MONEY Ask the Expert

How to Tell if You Can Afford to Have a Baby

Pregnancy test with dollar sign
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—William Andrew/Getty Images

Q: “I’m a 38-year-old female, who has been focused on paying down student loans, currently at about $58,000 (my initial amount was $98,000). Minimum monthly payments are about $650, but I pay about $1,000 a month. I’ve paid down my loans by living very modestly, and at the expense of saving for retirement or planning a family. But now I’m afraid that if I don’t start having children now, I won’t be able to. Can I afford to start a family?” ‑ S.C., Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: “Having a child is an exciting but scary step, and money can be a big part of that worry,” says financial planner Matt Becker, father of two and founder of the blog Mom and Dad Money. “I wouldn’t dive in without considering the financial consequences, but I also wouldn’t let them scare you off.”

Considering the average cost for a middle-income couple to raise a child for 18 years comes in at just under a quarter of a million dollars, excluding college costs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you may never feel like having a baby is in the budget. But keep in mind that four million babies are born in the U.S. each year, and most of their parents adjust just fine to the new costs.

Even with your student loan debt, starting a family should be do-able for you, says Becker. You’ll just need to make room for in your budget for baby.

First step, get a handle on how you are currently allocating your income. (Mint.com can help you track your spending.) Then consider how your income might change after the baby, says San Diego financial planner Andrew Russell, who’s also a dad of two. For example, will you or your partner stay home part time or full time? Will you take any unpaid parental leave?

Once you know what your post-baby income will look like, get a rough estimate of the new expenses you will be footing, both one-time (like maternity clothes, hospital costs, car seat, crib) and ongoing (childcare, food and diapers). Becker recommends using Babycenter’s child cost calculator.

You’ll also want to factor in the cost of basic protections like life and disability insurance, which can help ensure your child will still be provided for if a parent dies prematurely or is seriously injured. “These will add to your monthly budget, but are well worth the cost for the financial security they provide,” says Becker.

With your big student loan payments, you may find through this exercise that your future expenses with baby exceed your income. So what next? See if you qualify for any loan forgiveness programs. Also, look for any fat in your budget to cut out—particularly recurring expenses that require a one-time effort to change like switching to a cheaper cell phone plan, cutting cable, or moving to an area with less expensive rents.

“Obviously this is a big life goal with a certain time frame, and if there is not that much room to cut back on spending, then you need to minimize the amount you pay back on loans,” says Russell, who adds that it’s okay for you to dial back to the minimum payment. “The debt is too large for you to take a good chunk out of it in the next few years, so you’re going to have to move forward with it.”

While the lower payment will add to your interest over time, the federal tax deduction on student loan interest—if you qualify—will offset some of the cost. Plus, every time you and/or your partner receive pay raises and bonuses, you can funnel that additional income toward the debt.

Once you’ve figured out your post-baby budget, start living on it—even before you get pregnant, Becker advises. And put the money you would be spending into a savings account. Besides helping you see if you can handle the budget, “this helps you build up a savings cushion that will relieve a lot of the financial anxiety that can come with a growing family,” says Becker. You will need to plump that cushion before the baby’s arrival anyway: With the general rule being to have cash reserves equaling six months of living expenses, you’ll need to make sure your emergency fund now reflects all the new costs you’ll be covering.

Related:

TIME motherhood

Kim Kardashian is Nostalgic for Her Pre-Baby Body

She's probably the first mom ever to feel this way

North West is adorable, but Kim Kardashian seems to be having some nostalgia for body-before-baby. She posted an Instragram of herself on Friday from five years ago, with the caption: “ughhh I am 20 lbs lighter here! This was just 5 years ago! Ok I’m going back on my grind. I gotta get back here!”

It’s not the first time Kim has expressed dissatisfaction with her body after her pregnancy. Here’s another Instagram from three weeks ago, with the caption: “Throwback to a few years ago #SkinnyDays #OnTheTreadmillRightNOW”

Meanwhile, this is Kim two weeks ago:

So go figure.

 

TIME Pregnancy

The Connection Between Parks and Healthier Pregnancy

Trees can do a lot of good for your health, from lowering stress to encouraging you to spend more time outdoors exercising. But can it help expectant moms have healthier babies?

