6 things all couples should do before getting pregnant
A baby is a blessing, but the unknown can lead to stress when you’re expecting or TTC. These to-dos can help you and your partner feel better prepared.
Whether you’re currently expecting or trying to conceive, there’s a lot to look forward to. As with most things in life, a little planning goes a long way when you’re hoping to have a baby. “What gets measured gets managed,” said Jeff Grampp, CFA. “So, if you go into a situation with some kind of a plan, you are much more likely to succeed.” To take some of the worry out of the day to day once your baby arrives, put a little thought into the following areas right now.
take a look around your home
Consider the layout of your home, particularly your sleep space. The AAP recommends room sharing for at least the first 6 months because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50% and it's much safer than bed sharing. You may need to move things around in your bedroom to make room for a bassinet or bedside sleeper or downsize your sectional to fit a playard or swing (baby registry musts!). A game of “musical furniture” might be necessary and is worth doing before a baby arrives.
Some families might find they need more space everywhere, which could mean a move. “I’m so happy we listed our house when I was nine months pregnant,” said no expecting mom, ever. To avoid a move when you’re weeks away from delivery, evaluate your housing needs now and talk to a real estate agent so you can put a plan in motion.
do some planning with your partner
If you’re in a relationship, taking a babymoon is a nice way to spend some time alone together before the baby arrives but it’s not the only way to get on the same page. Set aside some time before you become parents to go over the big important stuff like how you’ll support each other, especially during the early days. “Being on the same page as your partner can help make difficult transitions easier,” said Alisa Kamis-Brinda, LCSW, LCADC, owner of Serenity Solutions LLC, a group psychotherapy practice specializing in postpartum anxiety and other issues.
Rather than sitting down to one monster conversation about every topic, Kamis-Brinda suggests starting with the things that will affect you first, with the caveat that things could change after the baby comes, so flexibility is important. For example, “you might think you want a lot of visitors once you get home, but then feel exhausted and prefer to just rest and not feel the pressure to entertain,” she said. Whatever the topic, a little understanding can go a long way.
focus on your financial health
A budget is a best estimate, and your expenses will change in ways you hadn’t considered once the baby arrives. Still, it’s a good idea to put a little thought into how you’ll cover the increased expenses you know to expect, like diapers, wipes and clothing.
One way to manage new budgeting items is to create a detailed spreadsheet of what’s coming in (inflow) and what you expect to be going out (outflow). From there, you can separate your outflows into buckets to determine where you can scale back or eliminate items you might not really need, said Jay W. Rishel, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) with Overman Capital Management who specializes in working with young families. “Luckily, there are apps out there that automate some of this,” he added. One he likes, Rocket Money (formerly TrueBill), can help you see what your spending and income looks like on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis, which can be a good motivator to change some of your spending habits. You can also talk with family and friends with kids about how their monthly spending changed, or consult with a CFP planner who can help you.
A growing family also often does require additional space in the house or more seats in a car, says Lacy Garcia, founder and CEO of Willow, a financial services firm for women. “Both of those investments are significant, and may require you to apply for loans,” she said. “Do what you can before the baby comes to build up your credit.” That could mean working on paying off debt, setting up bill pay to pay your bills on time and checking on your credit report every few months to report any errors immediately.
Rishel also suggests asking yourself if you have sufficient savings to provide for your growing family. “In other words, if you had no income from your employment, could you cover your non-discretionary expenses for half a year?” he said. “If not, you should focus on growing your savings, or changing your spending habits, before the baby’s arrival.”
make the most of medical benefits
Health insurance is important whether you have a family or not, but if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, it’s essential to understand what’s covered in order to get you and your baby the best care. For example, some insurances will cover things like birthing classes, lactation consultations and doulas, while others might not cover them at all, or might charge a copay. “If you have medical benefits through your employer, including pre- and post-natal care, you’ll want to verify those details with your human resources contact before the baby arrives,” said Rishel.
If it turns out your medical benefits aren’t up to your standards, “consider paying for a better insurance plan ahead of time, since open enrollment is an annual occurrence,” said Grampp. “Having a better healthcare plan may save you money in the long-term if you have better coverage throughout your pregnancy.” Rishel also recommends verifying the special enrollment window for life events, like the birth of a child, to ensure your child is added to your medical benefits as soon as possible.
consider childcare costs
Whether or not one or both parents go back to work after having a baby is a personal decision that involves weighing a number of factors, some of which are financial, a lot of which are emotional.
Unfortunately, the pandemic put a serious wrench in this parental expense, as well. According to a Care.com survey, 85 percent of parents reported spending 10 percent or more of their household income on child care in 2021, while 94 percent of parents reported using at least one major cost-saving strategy to save money on child care in the past, like reducing hours at work (42 percent), changing jobs (26 percent) or leaving the workforce completely (26 percent). “Depending on the level of childcare you seek and where you live, you can expect to spend at least $200 a week,” said Rishel.
It’s never too early to start thinking about whether you plan to watch your child full-time (and what leaving your job would mean, both financially and emotionally), or if you’ll try to find good childcare, and how you’ll pay for it. You may need to identify areas of discretionary spending that you can cut out to help cover these costs, Rishel suggests, or consider asking family to help, if that’s an option.
solidify some de-stressing techniques
Raising a child is a rewarding experience, but it can definitely be stressful at times. “New parents often feel overwhelmed by all that they have to do to take care of the baby, making it feel like they don’t have time for their own self-care,” said Kamis-Brinda. Setting aside some regular time to spend on yourself is the best way to be the best parent, though, and you don’t have to do anything radical to make a big difference. “When beginning to think about what self-care looks like as a parent, it’s important to begin with what feels like self-care prior to being a parent,” said Kamis-Brinda. “Do you love to do yoga, play sports, hang out with friends, sit alone and read a good novel? Think about what rejuvenates you when you feel stressed out, then consider how to continue to incorporate these activities into your life after the baby arrives.”
If preparing for having a new baby is overwhelming, try to remember that beyond the necessities of food, shelter, clothing and medical care, the most important thing you can give a new baby is love. “Babies need your love and care more than any expensive equipment or fancy toy,” said Garcia. “So even though the costs of a new baby are significant, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to provide the best care for your child.”