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

The 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 people who can afford to pay for healthcare.

Pregnancy, birth and post-natal care aren’t usually part of a typical family health insurance policy. But if you have a private medical insurance (PMI) policy, it may pay for access to private healthcare services while pregnant.

However most policies only cover complications and emergencies.

Some insurers contribute towards scans, tests and private midwifery costs, but this is unusual. Check your policy when you become pregnant to see what's included.

Maternity cash benefit, childbirth benefit and pregnancy benefit

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

  • Maternity cash benefit
  • Childbirth benefit
  • Pregnancy benefit

Each pays out a 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 usually have to notify your insurer of the birth.

Qualifying periods

A health insurance policy usually has to be active for a number of weeks, months or years before you get pregnant for you to receive the cash benefit.

The time between starting a policy and getting pregnant is called the qualifying period. A longer qualifying period can mean a higher cash benefit.

Whether you choose a healthcare cash plan or health insurance policy, compare qualifying periods against the value of the cash benefit.

How to claim the maternity cash benefit

If your policy offers a cash benefit, you must keep up 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 you're discharged from the hospital.

Somtimes the bonus is available to adoptive parents, but the benefit could be forfeited if the parents are related to the adopted child.

If you suffer a stillbirth you could still be eligible for childbirth benefit, depending on how far advanced your pregnancy is.

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

They may need one or more of the following documents:

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

Private care costs

While most women 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 that’s before you take into account fees for the consultant and anaesthetist.

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

You might be tempted to reduce or cap your out-patient cover to reduce your monthly premium. But that could potentially invalidate cover for pregnancy complications and prevent you from making an emergency post-birth claim.

Emergency care during childbirth

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

Read your policy and check with your provider which types of emergency care are covered.

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

A lifetime benefit is 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 the list so you know exactly what you’re covered for.

If you became pregnant before or soon after taking out your health insurance policy, you may not be able to redeem the lifetime benefit if there are any difficulties during birth.I

Remember though, you'll still receive treatment on the NHS if you need emergency care such as a cesarean.

Postnatal care and adding newborns to health insurance policies

After the birth, parents can hire a private room away from the busy and noisy communal ward but your health insurance policy might not cover room hire costs, which start from around £70.

You may be able to add your newborn to your existing health insurance policy, or open a brand new policy for them.

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

By adding your newborn baby to your health insurance policy, they might be able to receive private treatment for illnesses or problems immediately after the birth.

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

Scans, blood tests and additional health checks

Many expectant parents pay for extra scans during pregnancy, or arrange extra blood tests with private healthcare providers.

These tests come at a cost and probably won't be included under a health insurance policy, because pregnancy and maternity care is frequently excluded.

But if you were diagnosed with a condition before conception the insurer will usually honour this and pay for the treatment and tests you need for it.

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

Hiring 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.

But care provided at home, or in a private maternity ward by independent staff, is expensive but it’s not generally covered by UK health insurers.

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

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

Click ‘Get Quotes’ and our partner ActiveQuote Health[1] will help you compare health insurance policies 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. This lists the medical exclusions and specialist terms relating to maternity and postnatal care

by Amanda Bathory