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Maternity care and health insurance

Your health insurance policy may provide financial support during pregnancy, labour and after your baby is born.

Key points

  • Some insurers will offer cash benefit to new parents
  • Policies may include a lifetime benefit to contribute towards certain maternity costs
  • Parents can add newborn babies to an existing policy, sometimes free of charge

The National Health Service (NHS) cares for mothers and babies before and after birth, free of charge, but expectant parents can still lean on their health insurance policy for support and benefits.

Health insurance offers a greater choice of treatments and facilities for patients who can afford to pay for healthcare, and skip lengthy NHS waiting lists.

Pregnancy, birth and post-natal care aren’t usually part and parcel of a typical family health insurance policy, however, some insurers offer certain benefits under exceptional circumstances.

If you hold a private medical insurance (PMI) policy it may pay for you to access private healthcare services while pregnant, however most policies only cover you for complications and emergencies.

Although it's unusual, some insurers might pay a cash benefit to contribute towards scans, tests and private midwifery costs, so it's worth checking your policy when you become pregnant to see what's included.

Maternity cash benefit, childbirth benefit and pregnancy benefit

Some health insurance policies may offer a cash payout - £100 for example - called:

  • Maternity cash benefit
  • Childbirth benefit
  • Pregnancy benefit
  • Stethoscope

Each will pay a baby bonus, per child or per policy.

A healthcare cash plan may also pay a cash sum for each child born.

To get the cash benefit, you'll usually have to notify the insurer of the birth.

Qualifying periods

Often a health insurance policy must be active for a number of weeks, months or years prior to conception for parents to receive the cash benefit.

The time frame between opening a policy and conceiving a baby is called the ‘qualifying period’.

The cash benefit will sometimes increase if parents have a longer qualifying period.

If you're choosing a healthcare cash plan in lieu of a health insurance policy, or vice versa, compare the qualifying periods - they might fluctuate drastically with little difference in benefit value.

How to claim the maternity cash benefit

If your policy offers a cash benefit, you must keep up the payments during the qualifying period to claim for any childbirth costs.

The benefit might only be available for a short window after the baby is born, or after your family is discharged from the hospital.

In some instances, the bonus is available to adoptive parents too, but the benefit could be forfeited if the parents are related to the adopted child.

Families bereaved after the birth of a still-born baby could also be eligible for childbirth benefit after a number of weeks of gestation.

Read the terms and conditions carefully to see what the insurer needs to swiftly make the payment.

They may need one or more of the following documents:

  • Baby’s birth certificate
  • Supporting documentation for adoption
  • Stillbirth certificate
  • Information on labour and complications during birth

Private care costs

Each treatment and piece of apparatus used during childbirth could have an itemised cost and while most women will give birth in NHS facilities, there are a few private maternity hospitals.

If you need an induction, epidural, or forceps, the cost of a private birth quickly adds up (and don't forget the consultant's and anaesthetist's fees on top!).

Remember, routine maternity care is highly likely to be excluded from your health insurance policy, so if you want private treatment, you'll probably pay for it out of your own pocket.

To reduce your monthly premium, you may be tempted to reduce or cap your out-patient cover.

While that'll put a little more money back in your pocket right now, remember such a decision could invalidate any 'complications cover' for pregnancy within the policy, making emergency post-birth claims a no-go.

Emergency care during childbirth

Some insurers give you full cover if you run into complications during childbirth.

The events that unfold during birth are difficult to predict, so thoroughly read your policy and check with your provider which emergency care is covered, just in case you encounter complications during birth.

The terms and conditions may also refer to a ‘lifetime benefit within listed procedures’ and state the redeemable value alongside a list of complications.

A 'lifetime benefit' is a pot of cash within the health insurance policy that's payable during your lifetime, or the lifetime of the policy if you make a claim.

But it will only apply to certain conditions so ask your insurer for a list of childbirth related complications covered so you've all the information ahead of the event.

You'll probably find that if you became pregnant before or soon after taking out your health insurance policy, you may not be able to redeem ‘lifetime benefit’ if there are any difficulties during birth.

Remember thoug, you'll still recieve treatment on the NHS if you need emergency treatment such as a caeserean.

Post-natal care and adding newborns to health insurance policies

Post-birth, parents can hire a private room to avoid a busy and noisy communal ward with other mothers and babies.

By adding newborn babies to a health insurance policy, the paid-for care is an additional safety net should the baby contract any illness or problems immediately after birth.

A health insurance policy may not cover the private room post-birth, but costs start from approximately £70.

A newborn baby may be eligible to join an existing health insurance policy, or parents can open a brand new policy just for their baby.

Some providers will allow newborns onto a policy free of charge for the first 90-days, or up until the policy renewal date.

By adding them to a health insurance policy, the paid-for care is an additional safety net should the baby contract any illness or problems immediately after birth.

The cover ensures fast access to specialists, and treatments in a particular facility or private hospital, skipping the NHS waiting list.

Scans, blood tests and additional health checks

According to Which?, 14% of expectant parents pay for an extra scan during pregnancy, and a further 4% seek additional blood tests with private healthcare providers.

Whether it’s a 3D or 4D ultrasound scan, or a screen for an underlying health condition, extra tests give parents peace of mind at a cost.

According to Which?, 14% of expectant parents pay for an extra scan during pregnancy, and a further 4% seek additional blood tests with private healthcare providers

Many of these extras won't be included under a health insurance policy, because pregnancy and maternity care may fall under its 'exclusions' list.

However, if the mother has a diagnosed condition that pre-dates conception, the insurer will usually honour and pay for the treatment and tests she requires.

However, the same benefit isn't extended to the unborn child and for tests relating to the pregnancy.

Hire an independent midwife

In the lead up to birth, and during labour, you can hire a self-employed midwife or obstetrician to attend to your care.

Be wary; care administered at home, or in a private maternity ward by independent staff, can become very expensive, and it’s the patient who foots the bill.

The consistent and focused care of a single midwife throughout pregnancy, birth and post-natal is just one reason parents may choose to pay for private medical care, but it’s not generally covered by UK health insurers.

If parents prefer midwifery care aside from the NHS, companies such as IMUK connect parents to independent midwives in their area.

Sam O'Brien, a volunteer at IMUK, explains: "Private midwives work for private midwifery companies, or in private hospitals as contracted employees. Independent midwives (our members) are truly independent in that they are self-employed. Expectant parents choose and hire them using individual criteria, and agreed on fees."

The cost of hiring an independent midwife may be less prescriptive than a private hospital's price list, and give you greater opportunity to shop around for the care you need.

How to buy health insurance with pregnancy, birth and post-natal benefits

Visit Gocompare.com health insurance and click ‘Get Quotes’.

Complete the questionnaire and our partners ActiveQuote Health[1] will help you compare health insurance policies suitable for you and your growing family.

To find the policies with maternity, pregnancy and baby perks, look out for a green tick next to ‘Maternity Cash Benefit’, and ‘Pregnancy/Maternity’.

The comparison table may also have a clickable supporting information document which details the medical exclusions and specialist terms and conditions relating to maternity and post-natal care.

by Amanda Bathory