“I would say it’s worth thinking about five years ahead. You’d be surprised about how fast time flies.”—Cindy Excell, Senior Financial Adviser, Australian Unity.
- If you’re planning on having a baby in the near future, then there’s no time like the present to consider your health.
- Putting a budget in place and building an emergency fund are both things you can do before you get pregnant to give you peace of mind.
- Make sure you contact Australian Unity to discuss your health insurance at least 12 months before you plan on getting pregnant to understand your options.
You probably always thought you’d wait until all your personal circumstances were just right to have a baby. Your professional life was humming along nicely. Your finances would be comfortable, and your living arrangements sufficiently roomy to absorb the presence of a child. Plus, you’d obviously have found the partner of your dreams, who would never leave wet towels on the bathroom floor.
Yet reality tends to have different plans. Life, after all, rarely follows a script. So, while you might not be able to tick every single logistical box, there are still certain things—including your health, finances and other wellbeing factors—worth contemplating if you’re planning on having a baby in the near future.
Consider your health
Nadine Barkay is qualified as a midwife and emergency nurse, and she’s part of BumptoBaby, a program delivered by Australian Unity’s healthcare division Remedy Healthcare. This initiative provides antenatal support to parents with relevant cover during pregnancy and in the early stages of the parenthood journey, helping them to navigate the various physical, mental and social challenges along the way. Before you think about having a baby, Nadine advises, you need to consider your own wellbeing.
“Ask yourself: are you in a healthy place to be carrying a baby?” she says. “Do you have any current health or pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, that you need to manage or talk to your treating doctor about?”
From age and weight to lifestyle, parental health can have multiple implications for the welfare of a baby. And that goes for fathers as well. “Smoking and alcohol are both things that can affect a mum’s health, but they can affect a man’s sperm count too,” says Nadine.
Getting your health checked, and altering your lifestyle if needed, means you’ll give yourself the best shot at getting pregnant when the time comes.
Upgrade your diet
Once you’re confident that you’ve got a reasonably healthy foundation to build from, you can start thinking about taking steps to improve your diet and general nutrition.
“When you’re planning your pregnancy, you want your folate levels to be high, as that can help prevent abnormalities,” explains Nadine. “Taking one of the pregnancy multivitamins is always a good idea for mums-to-be because it gives you an extra bit of iron.”
The mother’s body is effectively a living ecosystem for the unborn baby, so by making an effort to optimise your health, you're taking control of one of the key factors that can positively impact your baby's physical wellbeing.
Assess the emotional environment
In addition to your health, Cindy Excell, Senior Financial Adviser at Australian Unity, believes that you also need to start reflecting on the immediate world you'll ultimately be bringing your baby into.
“You want to think about where the child will be growing up emotionally and mentally and whether you’ll be able to provide a good family environment for them,” says Cindy. “Your baby will see how you interact with your partner. So you want to try and bring them up with the right person, in the right environment.”
Your primary aim, of course, is to introduce your baby to a home that’s full of love and compassion. Yet beyond that, Cindy says, it’s also worth considering the financial practicalities of family life.
Create a family budget
Parenthood can prove an expensive business. In fact, the Australian Institute of Family Studies reports that a first child can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $13,000 in the first year alone.
“It doesn’t matter how small the baby is—it is going to create an additional cost,” says Cindy. “And if the mother is working before the birth, there may also be a loss of income for a period of time too. These are all the things that you have to consider.”
To navigate this with minimal stress, Cindy recommends planning ahead by figuring out a simple budget. Work out your monthly cash income for your household, then take into account how it might be compromised by the loss of earnings through parental or maternity leave. Against that baseline, plot out your family living expenses and factor in any major outgoings (like childcare) that you might have to navigate in the early stages of parenthood.
“I would say it’s worth thinking about five years ahead,” says Cindy. “You’d be surprised about how fast time flies.”
In addition, Cindy suggests thinking about the possible “worst-case scenarios” in terms of loss of income, such as you or your partner losing your job. To offset that danger and give you peace of mind, she recommends starting to save up an emergency fund that can provide your household with a three- to six-month cushion of living expenses.
Think about your parental leave options
Your finances ultimately depend on your job prospects, so it’s worth considering how supportive your current workplace might be of your plans to start a family.
“Many companies have started to offer more flexible work options, which is brilliant for pregnant women because they don't necessarily have to be out of the house,” says Nadine.
“But it’s also worth starting to think about: ‘What maternity or parental leave does my company offer? Am I eligible for government support? What flexible possibilities can I think about when I come back? Do I want to be working full-time after the baby?’ Start to think about where you see yourself after the baby.”
Review your health insurance
A bit of foresight and planning is required if you want to be covered by your health insurer for pregnancy and related health services.
“When you add on an additional service onto your policy— like pregnancy and fertility treatments— there is a 12-month waiting period for certain services,” explains Rebecca Doherty, Customer Solutions Team Leader at Australian Unity. “So if you call up when you're already pregnant and want to upgrade, then there is a very good chance that you won't be able to.”
As a result, you need to speak to your Australian Unity consultant at least a year in advance of becoming pregnant so you can get all the appropriate information about potentially upgrading your policy. They’ll be able to explain what you’re already covered for and whether or not a change is worthwhile. Your consultant can also explain whether fertility treatments, such as IVF, can be included.
“The most important thing is to become aware of what you’re actually covered for,” insists Rebecca.
If all these considerations seem overwhelming, then remember—the fertility roller-coaster doesn’t tend to have much respect for carefully laid plans. In fact, more than a quarter of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned.
“If you’re thinking far ahead, then you can make all these plans,” says Nadine. “But if you're like: ‘We're in love, we're having a baby and whatever happens, happens.’ Well, you know what—that's cool too.”
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is of a general nature. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest. Interviewee titles and employer are cited as at the time of interview and may have changed since publication.