to entertain your baby during the first year. Avoid buying things that have only one purpose, or where a less expensive item will do the trick. To a baby, measuring cups or wooden spoons are just as interesting as pricey toys—just be sure there’s no choking risk or other safety hazard.

  • 5 Do It Yourself

    When your baby moves on to solid food, it’s easy to find yourself buried in tiny—and expensive—jars of store-bought food. But making your own pureed peas and carrots is extremely easy, and much cheaper.

  • 6 Use Alternative Childcare

    Parents with flexible work schedules can trade days to watch each other’s children, saving on child care costs while letting their children socialize. Family members are another good resource, since they often welcome time with their new relatives and may not charge as much—if any. Plus, the tax credit for child care still applies if that money went to extended family members who watched the child during working hours.

What Type of Maternity or Paternity Leave Can You Take?

Many countries require employers to give paid leave, but there isn’t a strong culture of maternity or paternity leave in the U.S. However, coverage is growing, especially among larger companies who offer expanded benefits packages to attract good employees. As of 2016, 12 percent of private sector workers had access to paid family leave, and some states have regulated maternity and paternity leave.

Workers may be able to use other types of leave, however. Here’s a look at what’s available:

Maternity or Paternity

Types of Available Leave

Short-term disability

Short-term disability insurance is offered by some employers as part of a benefits package, but also may be purchased by individuals. After delivering, it pays a percentage of the mother’s wages to allow her to take several weeks off work. However, short-term disability cannot be used by fathers.

FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that employers provide new mothers and fathers with 12 weeks of leave after the birth of a child and still keep their jobs and insurance coverage. It’s important to note, however, that the only requirement is to provide leave—not to pay for it. Individual companies decide their own policies about whether to provide full or partial pay to employees on leave. In addition, there are significant exceptions that may make employees ineligible for this option. More information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Personal leave

Many parents-to-be save up sick leave and vacation days so they can still get paid when they take time off during pregnancy and after a birth. In many cases, personal leave may need to be used up before FMLA can kick in.

Employer-sponsored leave

Any leave granted by an employer as part of a benefits package counts toward FMLA time. For example, if an employer grants 12 weeks of paid leave, an employee cannot use both this time and then additional FMLA unpaid leave. Some employers, however, provide leave beyond 12 weeks.a

With a basic understanding of the types of leave available, the next step is to look at your own individual situation and determine how to maximize the benefits you qualify for.

Action Plan: How to Determine Your Maternity Coverage

1

Total up your available personal leave

Typically, you’ll be required to use this up before moving on to other types of leave, although some employers are more flexible.

2

Visit the Department of Labor website

There, you’ll be able to determine the short-term disability benefits in your state and find out more about FMLA.

3

Talk with your HR department

As soon as you’re comfortable sharing your pregnancy, visit HR to review your benefits package and get a clear handle on what’s available to you—and how much it covers.

4

Make a schedule with your employer

The more advance notice employers have about an employee’s pregnancy and postpartum plans, the more flexibility there is with scheduling. For example, FMLA doesn’t have to be used consecutively, meaning parents could split it up between pregnancy and the first year after delivery.

Resources

Baby Costs Calculator

Make a personalized budget for first-year baby costs with this calculator from BabyCenter.com.

FoodSafety.gov’s Checklist of Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Learn what not to eat when you’re expecting—and find safe alternatives to replace them.

MommyMeds

Get information on what over-the-counter drugs can affect pregnancy. This site, which features info gathered from the InfantRisk Center at Texas Tech University, also offers a smartphone app that gives the lowdown on how safe each medication is for your unborn baby.

MoneyGeek’s “A Saver’s Guide to Eating and Living Well”

Enjoy the high life while keeping expenses low. We’ve got you covered with budget hacks.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association

Learn more about fertility problems and find free support programs from this non-profit organization dedicated to helping families living with infertility.

Speak to an Expert at smokefree.gov

It’s vital that fetuses not be exposed to cigarette smoke. Get help quitting via instant messaging or phone at this site.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and babies and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk can get nutrition information, supplemental food and health care referrals through WIC.