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How much will having a baby really cost you?

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Having a baby is a special and exciting time in life, so much so that financial planning sometimes takes a back seat to other preparations for your bundle of joy. This doesn’t have to be the case. 

Knowing what to expect (financially) when you’re expecting, and taking a few small steps to cut those costs, can create a lot of extra room in your budget. This means you’ll have more to spend on things for your little one. Here’s a rundown of how much it costs to have a baby, plus a few tips to help you save along the way.

Prenatal care visits and tests

Although all insurers are required to cover maternity care under the Affordable Care Act, this doesn’t necessarily make it free. In most cases, you’ll be responsible for copays for your care visits and tests, which, according to one study, add up to approximately $616 in out-of-pocket costs for the insured. If you don’t have insurance, you’ll be responsible for paying the full amount for these services—the same study estimates total prenatal charges to be $6,257.

READ MORE: How to choose a high-value OB/GYN

When you see your doctor, he or she will recommend certain tests based on your medical history, family history, pregnancy risk level and standard of care. The most common of these is the ultrasound exam, which can run between $120-$480 per test for a first trimester ultrasound—and 10-20 percent higher than that for second or third trimester exam. While most healthy women receive two ultrasounds during a pregnancy, the timing of ultrasounds can vary.

Your doctor likely will also recommend prenatal vitamins, which run about $10-$20 for a two-month supply. Tests to check for gestational diabetes and Rh incompatibility are now considered to be preventive benefits, so most insured women will be able to get these screenings for free. Other tests, such as amniocentesis, cystic fibrosis carrier screening and chorionic villus sampling, will be more costly. Your pregnancy provider will help you to decide which tests are necessary—but you should check with your insurer before getting any tests so that you’re clear on what’s covered and what you’ll be responsible for paying for in full.

READ MORE: Pregnancy week by week

Delivery

A recent study by Truven Health Analytics found average charges for intrapartum care—that is, care during delivery—to be $16,165 for a vaginal birth and $24,572 for a cesarean birth and out-of-pocket payments to be $1,038 and $1,246, respectively. These numbers show that your insurance will pay the majority of your delivery costs. If you are uninsured, negotiate with your provider prior to delivery to get the lowest rate possible. Keep in mind that these numbers are averages, and the your costs will depend on which hospital or birth setting you choose, the provider you select and the state you live in. Charges can vary widely even between hospitals in the same city depending on a number of factors—most significantly whether you have a natural birth or a C-section.

READ MORE: Does it really cost a lot more to have a C-section?

What can you do to lower costs?

If your head is already spinning, don’t worry—there are many things you can do save money when you’re having a baby. Start with health insurance. If you’re pregnant or planning to be, and don’t have insurance, it makes a lot of financial sense to sign up for a policy. You can’t be charged more or turned away due to your pregnancy, and although you will still have some out-of-pocket costs, what you save will far outweigh those.

Next, check out your OB/GYN long before delivery. You’ll want an experienced provider who knows what to do should the unexpected arise. Finding a pregnancy provider with low rates of complications and C-sections could save you money down the line. You may also want to ask if your OB/GYN can deliver your baby in a birthing center near you. Studies show that birthing centers have a higher rate of natural delivery and cost less than hospitals, and some are even affiliated with hospitals so you’re always covered.

READ MORE: How to choose the right hospital for giving birth

To save money on extra tests and exams, you may also want to print a copy of your insurance benefits summary and bring it to your doctor’s visits. Some healthy women elect not to have ultrasounds at all, and many of the usual blood tests can now be done together to save money. It’s always OK to ask your doctor why each test is being done, and why.

Lacie Glover writes for NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care and insurance.