Having a baby is becoming more and more expensive for mums as the reduction in their salaries during maternity leave pushes more women into debt, according to new research.
Almost three in ten (28%) new mums end up in debt because of their maternity leave, incurring an average debt of £2,500, according to an online survey of more than 1000 mothers, by price comparison website uSwitch.
While not all new mums end up in debt, only a quarter of women surveyed said they felt financially prepared for the new arrival.
Ten per cent of new mums said they ended up borrowing money from their family, with 14 per cent relying on credit cards, loans or overdrafts to bridge the gap. Some 23 per cent of women questioned said they delayed having their first child because of the cost.
According to the survey, the average household monthly income fell from £2,866 to £1,654 during maternity leave. And despite this dramatic drop in income, 43 per cent of women said they didn’t save any money to cover this period.
Some mothers also cut short their maternity leave because of financial pressures — 10 per cent said they had to do this and nine per cent had to rethink their plans of not returning to work.
The rising cost of living, with substantial hikes in food, travel and energy bills also put pressure on new families.
And the equipment thought necessary for a new arrival meant mothers were also spending more when their income was squeezed. On average, first-time mums spent £1,400 maternity leave on the new baby, on top of around of £1,500 spent before going on leave.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, said: "Planning for a baby is tough at the best of times, but in the face of the soaring cost of living there is even more pressure on family finances.
"Sadly, very few mums have the luxury of being able to stay at home for the whole of their maternity leave and even fewer have the choice to be a stay-at-home-mum.
"It's clear that more needs to be done by the Government to help families cope with the financial burden of parenthood."