Pregnancy and private health insurance in the UK

Everything you need to know

Feeling prepared when you decide to have a baby and knowing you have the right support in place to see you through pregnancy, birth and new life as a parent, is every mother’s dream. With the strains on the NHS all too apparent (a recent report by The Royal College of Midwives says England alone is short of almost 2,500 midwives), it’s no wonder mums-to-be are considering private options.

So, does private medical insurance cover pregnancy? In a nutshell, pregnancy, per se, isn’t covered by private health insurance in the UK. While you can take out a private health insurance policy if you are pregnant, it won’t usually cover pregnancy-related care and there isn’t a specific insurance to cover maternity.

Most health insurance policies do not pay out for the common health conditions associated with pregnancy, such as morning sickness, tiredness, aches and pains. This is because pregnancy is seen as a lifestyle choice, not a medical condition. In fact, most health insurance policies put pregnancy and maternity on their list of exclusions.

Does private health insurance cover antenatal care?

No. Private health insurance doesn’t cover antenatal classes or routine antenatal care. Most women in the UK have antenatal care free through the NHS. It is possible to pay privately for antenatal care (not through a health insurance policy, but by paying directly).

Women can choose to pay for antenatal classes (sometimes called parentcraft classes) from private providers, such as the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which may also offer some post-natal support.

Are any pregnancy-related conditions covered by private health insurance?

Some policies do have contingencies for emergencies related to pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, eclampsia, caesarean sections, still birth and miscarriage. This is something you need to check you’re your provider before you take out a policy.

It is worth doing a comparison of health insurance policies if you are considering getting pregnant in the future. An insurance broker is a good place to start as they will be able to independently advise you of the maternity health cover offered by a range of different health insurers.

What about travel insurance when pregnant?

You can get specialist travel insurance during pregnancy, which will cover you for the usual things, such as lost luggage, cancellation and flight delays, as well as things like pregnancy-related complications, emergency caesarean and any medical care during labour.

Not all insurers will cover all of the possible medical and additional expense eventualities when abroad though, so it is important to check exactly what is covered when comparing policies before you travel.

What if I go to live or work abroad when I am pregnant?

Many international health insurance policies include cover for routine medical treatment during pregnancy at a private hospital in the country where you will be an expat. However, there is usually a qualifying period, so you would need to have taken out the international health insurance policy a specified period of time before you become pregnant.

Are there any cash benefits?

Some insurers will offer cash benefits to new parents, but will usually only pay out if the insurance policy was taken out before you became pregnant.

Vitality, for example, offer a £100 cash payment following the birth or adoption of a child. The benefit applies once per child, but is only payable if you have had your health insurance plan with them for 10 months prior to the birth. With Vitality, the 10-month waiting period doesn’t apply to adoption.

Does private health insurance cover fertility treatment?

No. It is highly unusual for a health insurer to cover fertility treatments, such as IVF.

Can I pay privately for maternity care?

There are private hospitals and private maternity units available in the UK. You can also pay to give birth in a private facility within the NHS. Some women, especially those interested in a home birth, hire a private birthing partner (sometimes known as a Doula – doulas are nor usually medically trained and do not take a clinical role, but rather work alongside your midwife).

The cost of private maternity care in the UK can mount up. As well as obstetrician fees, there are fees for scans, blood tests, a hospital stay, post-birth midwifery care, epidural, caesareans and so on. If you do decide to pay to give birth in a private hospital it is a good idea to have a contingency fund for emergencies.

A recent report in the press puts the cost of a normal delivery, including a one-night stay at £3935, and an elective or emergency caesarean, with a 2-night hospital stay, at £6040.

Be aware that your private health insurance may only cover you for specific emergency maternity care, and only if your policy was taken out a certain time before your pregnancy began. Always check the full details of any cover with your health insurer.

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