Sometimes it seems like getting pregnant is all too easy for those who don’t want it to happen or aren’t prepared for it, while others spend thousands on IVF with no results. Life is funny like that. Many married couples who haven’t really thought about the nitty-gritties of having a kid find themselves suddenly faced with an abyss of possible costs after buying that pregnancy test kit.
This happened to my friend Naomi (not her real name), a former marketing manager who’s on the brink of having her first child. She runs us through some of the costs that she’s incurred from the day she got pregnant to today.
Pregnant women need to go for check ups at least once a month, usually starting from the 16thweek. In your last trimester, you’ll have to step up the checkups to twice or more a month.
The cheapest way to do this is to purchase a prenatal package from your doctor that should cover you for about 6 months. Naomi paid about $1,800 for her 6 month package, which included all vitamins, scans and blood tests. She admits that she paid a hell lot more than average. “I went with my doctor upon recommendation, and only discovered that I was paying much more than many of my friends later.”
The prices can vary quite wildly between the different hospitals, so if you don’t have a particular doctor in mind and want to economise, do your research. At public hospitals, you can get away with paying less than $400 for the entire package.
The alternative is to pay on a per-visit basis, which will end up costing you more overall.
Your prenatal package will cover all your pre-delivery costs, but most of your money will start flowing out of your vaults when it’s time to get hospitalised for delivery.
Just as some of us can afford to stay in five star hotels when we travel while others are relegated to bunk beds in hostel rooms, you can bring down the cost of your delivery hospitalisation by choosing to sacrifice the right to a private room and going to a public hospital.
Naomi is paying almost $3,000 for a 2D1N stay in a private room at a private hospital not including delivery costs, but you can keep your costs to about $1,000 by choosing a bed in a cheaper hospital. Bear in mind that if you have a C-section you might have to stay up to 5 days.
You get to select the way you want to deliver (eg. Natural birth or Caesarian section)… but it’s not really a choice in many cases. Things can get a little tricky as natural birth is significantly cheaper than C-section, but not all women will be able to delivery naturally. If you opt for a natural birth and then have to have an emergency C-section, you’ll be made to pay even more than if you had opted for a C-section to begin with.
Naomi’s delivery fees for a normal delivery with epidural were quoted at about $2,300, but she admits this is more than many others like her pay. If you’re going the budget route, you can bring down the total figure for hospitalisation + delivery for natural birth to under $2,000 or under $3,000 for c-section.
Now, if you’re opting for the much cheaper natural birth, you’ll be quoted two sets of prices: one which applies if your natural birth goes through as planned, and another for emergency Caesarian section. For Naomi, the figure for the latter was at least 50% more expensive than the former.
It is very hard to predict accurately how much you’ll have to pay in total, as hospital bills can be a rather amorphous beast. If complications arise or you simply make the doctors use more gloves or towels than predicted, you might see extra costs pop up on your bill.
At private hospitals, Naomi advises that you be prepared to set aside around $10,000 for the entire process if you want to have your own room. However, cash-strapped mothers can choose from much more inexpensive options at pubic hospitals, the cheapest of which will have you sharing a space with a bunch of other patients as you recuperate.
Once you’ve given birth, expect your medical bills to skyrocket, since there’s two of you now. You’ll have to pay for your own gynaecologist, as well as a paediatrician for your new child. If you’ve had a C-section, you can expect to have to pay a bit more at the start as your wound will have to be monitored.
In addition, you’ll have to get your kid immunised against certain diseases (remember the BCG?). All the compulsory immunisations are free, but if you want to go further your cheapest option is to go to a polyclinic. Otherwise, be prepared to fork out close to $1,000 at a minimum for packages at private hospitals.
Many mothers manage to survive without a confinement nanny in their first month after childbirth, and no they aren’t walking around with huge deformities. If you do want to get a confinement nanny, be prepared to shell out about $2,000 to $3,000 in that month alone.
As for Naomi, she has no plans to get a confinement nanny. “I’m already spending so much trying to give birth to my child on a single income,” she laments.
If you’re smart, you’d have started shopping for your baby supplies many months before giving birth. Otherwise, your partner is going to have one hell of a time getting lost in the jungle that is Mothercare.
While you can skip getting frivolous items like designer diaper bags and high tech prams, there are some items you are going to have to buy, and the price can be quite shocking.
Bottle and steriliser – Unfortunately, you can’t just stick milk bottles into boiling water to clean them like you would a pair of chopsticks at a steamboat meal. Naomi advises setting aside about $200 for a set containing bottles, warmer and steriliser.
Breast pump – Naomi spent $500 on her contraption, but you can spend anything between $50 and $1,000.
Baby detergent – Guess what? Apparently, you can’t just dump your baby’s clothes into the washing machine with all the grownups’. Babies will need their own detergent, which can cost about $10 to $17 for a 2 litre bottle. A few mothers use regular detergent, but whether you can get away with doing that depends on how sensitive your child’s skin is.
Cot – Ikea’s cheapest cot is about $80, although if you’re looking for ways to part with $1,000+++ you’ll find them.
Stroller – Naomi bought one of the cheapest options on the market at $300, but these can cost over $1,000
A word about Medisave
The Medisave Maternity Package lets you use your Medisave savings to pay for many pregnancy-and delivery-related expenses. You get to withdraw $450 for each day you spend at the hospital, an additional sum of $450 (in total, not per day) and a surgical withdrawal which varies depending on how you deliver.
Click here for a more detailed rundown.