All Woman

The cost of pregnancy

By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 09, 2012    

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WHETHER planned or unplanned, the cost of having a baby could really add up to a tidy sum, especially if you do not have insurance coverage. While the excitement and joy of becoming a mother is usually worth the high price tag associated, it's usually wise to get your calculator out even before the home pregnancy test comes back positive.

If your pregnancy has caught you a little off guard, the next logical question you are probably asking yourself right now is, where do I go from here? The answer to that is pretty simple — you have to start planning.

Based on our consultations with private and public health facilities, we have outlined those costs you are probably going to incur as you go on your nine-month journey. Note that private hospital rates are more or less standard across the board, but you should still check around for the best bargain if you're going this route.

1. Doctors' visits.

The first step after your home test shows positive is to make an appointment with your doctor for a re-confirmation and check-up.

It is usually cheaper to go to a public clinic where you are required to pay nothing. However, chances are you might be anxious about confirming your pregnancy and might prefer the convenience of a private health centre instead. If this is the case, you can expect to pay between $3,500 to $6,000 for your first doctor's visit. If you have an insurance card, you will pay significantly less since your insurance company will subsidise the cost.

2. Visits to gynaecologist/obstetrician.

An ObGyn is a woman's best friend during her nine months of pregnancy and sometimes post-partum. But they, too, will come at a cost, although this cost varies based on whom you see. You will be required to make monthly visits for check-ups which could cost between $3,500 to $5,000 each depending on where you go. And then as the pregnancy gets older, you will need to visit as often as every week.

If you start visiting the ObGyn from early in your pregnancy, your visits combined could run you from anywhere between $35,000 to $50,000. If your gynaecologist is delivering your baby, then you'll have to throw in another $40,000 to $50,000 or so, to pay for the service.

You can cut costs by visiting the clinics at private hospitals like the University Hospital of the West Indies (UWHI) or Andrews Memorial Hospital. Andrews, for example, will charge you $2,700 for each clinic visit.

You could also do your check-ups at the public health centres where you will not have to pay for any of the monthly visits. However, this luxury will come with lengthy waits and what can be curt service from overworked staff.

3. Ultrasounds, blood tests and glucose test.

It is recommended that you do at least one ultrasound and a blood test during the course of your pregnancy. You will also need to do a glucose test. Even if it was not recommended, pregnant women are usually anxious to know the sex of the baby before they are born and usually find it reassuring to have ultrasound photos to show friends and family. Then there is the fact that it helps you to determine what colour to buy while stocking up on baby items and helps spot problems with the baby in utero. An ultrasound could cost you between $2,500 to $6,000, while a blood test and glucose test will range between $5,000 to $10,000.

4. Hospital visits.

You will still have to pay the hospital even if your private gynaecologist is the person carrying out the delivery. At Andrews Memorial Hospital, for example, you are required to make a $45,000-deposit at seven months if you are using your own gynaecologist. The hospital will then bill you after release for other costs incurred during your stay. If you are not using your own gynaecologist, you will be required to pay a $50,000-deposit at seven months for delivery, hospital room and board, paediatrician's visit, etc. The cost adds up if you are planning to have a C-section.

Of course you can also go the much cheaper route of having your baby delivered at a public hospital. The Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston is one of the most sought-after maternity hospitals and will charge you nothing for delivering a baby. The downside may be overcrowding, a lack of privacy, and overworked staff who may be too busy to coddle you.

5. Diet.

If you were not already eating healthy, you will have to do so once you realise you are pregnant. You will need to stock up on more fruits, vegetables and healthy carbohydrates and proteins. You will also need to consider the cost of prenatal vitamins. So in total you are looking at another $10,000 to $20,000 per month.

6. Lamaze classes.

This is not absolutely necessary, but it is something you will need to consider in your budget as well, if you plan to sign up for these classes. The cost for Lamaze classes varies based on where you choose to have them done. You can expect to pay between $3,000 to $5,000 for private classes, so to attend six classes, for example, would cost you anywhere from $18,000 to $30,000.

7. Maternity clothes.

Comfort is crucial when you are expecting, and loose clothes and flat shoes can help to ensure this comfort. Maternity clothes are not necessarily things you would have lying around if you have never given birth, so as an expectant mom, you might want to consider upgrading your wardrobe. A few tops, pants, dresses and shoes could run you from about $10,000 to $30,000 depending on where you shop and what you buy.

8. Transportation.

There is no doubt that you will have to factor this in, especially if you do not have a personal vehicle and need to take the taxi when going to your clinic visits. Your transportation costs will vary based on where you live, but let's say you are travelling from Portmore to UWHI for your visits, that could cost you about $3,000 each way.

9. Miscellaneous expenses.

Anything can happen when you are expecting and so you will need to stash something away in the event of an emergency. Another $10,000 should ideally be set aside just for this.

If you have been doing your calculations, you will see that having a baby can cost you anywhere from between $50,000 to as much as $300,000. And that's just the pregnancy. Afterwards you will have to feed and clothe said child, provide medication, housing, an education and various other services as a mom. This can send you to the poorhouse if you're not prepared.

But as they say, your baby will be worth every penny spent.

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