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Last updated: 08 November 2021
The NHS provides free care for mothers and babies - before, during, and after birth. But some families want the choice, flexibility, and specialised treatments offered by private health care paid for by health insurance.
Private medical insurance typically won’t cover routine treatment and care during pregnancy and childbirth. But it can kick in during emergency situations and to treat some pregnancy complications. Some policies can even provide a cash benefit with the birth of a child to offset the costs of scans, tests, and private midwifery services.
Whether you already have health insurance or are shopping around for a policy, take a look at what maternity care is covered.
Can I get health insurance if I’m pregnant?
You will be able to purchase a private health insurance policy if you’re currently pregnant, although you’ll likely have to disclose that fact to your insurer.
Additionally, your health insurance policy will remain active if you become pregnant during the term. With some policies, you may even receive a cash benefit if you become pregnant after your joining date (so get to work!).
However, medical insurance in Britain is designed specifically for unforeseen events, and pregnancy is usually regarded as a planned event (even when it’s not). Therefore, coverage of pregnancy and childbirth related treatments by your insurance will usually be limited. Private health insurance generally only covers pregnancy complications and emergencies, not routine appointments and normal childbirth.
What maternity care is covered by health insurance?
Pregnancy complications and emergencies are often covered by insurance. These may include:
- Caesarean sections
- Gestational diabetes
Post birth, some health insurance policies may cover the cost of hiring a private room in hospital for the mother and baby.
If the newborn is added to the policy, their care immediately following birth can be covered. This could be vital if the child encounters early health problems, especially if they are born pre-maturely. Private health insurance could guarantee access to special facilities and specialised private treatments and allow you to avoid NHS waiting lists.
Private medical treatment for pregnancy that isn’t covered by your policy will have to be paid out of your own pocket. That’s why it’s crucial that you read the fine print of your health insurance policy before deciding on an independent midwife or a birth at a private hospital. If your claims are rejected, the costs to you of these services can be substantial.
What maternity care is not covered by health insurance?
Routine obstetrics appointments and checkups aren’t covered by health insurance. Treatment for the usual pregnancy symptoms of morning sickness are similarly excluded.
Increasing numbers of parents are undertaking special scans, including 3D and 4D ultrasounds, and blood tests, to assure themselves of their baby’s health. These aren’t available on the NHS and most private insurance policies will exclude them too.
Most health insurance policies don’t cover the cost of using an independent midwife, an increasingly popular choice for parents who want the dedicated attention of one midwife throughout the pregnancy and a bespoke birth plan such as a home birth.
What is a maternity cash benefit?
Some health insurance policies will offer a cash payment - often £100 - to policyholders who have a baby, to offset potential private medical costs associated with the pregnancy and childbirth. This may be called a maternity cash benefit, childbirth benefit, or pregnancy benefit.
These benefits may be subject to a qualifying period, meaning the policy must be active for a certain number of weeks, months, or years before conception for the parents to qualify for the payment. Opting for a longer qualifying period can mean a larger payout.
To claim the benefit, you need to supply evidence of the birth. This may include the baby’s birth certificate (or stillbirth certificate). Adoptive parents can sometimes also claim maternity cash benefits, if they provide supporting documentation for the adoption.
The window claiming for these cash benefits may be short, however, so parents may need to act quickly to claim them after the child’s birth.
Can you add your newborn to your policy?
Some insurers allow you to add newborns to your health insurance policy, so their post-natal care will be covered. Some will even allow you to add them without additional charge for the first 90 days, or until the next policy renewal date.
Parents can also choose to take out a separate health insurance policy for a newborn. As a bonus, a newborn is unlikely to have many pre-existing conditions.