What mother-to-be doesn’t do her best to nurture her still-developing baby so he or she can be ready for the world after nine months? Eating right, exercising, and avoiding extreme amounts of stress are just some of the ways that expectant mothers can cocoon their babies in the healthiest environment possible. And now scientists say there’s another thing pregnant women can do to help their babies to emerge from the womb at a healthy weight.

Living near green spaces – parks, gardens, and even cemeteries – is associated with fewer low birth weight babies, according to a study published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine. An international group of researchers analyzed data from nearly 40,000 singleton births in Tel Aviv, Israel from 2002 to 2006 and matched the mother’s address at the time of delivery with satellite images of the landscape to assess their relative “green-ness.” Women who lived in areas with more access to parks or gardens or green spaces were less likely to have children with low birth weight, a risk factor that can contribute to respiratory conditions, intestinal disorders and bleeding in the brain as well as more long term health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, bone disorders and possibly autism.

Because greener regions tend to be associated with higher socioeconomic status and more maternal education, both factors that also affect the rate of low birth weight, the researchers also adjusted for the effect of socioeconomic status, and still found an effect of the greener environments. But they did find a stronger association between less green space and more low-birth-weight babies among those in lower socioeconomic groups, which could reflect the influence of other factors, such as less healthy behaviors in those populations and greater exposure to air pollution, stress and other environmental factors that can influence pregnancy outcomes.

So living near parks alone can’t prevent low-birth-weight babies, but the findings suggest that it couldn’t hurt. And the authors note that other studies hints at why – being near parks may encourage physical activity and promote more social interactions that can provide support to relieve stress and depression. Green spaces also tend to have lower levels of pollution and other potentially harmful environmental compounds that have been linked to poor fetal development.

TIME Family

Couples With Marital Stress More Likely to Have Daughters

Parents Baby Daughter
Mother and father are shown kissing their baby daughter. Chris Ryan—OJO Images RF/Getty Images

“Girls may well be surviving stressful pregnancies that boys can’t survive”

They’re always blaming the children. After years of research showing that couples with daughters are more likely to divorce, Duke researchers Tuesday offered up an interesting explanation as to why: female embryos are better at toughing it out.

Duke economist Amar Hamoudi co-authored the study, which analyzed longitudinal data from a random sample of Americans between 1979 and 2010. Their results showed that women who reported higher levels of relationship stress, linked to a increased prevalence of later divorce, were more likely to give birth to girls.

“Girls may well be surviving stressful pregnancies that boys can’t survive,” Hamoudi said. “Thus girls are more likely than boys to be born into marriages that were already strained.”

Research has widely documented men’s higher mortality rates from birth to age 100, and recent studies have shown that the “female survival advantage” may even begin in the womb. Hamoudi suggests that science needs to take a closer look at this critical life stage.

“It’s time for population studies to shine a light on the period of pregnancy,” Hamoudi said. “The clock does not start at birth.”

TIME Television

6 Things the Real Masters of Sex Taught Us About Sex in 1970

Before they were on Showtime, they were on the cover of TIME

Showtime’s acclaimed series Masters of Sex comes back for its second season this weekend, but before it was a hit show, the real Virginia Johnson and Dr. William Masters graced the May 25, 1970 cover of TIME to talk about their groundbreaking adult sexual education.

“The greatest form of sex education,” Masters once said, “is Pop walking past Mom in the kitchen and patting her on the fanny, and Mom obviously liking it. The kids take a look at this action and think, ‘Boy, that’s for me!'”

While sexual myths of penis size and libido boosters still exist today, Masters and Johnson were the original debunkers. This is what their research concluded in the 70’s.

1. Penis size has nothing to do with sexual effectiveness.
2. Baldness is not a sign of virility.
3. There is no physiological difference, as Freud first proposed, between a clitoral orgasm and a vaginal orgasm.
4. Humans can remain sexually active well into their ninth decade. “All that is necessary,” says Masters, “is reasonably good health and an interested and interesting partner.”
5. Intercourse is not dangerous at any time during pregnancy—unless, says Masters, it is contraindicated by “ruptured membranes, pain and bleeding.”
6. Masturbation is not harmful.

Catch up on William Masters and Virginia Johnson by reading their 1970 cover story now and see what happened in the first season of the hit series.

