Raising a child can be very expensive, but the costs actually start well before your bundle of joy is even born. In fact, when I was pregnant with my son last year, I was surprised at all of the huge expenses that I incurred along the way.

The last thing you want to do is end up reaching for the credit cards and going into debt due to all the money you have to spend on the essentials during pregnancy.

To make sure this doesn't happen, try to plan for a few key costs and save up some money before getting ready to expand your family. In particular, there are five big costs you should be prepared to incur.

Smiling couple looking down at newborn baby.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Doctor visits

When you're expecting, you'll be visiting the doctor often. In fact, most moms-to-be have to see their midwife or ob-gyn at least once a week in the weeks leading up to delivery.

While some insurance plans cover prenatal visits, ultrasounds and other routine testing before you've met your deductible, others don't. Depending on your insurance plan, this could mean you have to spend anywhere between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars out-of-pocket before your insurance starts helping you pay doctor bills. And if your pregnancy happens to span two plan years and your deductible resets, you may need to meet the deductible twice. 

Even after your deductible is met, or if care is covered before it, you may also owe a co-pay each time you visit the doctor. This can really add up when you're going often, even if your copay is a small one. 

Be sure to check your plan to see what's covered before the deductible, the size of your deductible, and the copays you'll owe to find out how much you'll have to pay out-of-pocket so you can be prepared. 

2. Prenatal testing not covered by insurance

There are tons of prenatal testing available in this day and age. While insurance covers some tests, it doesn't cover everything. My husband and I opted for expensive genetic tests, for example, which we had to cover the costs of out-of-pocket.

While you don't necessarily need to say yes for every test you're offered, many parents want all the information they can get about their bundle of joy.

If you want one of those fancy 3D or 4D ultrasounds to get great pictures of the baby in utero, you'll also need to cough up the cash yourself as insurance won't pay for elective ultrasounds. 

3. Maternity clothes

Maternity clothes are a must as you outgrow your regular outfits and still want to look presentable. Depending on where you work and whether you need business casual dress, you may need to shell out a significant sum for clothes to wear once your belly bump becomes more prominent. You can look for gently used options from consignment stores to help limit costs, but good maternity clothes can be hard to find.

4. Time off work

Remember those aforementioned doctor visits -- you'll probably need to take time off work to go to them. You'll also need time off for the birth of the baby and, most likely, for a few weeks after.

Check your parental leave, sick leave, and vacation policy at work. While some companies offer paid leave, many don't. If you don't get paid time off, you'll have to prepare to live without an income for a while.

5. The cost of delivery

Having a baby can be very expensive, especially if you need a cesarean section or if there are any complications. Most insurance policies require your deductible to be met before they pay for birth and may also charge expensive coinsurance costs.

If you opt for a home birth, as I did, your insurance may also provide very limited coverage. My insurance paid just $500 in fees for my midwife, leaving me on the hook for about $2,500 -- and this was thousands of dollars cheaper than the insurance estimates for my out-of-pocket costs if I'd had a hospital birth.

Again, check your policy to see what the insurance will pay for and what costs you're likely going to have to pick up out of your own pocket.

Preparing for these expenses is essential for expectant parents

Since these costs can add up to several thousand dollars, it's a good idea to start saving for them ASAP. Creating a dedicated baby/pregnancy fund will ensure you don't have to worry about how to afford the necessities as you get ready to care for the wonderful new person entering your family.