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Understanding the costs of pregnancy and planning ahead can help you make more informed decisions — and save money in the long run.
Here are seven ways to cut costs when you’re expecting.
Know your benefits
If you have insurance, now’s the time to become an expert in your plan benefits. To get started, ask your plan administrator these questions:
What is my deductible? This is the amount you have to pay out of pocket before your benefits kick in.
What is my copay? This is the amount you pay for your appointments or hospital visits.
What is my coinsurance? This is the percentage of costs you cover once you’ve met your deductible, until you reach your out-of-pocket maximum.
What is my out-of-pocket maximum? This the highest amount you can expect to pay in a plan year — once you’ve hit this amount, your insurance will cover the rest.
Be sure to ask specifically about pregnancy and delivery coverage, as you might be surprised by what is and isn’t covered. For example, most plans will cover your hospital stay up to a certain number of days — find out what that number is ahead of time to make sure your whole stay is covered.
Insurance companies have negotiated rates with the doctors in their networks. This is why going out of network is pricier and, depending on your insurance plan, might not be covered at all. Going out of network can also involve extra paperwork, and you might have to pay out of pocket up front and wait to be reimbursed. Staying in-network is the best way to avoid this hassle and unnecessary cost.
Be sure to confirm that both your doctor and your hospital are in-network. Checking ahead of time could prevent an unexpected bill.
Write it down
Working with your doctor to create a birth plan can save you not only stress but also money. A birth plan is a document that states your preferences for labor and delivery. Your plan can be as simple or as detailed as you want, and it can cover everything from the people you want present in the room to whether you want skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after the birth.
So how can a birth plan save you money? Some of the choices you make about your delivery, such as how much fetal monitoring you prefer or whether or not to have an epidural, come with price tags and might not be covered by insurance. Doing the research ahead of time will help you make informed decisions. Of course, the birth plan is just that — a plan — and the unexpected could still arise. Still, a birth plan can help you clearly define tests and treatments that you do not want or only want in the case of complications.
Many hospitals have sample birth plans to help you get started, so make sure to ask during your hospital tour.
Get to know your hospital
Hospitals differ in both their fees and their maternity amenities. If you can, tour your hospital’s maternity facilities in person and consider asking questions like:
Are the rooms private or shared?
Are there extra fees for a private room?
Will my partner be able to stay overnight?
What’s the food situation, and is there room service?
Are there specialists on-site for high-risk pregnancies?
Where should we park when I’m in labor?
Will my baby be able to stay with me in the room?
Are there lactation specialists to help with breastfeeding?
And don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about the hospital’s delivery charges and your insurance benefits — your hospital wants you to have a positive birth experience, and that includes knowing about all costs up front.
Compare your prenatal options
Taking a prenatal vitamin is key to making sure you get essential nutrients like folic acid and iron during your pregnancy, but going with the first option you find might be costly.
First, check to see if your insurance plan covers prenatal vitamins. If it does, you might be able to get yours free or at a low cost.
If prenatal vitamins aren’t covered by your insurance, do your research on the over-the-counter options available to you. Often a generic will have the same ingredients as a brand name at a fraction of the cost. And for any costs you do end up paying out of pocket, use your FSA or HSA if you have one to make these purchases tax-free.
It can be tempting to prepare for a baby by stocking up on a top-of-the-line stroller and tiny, adorable outfits, but the truth is that you don’t need much of it at the start, and there might be cheaper options for the items you do need right away.
First, if your family and friends want to shower you with gifts, let them. Don’t buy a thing for your baby until post-shower, when you can assess what you have, what you need and if you have any duplicate gifts that can be returned.
If you still need clothes — for you or for your baby — try going second-hand. If there are women in your life who have recently had children, find out if you can borrow a few maternity pieces. If you have friends whose children have outgrown their baby clothes, ask if you can have or borrow them. Check local thrift stores or online consignment shops — since little ones grow so quickly, many baby clothes are donated after being worn just a few times.
Consider this option for other baby necessities, as well: for items like a crib, a car seat and a stroller, second-hand can be a savvy way to go.
Take care of your own health
This is one of the best steps you can take for your baby, and it can save you money, too. The most expensive deliveries are typically the ones with complications. While not all complications can be avoided by taking good care of yourself before and during pregnancy, there are some that can. This means eating nutritious food, getting quality sleep and extra rest when necessary, and keeping up a moderate exercise regimen under the supervision of your doctor.
Some hospitals offer free or low-cost classes to help you stay healthy. Ask during your hospital tour about childbirth classes, nutrition education and breastfeeding support. Preparation now means more time later to focus on the most important thing — your brand new baby.