TIME celebrity

7 Celebrities Who Successfully Hid Their Pregnancies

Eva Mendes For New York And Company Spring 2014 Collection Pop Up Store Launch Party
Eva Mendes for New York And Company Spring 2014 Collection Michael Tran—FilmMagic

Mum's the word

The Internet exploded Wednesday when multiple reports revealed that Eva Mendes is pregnant with Ryan Gosling’s child. But the shocked reaction wasn’t just due to the fact that Mendes is procreating with our collective boyfriend, but also because, if OK! Magazine reports are to be believed, the actress managed to hide said pregnancy from the paparazzi for a whopping seven months.

Although a due date has yet to be confirmed, Mendes wouldn’t be the first mega-star to keep her baby bump under wraps for an impressively long period of time:

Beyoncé

2011 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
Beyonce reveals pregnancy at 2011 MTV VMAs Jeff Kravitz—FilmMagic/Getty


As expected, Beyoncé was the queen of pregnancy reveals. The icon let everyone know she was pregnant on her own terms — surprisingly exposing her nearly 5 month baby bump at the end of a live performance at the VMAs. Blue Ivy was born in January 2012.

Adele

The BRIT Awards 2012 - Show
Barely-pregnant Adele performs during The BRIT Awards 2012 Jon Furniss—WireImage/Getty


English pop star Adele successfully hid her pregnancy for seven months in spite of attending awards shows through her fifth month. The star successfully snuck into shows late, wore loose-fitting clothes and dodged the press. Her son Angelo was born in October 2012.

Isla Fisher

On Set Of "Burke And Hare" In London - March 1, 2010
Isla Fisher hid her pregnancy from cast-mates on set of “Burke and Hare” Neil Mockford—FilmMagic/Getty


Isla Fisher hid her second pregnancy with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen from co-workers while filming Burke and Hare. Co-stars didn’t notice that Fisher was three months along and only pretending to squeeze in corsets. Elula — whose name was kept hidden for six months — was born in August 2010.

Jennifer Garner

Sea Change Idea Forum Panel Discussion - History Of Progressive America
Actor Ben Affleck, Marian Wright Edelman and a pregnant Jennifer Garner attend the Sea Change Idea Forum Panel Discussion August 27, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage) Jeff Vespa—WireImage/Getty


Jennifer Garner also successfully hid her pregnancy — and morning sickness — from her fellow cast members while filming The Invention of Lying. “We only found out when it was announced in the press,” co-director Matthew Robinson told the New York Post. Seraphina was born in January 2009.

Ali Larter

Rochelle Gores Fredston Hosts Communities In Schools Los Angeles West Shopping Event at ARCADE Boutique
Ali Larter rocking a baby bump at Communities in Schools Shopping Event on July 29, 2010 Alexandra Wyman—WireImage/Getty


Ali Larter and her husband escaped to Europe for the first months of her pregnancy to keep their expectant status secret. She revealed her baby bump four months in when she “just want[ed] to live my life” again. Theodore was born in December 2010.

Evelyn Lozada

Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozada hid her baby bump for six months. When fans asked how she did it, Lozada tweeted, “LOL – It was pretty easy. Just stay home & mind your own business…” Leo was born in March 2014.

TIME Sports

Pregnant Olympic Runner Finishes 800-Meter Race

A pregnant Alysia Montano runs in the opening round of the women's 800 meter run during day 2 of the USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California on on June 26, 2014.
A pregnant Alysia Montano runs in the opening round of the women's 800 meter run during day 2 of the USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California on on June 26, 2014. Ezra Shaw—Getty Images

The crowd cheered as she crossed the finish line

Alysia Montano ran an 800-meter race at the U.S. Track and Field Championships on Thursday while 34 weeks pregnant.

The five-time national champion posted a time of 2 minutes and 32.12 seconds, nearly 35 seconds shy of her personal best of 1:57.34 from 2010, according to the Associated Press.

The 28-year-old Olympian received approval from her doctor to race. By running, Montano says she hopes to clear up any misconceptions people have about running while pregnant.

“What I found out mostly was that exercising during pregnancy is actually much better for the mom and the baby…I did all the things I normally do…I just happened to be pregnant. This is my normal this year,” Montano said.

The American Pregnancy Association encourages women to exercise during pregnancy: “Being active with 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days can benefit your health during pregnancy. The important note is that you want to seek to be active and get your blood flowing.”

The relaxed pace is something Montano will likely blow past when her doctor gives the thumbs up to run again after the baby is born.

