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Why do pregnant women need disability insurance? Because complications aren’t as uncommon as you might think – one in four pregnancies have complications that can cause mothers to take additional time off from work.
Besides recovery from C-sections, there’s also postpartum depression (PPD) to consider. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 15% of pregnancies result in PPD. It’s important to ensure that your policy covers mental nervous disorders in the event of PPD; it will allow you the time you need to get the proper treatment and recover. Pregnancies can also accelerate dormant illnesses and other conditions, which means a long-term disability insurance policy can help in the event of unforeseen illnesses.
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Anything that’s considered elective is not covered under disability insurance, so choosing to stay home either during or after your pregnancy does not qualify you for benefits from your disability policy. Complications during pregnancy or the days, weeks, and months after giving birth are a different story, however. If your doctor orders bed rest or if you have a complicated birth, you may qualify for benefits benefits after the elimination period.
Some short-term disability group plans provided by employers may list normal pregnancy as a disability in lieu of a defined maternity leave policy.
Short-term disability insurance policies are generally provided by employers and replace a portion of your paycheck if you can’t work due to illness or injury for a short period of time, up to one full year. The time between the disability diagnosis and when you get benefits is often just a few weeks.
Short-term disability insurance policies may cover childbirth if there are complications involved.
Long-term disability insurance also replaces a portion of your paycheck — usually around 60% – if you’re unable to work but the benefit period can last years or even until retirement, and the waiting period can be three months to a full year. Some employers provide plans, but many people purchase personal plans through private insurance companies.
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Long-term insurance policies do not consider giving birth itself, whether vaginal delivery or by C-section, to be worthy of a disability claim. However, what is covered by your disability insurance is complications during pregnancy. For example, C-sections can lead to time off that’s longer than what’s covered in maternity leave or a short-term disability plan, and doctor-ordered home leave would qualify.
Your carrier may require the elimination period to be at least 90 days before considering covering pregnancy-related conditions. Some carriers will have a 90-day elimination period for pregnancy even if the elimination period on other disabilities is shorter than that.
You can apply for and buy long-term disability insurance up to the third trimester of your pregnancy, with one big caveat: The policy you purchase will exclude your current pregnancy from coverage as well as any complications resulting from it. If you apply during the third trimester, the carrier will likely postpone your application until you’ve been back at work for 30 days. You may also have complications from your first pregnancy excluded even if you aren’t pregnant yet. If you disclose that you are trying to get pregnant or your medical records have information disclosing that you are (for example, you’re undergoing fertility treatment), the insurance company may only offer you a policy that excludes complications from birth and pregnancy. If your first pregnancy resulted in a healthy birth with no complications, the policy would likely then cover you during future pregnancies.
If you’ve previously had complications from a pregnancy, like preeclampsia or a miscarriage, those complications may also be excluded on your policy, even if you’re not currently pregnant.
Learn more about disability insurance exclusions.
If you want to ensure that you’re covered in case of a disability resulting from complications from pregnancy, you would need to apply for long-term disability insurance before you start trying to get pregnant. Once you’re already pregnant, any policy you purchase won’t cover pregnancy or birth complications relating to that pregnancy.
When applying for long-term disability insurance, there are some general policy features and provisions you should think about when looking for the perfect policy. These provisions are important to everyone, but they could be specifically useful if you’re buying a policy because you’re worried about complications in future pregnancies
Own-occupation – An own-occupation policy is one that says you’ll get benefits if you can’t do your normal job. That means you’ll still be paid disability insurance benefits if you’re able to do other work. Learn more about own-occupation policies.
Non-cancelable – This means the insurer can’t raise your rates. Since raising policy rates is rare, it’s usually not something you need to worry about, but if your policy doesn’t have this provision then we recommend adding it.
Residual benefits – If you’re able to work but not at the same rate as before – either your hours are cut short or your income is less – a policy with residual benefits will provide a partial payout.
Guaranteed Renewable – The insurer cannot cancel your policy as long as you’re paying for it.
It’s also important, if you’re planning to become pregnant, to choose a policy that will cover mental illness, including postpartum depression.
Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.