Things to consider before having a baby
Here are a few things to discuss and consider before you take the plunge and fall pregnant

Many parents report “just knowing” the time is right, while others are thrown into parenthood unexpectedly and simply have to cope.

As much as it can be a time of great joy and excitement, pregnancy can also be riddled with stresses and strains, and having a child will affect everything, from your relationships to your career to your lifestyle and financial status.

But if you're planning to have a baby, you have the advantage of having time to prepare for this major life change. Here are a few considerations you and your partner may want to think about:

Will you go back to work?

One of the most important post-baby decisions is whether and when you will go back to work after the birth. How will you cope financially during your maternity leave, or if you decide to become a stay-at-home mom (or dad)? And who will look after your baby if and when you do go back to work? How will having a baby affect your career?

Have you considered all the costs?

Having a baby is an expensive business – you will have to budget for loss of income, medical care including prenatal care, the cost of the birth and baby’s medical bills, and all the baby stuff you’ll need (nappies and toiletries alone can cost R500 a month).

Some baby items are optional, but many are not. Clothing, a car seat, a cot and pram, bottles and formula, nappies and basic toiletries are essentials, some of which you will have to buy every month. Childcare costs at least R1 500 a month. If you can, try and save a cash reserve for unexpected expenses before you fall pregnant, so you can enjoy your baby without worrying unduly about bills.

How strong is your relationship?

How do you and your partner feel about having a baby? If you are going to be a single parent, do you have adequate support systems?

Couples often believe that having a baby will bring them closer together, but while this is often true, having a baby will not repair any cracks in your relationship – in fact, the opposite is more likely.

Financial stress can put pressure on your relationship, so it’s good to have a plan – and a budget.

Do you have external support?

While you are preparing for the experience, rally your support systems. Are there grandparents who will be willing and able to baby-sit? Do you have a network of other new mothers you will be able to talk to for advice and support? How about domestic help? Attending prenatal classes is a great way to network in this new world, while gaining knowledge can reduce your anxiety about the impending birth and after birth!

What if it doesn’t happen naturally?

Infertility, or even just trouble conceiving, has become very common and can be a major source of stress in modern relationships. Fertility treatment can put pressure on even the strongest relationships. Have you and your partner discussed what you would do if you had trouble conceiving? Or if you had fertility treatment and ended up with two or even three new babies?

Are you ready to feel uncomfortable?

Pregnancy itself is surprisingly stressful, especially the first time around when you don’t know what to expect. Your body changes in dramatic and unexpected ways, surging hormones can cause emotional turmoil, and many pregnancy niggles – while taken lightly by the medical establishment and those who have been through it all – can be profoundly uncomfortable. In addition, you are likely to be concerned about the health of your growing baby at every stage.

Where will you give birth?

Another important decision you will need to make as you are planning your pregnancy is who will provide your prenatal care and where you will give birth. Your choice of obstetrician would probably determine the hospital you use, or you may decide on a maternity clinic based on the services they offer (such as water birth or an active birthing unit.)

Alternatively, you may opt for a midwife instead of or in addition to an obstetrician and you may want to research birthing alternatives such as home birth.

Are you emotionally ready?

Some couples take to parenthood like ducks to water – and it is these rosy images of doting fathers, sleeping babies and glowing mothers that we are most often presented with. But pregnancy and parenthood also cause a profound shift in identity that some new moms and dads struggle with.

The weight of responsibility is enormous – dads most often feel the burden of being the only breadwinner, while new moms may feel overwhelmed at the idea of being totally responsible for the wellbeing of this brand new human being.

The truth is that having a new baby is physically, emotionally and spiritually as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Give yourself and your baby the best start in life by approaching parenthood as prepared as it is possible to be – while knowing that parenting means expecting the unexpected!

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