Does pregnancy require special travel insurance?

Ever wonder about travelling while pregnant? What if complications arise before your trip is over and you’re forced to give birth in a foreign hospital?

Most women can and will travel pregnant without issue, but if anything were to go awry, what would your travel insurance cover? How can you avoid misunderstandings and huge medical bills?

Travelling if you've been pregnant for 30 weeks or longer carries a higher risk of premature birth. If you’re planning to travel during your third trimester, you need to be in direct contact with your physician as well as your insurance provider to see if your travel is advisable, and if hospital stays will be covered.

Know your plan

Rules about pregnancy travel will vary from policy to policy, but every travel insurance plan will have specific definitions and restrictions as to your coverage. Reading all the fine print is a good place to start if you’re wondering what is and what is not covered by your policy. If you have any questions, talk to your provider.

Most policies will explicitly exclude coverage for pregnancy or coverage for complications due to pregnancy when an expectant mother travels within nine weeks of her due date, but this timeline also varies based on provider.

Since travel insurance covers you for most unforeseen circumstances, you may be reimbursed for bills related to trip cancellation, if you’re paying for that coverage type.

An example:

You get diagnosed with acute morning sickness two days before travel by your doctor and she suddenly puts you on a no-fly list right before your scheduled vacation. This could be classified as a sudden and unforeseen circumstance with the proper medical documentation.

Know your pregnancy

Pregnancies, and the medical costs that come with pregnancies are, for the most part, not considered sudden and unforeseen. Being pregnant is classified as a predictable medical situation, and therefore the “emergency” or “unexpectedness” of it will not result in an insurance payout if the pregnancy goes on as normal abroad.

If complications do arise before your due date, the insurer will follow strict definitions of emergency medical care and decide what needs to be reimbursed. The cost of medical care for the mother will be covered if she needs hospital care or consultation.

Certain diagnoses associated with childbirth will put the stamp of “pre-existing condition” all over your claim if you decide to travel before you are medically stable for at least 90 days. The top two reasons for claim denial are medical misrepresentation and pre-existing condition.

Even if you’re simply travelling between provinces in Canada, taking out a travel insurance policy is recommended, even for run-of-the-mill checkups that would be covered by your provincial health card. Your provincial coverage will only cover 7% to 9% of medical expenses once you leave and seek healthcare from another Canadian province that is not your own.

Unexpected pregnancies

What if you find out you're pregnant after you've planned a trip or vacation?

If you find out you're pregnant after the trip is booked and you have purchased trip cancellation coverage, your policy will respond to cover the cancellation costs. Your trip must fall within a 9-week window of your due date. One of the added benefits to an all-inclusive policy is that this coverage is built in, meaning if you become pregnant after the trip is booked, you will already have coverage if you need to cancel the trip. 

Airline restrictions

Some carriers have specific restrictions for pregnant travellers. You may even be denied entry if you are too close to your due date.

Since the carrier is following established company protocols when it comes to pregnancy, it is unlikely your provider will cover you for trip cancellation loss if you haven't done your own research.

Carriers can prohibit air travel for a number of reasons. For example, if the passenger is expected to deliver within seven days of takeoff, if they are travelling at the 38th week of pregnancy, or if they are travelling within the 9th month of pregnancy. It’s best to contact the airline when looking for the specific travel restriction information.

Childbirth

“Normal” childbirth is not covered by emergency medical travel insurance. If complications do arise, the cost of medical care for the mother may be covered. Even when medical costs are covered, insurance companies rarely foot the bill for the cost to care for a newborn.

A stay in a neo-natal ICU in America, for example, can cost up to $15,000 per day according to Financial Post. Family travel insurance policies will rarely cover costs for the newborn following birth; the newborn can only be added to the policy once it passes 15 to 30 days old (policies vary, again).

Summary

It’s very important to have a frank, honest discussion with your travel insurance provider and physician.

Ask your insurer what “normal” childbirth means on your policy; ask them what “complicated” childbirth means on your policy.

If you can postpone your trip until after you’ve given birth, you should seriously consider that option, so as to avoid exorbitant fees from foreign hospital stays and the general risks associated with childbirth abroad.

Some key takeaways:

  • Travel insurance is designed for unexpected medical costs. Pregnancy is an expected medical situation (or condition) and therefore, expected birth-related costs will not be covered.
  • Costs related to birth such as pre-natal care, childbirth, and their complications are usually only covered up to the 8th or 9th week before the expected delivery date – it constitutes emergency coverage in such cases.
  • Most travel policies do not cover ANY costs relating to the care of a newborn, only the mother named on the policy.
  • Newborn babies cannot be insured until they are 15 to 30 days old, depending on your insurance provider
  • The insured must disclose any pre-existing conditions that would affect the pregnancy at the time of the insurance application.