 

TIME Pregnancy

5 More Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

5 Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman
Sebastian Pfuetze—Getty Images

Last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Mila Kunis had a bone to pick with fathers-to-be who say, “We’re expecting.”

“You’re not pregnant,” declared Kunis, who’s expecting her first child with fiancé Ashton Kutcher. “Do you have to squeeze a watermelon-sized person out of your lady hole? No.”

Health.com:10 Ways to Boost Your Odds of Getting Pregnant

Pregnancy seems to short-circuit the tact filter in everyone around you. If you’ve ever been pregnant, chances are you’ve got a long list of weird, offensive, and/or annoying things people have said to you. Here are my top five.

“You look like you’re going to pop any second!”

Translation: YOU ARE HUGE! This is usually said toward the end of your pregnancy, when you’re tired and achy and you feel like a beached whale anyway. The only reason people who say this don’t get smacked more often is because the pregnant lady in question can’t waddle over to them fast enough.

“OMIGOD you’re sooooo tiny!”

The flip side of the above. In a culture where you’re supposed to sport a fashionably petite “bump” (but not put on pounds anywhere else) and lose the weight 10 seconds after delivery, I think this is generally meant as a compliment. But it was still annoying to hear during my first pregnancy, when I was struggling to gain enough. Rule of thumb: Don’t comment on a pregnant woman’s body. At all.

Health.com:12 Ways to Soothe Heartburn in Pregnancy

“Are you supposed to be eating that?”

A friend of mine was once given a hard time by a waiter when she ordered a glass of wine at a restaurant on her anniversary—the only alcohol she touched her whole pregnancy. What a pregnant woman eats and drinks is between her and her doctor. The rest of you: butt out.

Health.com:10 Proven Sperm Killers

“[insert traumatic birth story here]

During my first pregnancy, I remember sitting frozen in abject horror as a group of my female coworkers, veteran moms all, regaled me with stories of all the terrible, weird, and just plain icky things that had happened to them during childbirth. If a first-timer actually asks you to share your birth story? Great, share away! But if you feel compelled to volunteer the tale of your stalled induction, four hours of pushing, and third-degree tear to someone you barely know, maybe it’s best to keep it to yourself, sister.

“Are you planning to breastfeed?”

And this is your business…why, exactly? Though I suppose answering this one is good practice for dealing with all the breastfeeding busybodies you’ll meet after the baby is born.

Health.com:7 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy With Diabetes

So what should you say? How about this: “Congratulations! You look beautiful.” That’s something every pregnant woman does want to hear.

This article, written by Jeannie Kim, originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Depression

No, Antidepressants During Pregnancy Don’t Harm Babies’ Hearts

Silhouette of Pregnancy
Getty Images

The latest study finds no significant increase in heart malformations in babies whose moms used antidepressants during pregnancy

That should reassure the 8% to 13% of women who take antidepressants while expecting. Concerns about the risks of the drugs, primarily selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), on the developing fetus prompted the Food and Drug Administration in 2005 to add warnings about the risk of heart defects in babies born to moms taking antidepressants. While studies have shown up to a three-fold increase risk in some congenital heart abnormalities associated with antidepressants, doctors couldn’t be entirely sure the higher risk wasn’t due purely to chance. Now, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that may indeed be the case, thank to the work of Krista Huybrechts, in the division of pharmacoepidemiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues.

In their analysis involving 949,504 pregnant women, 64,389 of whom used antidepressants during the first trimester, the rate of heart defects in newborns was similar between the groups. “Based on our study, there is no evidence to support a substantial increased risk of cardiac malformations overall,” she says.

She and her team specifically focused on adjusting for potential confounding factors that could explain the heart malformations, such as age, how many children the women had had, diabetes, hypertension and use of psychotropic medications. Even after accounting for these effects, they found no strong association between antidepressant use and heart defects.

While the findings should be reassuring for expectant mothers who take antidepressants, Huybrechts says that “heart defects are one factor in a whole range of potential risks” associated with the drugs. Some studies hint, for example, that the medications may contribute to hypertension in newborns, as well as other adverse health conditions. “The study provides quite solid evidence of the low risk in terms of cardiac malformations, but the treatment decision should consider the whole range of other potential adverse outcomes,” Huybrechts says. “[Decisions also need to consider] potential risk of not treating women who are severely depressed and required pharmacologic interventions. It’s one piece of the puzzle but definitely not the whole answer.”

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