They say everything changes when you have a baby. What they often don't mention is that the changes start before your baby is even born.
You're already noticing that you think differently. You're expecting a child and things like financial planning and life insurance, which may not have even registered as important before, start to keep you up at night. Will you even be able to get affordable life insurance while you're pregnant?
First of all, try to relax. Pregnancy has hardly any effect on most policyholders' life insurance rates, especially if the pregnancy is a normal one. Even most pregnancy complications won't affect insurance rates because those complications usually disappear after a woman gives birth.
There are a few outlying cases, however, in which complications in pregnancy affect life insurance rates. To understand how that works, we first have to look at how insurance companies set your rates.
From an insurer's perspective, longer life expectancy correlates with lower risk. If your medical and family history indicates that you probably won't pass away until you're well into old age, your life insurance premiums are likely to be lower than those of someone with a family history of early death.
Insurance companies quantify risk by placing each subscriber into a category based on his or her medical or lifestyle data. Most insurance companies use the following categories:
Preferred Plus: The subscriber is extremely healthy with normal height and weight and no family history of serious illness. About 5 percent of applicants fall into this category.
Preferred: The person is in excellent health. Any minor concerns are treated and controlled. Height and weight are normal; the person may have a family history of disease or engage in risky activities.
Standard Plus: The person is in above-average health but may have some minor medical issues. Height-weight balance might be beyond the average but family history is normal.
Standard: The subscriber is in average health with a body mass index (BMI) outside the acceptable range. Most people in this class take a number of medications and have concerning family histories.
There are additional categories, Preferred Smoker and Standard Smoker, for those who would fall within the lower two categories but use nicotine. There are also special “table ratings” for those whose health places them below Standard level.
Table ratings usually range from A to G or a numerical equivalent, A being the lowest risk in the table rating category and G being the highest. The higher your rating, the more you will pay. Ratings often apply to people with:
Family histories of heart disease
Prior stroke or heart attack
Mental health diagnoses.
There's no guarantee that you would receive a table rating if you fall into one of these categories, nor is this an exhaustive list. However, if you do have a condition that results in a table rating of any kind, you will definitely pay more for health insurance.
Risk classifications can sound scary, but don't worry – pregnancy itself is not considered to be a health concern. That said, it's a good idea to apply for health insurance as early in your pregnancy as possible. The fewer weeks along you are, the more your health profile will resemble what it is when you're not pregnant.
Complications are also less common in early pregnancy than they are once you're closer to your due date. Some pregnancy-related issues won't raise red flags with a life insurance company, but more serious ones like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia may affect your risk classification.
Unlike Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is a time-limited condition that resolves when a woman gives birth. Women who go on to lie healthy lives, full of good food and exercise, are highly unlikely to develop diabetes in the future.
Unfortunately, because gestational diabetes may increase a woman's risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life, some insurance companies will look at the pregnancy-related form of the disease as a risk factor. A company is more likely to do so if an applicant has additional diabetes risk factors such as:
high blood pressure
a low level of HDL cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol
a history of heart disease or stroke.
Also, if you have a family history of diabetes and develops gestational diabetes, your insurance company is more apt to rate the latter condition as a risk factor.
Between 6 percent and 8 percent of pregnant women have some degree of hypertension. It usually develops in one of three forms:
Chronic hypertension, seen in women who have high blood pressure before, early in, or immediately after pregnancy
Gestational hypertension, seen in women with high blood pressure that develops after the 20th week of pregnancy
Preeclampsia, a serious condition that develops from chronic or gestational hypertension. Preeclampsia affects all of the body's organ systems and can be a life-threatening illness.
If you have chronic hypertension or a history of high blood pressure, you may see higher life insurance rates if you apply while pregnant. If you have gestational hypertension in addition to other complications, your blood pressure readings are more likely to affect your premiums than they would if your hypertension were your only risk factor.
If you have been pregnant before, any complications from previous pregnancies can increase your risk level for insurers. If you delivered via cesarean section or had a pregnancy-related complication in the past, you may be better off applying for insurance after you give birth.
If you don't already have a policy, decide whether you want to apply during or after your pregnancy. Many women find that they can get better rates after pregnancy rather than while they are expecting, particularly if they are having or are at risk of complications.
Sometimes, however, women have lingering health effects from pregnancy. Issues may include:
unresolved weight gain
secondary effects of preeclampsia
high blood pressure after delivery
If you find yourself in one of in these situations, your newly developed health issues could lead to higher rates could result in higher rates post-pregnancy.
Whether you decide to buy now or later, you can get a sense of your premium levels by doing a comparative search for available coverage. It's the first step toward finding a policy that meets your family's needs.