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Make sure there are no medical surprises when the stork comes.

New parents share what they wish they knew when the stork was coming and what they won’t forget next time they give birth.

Medical aids are not cheap, and neither are hospital costs. If you are parent-in-waiting, you need to be aware of any hidden expenses before doing the emergency run to the hospital. Hospital costs are also never black and white.

“Also understand how your UIF payment works,” says first-time mom Leigh. “I used an agent and they made sure I applied on time. I found that many moms don’t realise there is a waiting period involved.”

get gap cover

“Invest in gap medical cover,” says new dad Mark. “Without gap cover, we would have been at least R10 000 out of pocket.” Costs for gap medical cover vary between medical aids, but you can pay from as little as R80 per month to as much as R800. Mark says people should also really understand their medical aid. “Your medical aid could indicate they cover 100% [which is 100% of the scheme tariff], but the doctor might charge 400%, and you are responsible for the ‘short fall’.” Medical aids usually cover 2–5% more of the tariffs as recommended by the National Health Reference Price List. If your doctor, anaesthetist or obstetrician asks 300% or more (as up to 90% of them do), you must negotiate a discount, or pay the difference.

read the fine print

Read the fine print contained in your medical aid schedule of benefits and terms and conditions.

Are you covered for delivery? Double check with your medical aid. Most medical aid schemes impose a waiting period on new members and their dependants when they join. Generally this waiting period depends on how long you’ve been part of another scheme or not part of a scheme at all. The waiting period could be as little as three months, but for pregnancy, most medical aids expect you to be a member for at least 12 months before you can claim for pregnancy- and birth-related costs. There are pregnancy hospital plans available, but they also don’t necessarily cover the birth or other hospital costs if you joined while pregnant.

automatic cover for newborns

Make sure your newborn baby is covered by your medical aid. “Our medical aid automatically covered our baby at birth, but only for the month he was born in, regardless of the day,” says first-time mom Leigh from Cape Town. “If he was born 2 July, he would be covered until 31 July. If he was born 30 July, the automatic cover also expired 31 July.” After this expiry date, their son had to be registered as an independent member.

But you have to inform your medical aid of the birth, and find out what the window period is in which your baby is automatically covered, before he has to be registered as an independent member.

make your preferences known

“Be specific and inform hospital staff about your preferences for feeding your baby,” says Ellen, mom to one-year-old Bree. “If you don’t want the hospital to give your baby formula, insist that under no circumstances should this be allowed without your consent.” Ellen was exhausted from giving birth and rested while Bree was taken for clean-up and routine medical tests. “When she was returned to me, Bree spat up.  I asked if they’d fed her. Some know-it-all nurse confirmed they’d given her formula supplementation as they felt it was the right thing to do. I was horrified.”

Read our article on preparing for a new baby, complete with checklists of must-vanes, suggestions and nice-to haves.

just baby and me

You and your partner had an exhilarating, yet exhausting, few days together at home with your newborn. But eventually your partner has to get back to work and you’re flying solo. Leigh says you have to prepare for that first spell alone with your baby. “I was born to be a mom and it all comes so naturally to me, but being on my own with Jack, I suddenly felt very alone.” Leigh says it wasn’t easy at first, but she had to drag herself out of the house. “I felt better just by getting out of the house and having much-needed contact with other adults.”

Gale, a single mom to Alyson, says: “I had family around, but eventually life goes on, they went back to work, and I started to panic. I was ‘on call’ – alone. I felt out of my depth. Then I joined a new-mommy club. It’s been a life-saver.”

Ellen adds: “Everybody has an opinion on raising a newborn, which can be annoying, but I found that during those first lonely days, asking questions, sharing info and communicating, was a huge help. In the end, you trust your instincts and discard unwanted advice, but at least you’ve connected to the world.”

gadgets and gears


This is a cot with an open side that fits next to your bed. You and your baby won’t share a bed, but it helps to maximise the breastfeeding and soothing benefits because of the close proximity. It also minimises the increased risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome associated with bed sharing.

nappy buddy

A nappy changing kit includes a changing pad and has room for everything else you’ll need, such as nappies and baby wipes, to change your baby’s nappy anywhere. “Some even have storage pockets for your keys and phone, which has made my life so much easier,” says new Joburg mom Isabel.

car seat

Strap your baby into a correctly installed car seat the moment you leave the hospital.  “We drove around with Jack for five months thinking the car seat was installed properly, until someone pointed out that it was not correct,” Leigh shares.

humidifier or dehumidifier

Make sure your baby’s room is not too warm and too dry. Babies sleep better with a cooler, moist environment without feeling chilly. Invest in either a humidifier or dehumidifier to make sure your baby’s sleeping space is comfortable and healthy from the start.

Marina Zietsman