Everything you need to know to properly prepare for pregnancy
Preparing for pregnancy is about getting mentally, physically and financially prepared to add a new baby to your family.
Having a baby is a huge, life-changing decision, which is why many would-be parents fret over getting the timing right. In reality, there is no "perfect time" to start a family. We could always do with more money, more time, a bigger house or better job security before we think about starting a family, but really, all your baby needs is your undivided love and attention!
As you prepare to embark on the journey of parenthood, here are some areas of your life you can focus on to try to minimise potential stress.
Dealing with relationship changes
The transition from being a couple to becoming parents is an exciting but challenging time, according to Tita Cook, relationship educator at LifeWorks Relationship Counselling and Education Services.
"Stress, physical exhaustion, sleep deprivation for both partners, hormonal mood swings, emotions such as anxiety, making an adjustment to a different lifestyle, financial impact, worry and fear are just some of the things that can cause tension and impact a couple’s relationship," she says.
"Investing in, and learning to maintain, a healthy, stable relationship is the best ‘cradle’ you can offer your children."
If you're dealing with relationship issues, Cook says open communication is important, as well as accepting the fact that becoming a parent is a steep learning curve.
She suggests that you tell your partner what you think you may need from them during your pregnancy and once the baby arrives — and also what you think you can offer. "Remaining as a team is vital in this transition process," she adds.
Most important, don't struggle alone, Cook adds. There are many books and resources available to help you navigate this time, as well as classes and programs to support new parents.
Many new mums also find that their friendships change after welcoming a baby, especially if they're one of the first in their social group to start a family. Having support during this time of significant change and potential stress is crucial, so pregnant women and new mums may want to consider:
- Attending prenatal classes to connect with like-minded parents going through a similar situation
- Joining a mothers' group through your community health centre or a network such as MeetUp
- Taking your baby to a regular playgroup
- If you're becoming a parent on your own, find support online through sites like SingleMum.com.au.
Getting financially prepared to welcome a baby
For some, taking a career break can be a financial burden, says Michelle Hutchison, money expert at comparison website Finder.com.au.
"Going from having a high disposable income and no dependants to becoming a new mum with little or no income, even temporarily, can be cause for concern, and that's completely understandable," she says. "But the key is in taking control of your financial situation." Hutchison offers the following tips:
1. Set up automated savings
"Putting a little aside every payday via automatic deductions allows you to watch your savings grow in a high-interest savings account — getting paid to save is a great incentive!" Hutchison says. Some mums even purchase a $20 gift card every time they do the grocery shopping while pregnant so they have a stash of shopping vouchers to help cover the cost of food and nappies once they're on maternity leave.
2. Shop at garage sales
Your trash may be another person's treasure. "The extra cash you can earn from selling your unused, unwanted clothes, furniture and appliances can go towards your parental leave fund," Hutchison says. "Likewise, consider buying pre-loved toys or furniture for your little one."
3. Have a baby shower
As well as being a rite of passage for pregnant women, baby showers are a lovely way to gather with friends and family, mingle over cake, play fun games and get excited about the impending birth of bub. "Plus, any gifts you receive mean there's less you need to buy later down the track!" Hutchison says.
Lastly, don't forget to register for Paid Parental Leave; at present, new mums are eligible for 18 weeks of maternity payments from the government at minimum pay (around $600 per week), provided you meet the criteria.