There are many hidden costs with having a baby – from your pregnancy care and the birth, to the costs associated with stopping work for a period of time.
You might also have a strong desire to buy new things for your baby – clothes, toys and other 'gear' that may or may not be necessary. There are ways that some extra costs can be avoided or minimised. There is also government assistance available to help parents with costs.
On this page:
- The cost of your pregnancy care
- Private care with an obstetrician
- Private care with a midwife
- Ambulance cover
- Government allowances
- Buying baby things
Depending on where you live and what services are available, there can be many different ways to organise your pregnancy and birth care. For example, if there is no hospital close by you may choose to have all of your pregnancy care with your GP and then travel to a hospital for the birth. You may wish to attend a particular public hospital but would prefer to have your own obstetrician. You may choose to have a private midwife for part or all of your care. There are many variations and the cost will vary depending on whether you have private health insurance and the level of that insurance.
First, find out what your care options are, given where you live. Then make sure you understand from your care providers how much it will cost. Things that may have a cost attached include:
- pregnancy appointments
- pregnancy tests, including blood tests and ultrasound
- costs while you are in hospital, including medical care
- special treatment that you or your baby may need.
Private health funds usually require membership for at least one year before they will cover you for maternity services. If you already have a policy in place:
- check your policy carefully so that you understand what is covered with regard to pregnancy care and birth
- check with your obstetrician and hospital about what out-of-pocket expenses you should expect
- speak with your insurance company about the limitations of your policy
- make changes to your level of cover if necessary.
If your baby is born healthy, they will not be formally admitted to hospital. However, if they are born prematurely or require medical treatment they will be admitted. In a private hospital, this can increase your costs significantly. If you give birth to twins at least one of the twins will be admitted to hospital for administration purposes. If you have a single hospital policy, your baby's admission to hospital won't be covered.
As a private patient you will usually have your baby in a private hospital, but you can also choose to be a private patient in a public hospital. As a private patient in a public hospital:
- you may not have a single room
- you will have to pay for the hospital stay, medical expenses and tests, such as blood tests and ultrasound
- your health insurance may not fully cover your hospital and medical expenses for the birth of your baby
- your pregnancy visits or expenses will not be covered by insurance, but part of those expenses will be covered by Medicare.
Your GP may help you to choose an obstetrician and can provide a referral. You can also contact private maternity hospitals directly and ask for a list of their practicing doctors. Alternatively you can search for a doctor by using the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.
Most hospitals have liaison officers who can help you with any questions you may have.
Some midwives choose to work privately, rather than being employed by hospitals and other institutions. We refer to these practitioners as Midwives in Private Practice (MIPP).
Women may choose to employ a MIPP because they want to be able to pick their care provider, or because the services offered are unique. For example, women may wish to employ a MIPP for continuity of care through the entire pregnancy continuum and have that same midwife support them through labour and birth either at home or hospital, and including all their postnatal care too. Or they may wish to arrange a ‘once-off’ pre-pregnancy or postnatal consultation.
For more information about Private Midwives visit the following websites:
- Midwives Australia
- Maternity Coalition
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
- Nursing and Midwifery Board Australia
Most, but not all, private health funds include ambulance cover. Check your individual policy. Health Care Card holders are also covered for transport by ambulance. You can also take out a membership with Ambulance Victoria or the relevant service in your state. Without cover, any ambulance transport that you or your baby may need can be very expensive. Once you are pregnant you may want to consider a family membership should your baby need to be transported after the birth.
Parental leave payments are available through the Department of Human Services for up to 18 weeks. You are generally eligible if you are the primary carer and your individual taxable income is less than $150,000 per annum. A parental leave payment is also available for dads or partners (same sex couples included) for two weeks after the baby is born.
Parents may also be entitled to other benefits such as a family tax benefit, rental assistance, childcare assistance and a Health Care Card, depending on income and assets. For queries on entitlements, visit Centrelink.
If both you and your partner are planning to return to full or part-time work soon after the baby’s birth it may be worth considering childcare options early. Informal childcare, that is, care provided by relatives or friends, may be available for some families. For others, formal childcare, such as care in a childcare centre or by a family day care worker may be the best option. Costs, conditions and waiting periods vary considerably and your local council may be of assistance. Some workplaces offer childcare on-site and for others, a nanny at home is a viable option for families who are able to afford it. A means-tested childcare benefit is available through Centrelink to assist parents with the cost of childcare.
Babies seem to come with a lot of gear and you will want to think about how you will arrange your home to fit it all in. Only a few things are really essential.
Also consider how safe your home is for a crawling baby and a toddler and if you need to make any changes. Heating and cooling may also be a consideration.
- pram or pusher
- car seat.
With careful planning, costs can be kept low. Friends and family are often happy to pass on clothes and toys, and sometimes larger items that their children have grown out of. It's also possible to buy many things second-hand and in very good condition. Always check second-hand car seats and capsules for damage. It is important that car seats have not sustained any damage. Baby capsules can be borrowed from some local councils.
Not so essential
- A change table – only really necessary if you don't have another surface where you can change your baby without straining your back. Some change tables have drawers and cupboards built in.
- A baby bath – useful, but not essential. If you have a normal bath it can be nice to bathe with the baby. It is also possible to bathe your baby in a sink as long as it is clean and in a warm room.
- A crib or bassinette – handy if your baby sleeps soundly as it can be moved around the house. It is fine to use a cot from the time the baby is born, up until the baby is a toddler and old enough to move into a bed.
- Toys and books – there are many beautiful toys and books available for new babies. However, babies only need a few toys and are often more interested in bits of paper and ribbon. Toy and book libraries are also a very good place to find interesting toys and books.
The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.