A Budget Guide to Pregnancy, Your Baby's First Year and Fertility Treatments

Budgeting for a Baby: Pregnancy, Infancy, & Fertility Treatment

ByJeff Benson

Updated: November 8, 2023

ByJeff Benson

Updated: November 8, 2023

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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
    Affordable Care Act (ACA) programs, 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 of 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. You should look at common monthly expenses, such as credit cards, your car insurance and auto loan, and homeowners and renters insurance for cost-saving measures. You can budget spending with a prepaid, cash-back or a gas credit card; refinance your current auto loan or estimate a new payment; discuss good driver discounts with your current car insurance company or shop around for new car insurance with lower premiums, or more affordable renters insurance or homeowners insurance for savings.

  • Check Your Insurance
    Does your insurance cover pregnancy costs? Thanks to 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 $3,000 or $6,000 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.

Is Your Prenatal Care 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 of 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.


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.

discount icon

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 $240. Amniocentesis, a prenatal genetic test, is listed at 242. A vaginal delivery is listed at $11,755 and a c-section is listed at $13,541.

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.


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


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 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, 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 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.


Getting Pregnant: The Cost of Fertility Treatments

Some people conceive quickly and easily, but for others the journey is longer and costlier. According to WomensHealth.gov, around 10 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 few 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


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:


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 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:


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.


Take Advantage of Social Programs

Children's healthcare was an ACA priority, which is why well-child checkups and vaccinations are covered (without a significant copay). If insurance isn't an option or if coverage changes, you may qualify for Medicaid or CHIP.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


About Jeff Benson

Jeff Benson headshot

Jeff Benson has been published in Via Magazine, Inspired Bali and Kampala Dispatch. He's also written and edited dozens of online guides on education and personal finance. He's currently trying to find time to finish his first novel. Find his work at serialmonography.com.