Covering the costs when your bundle of joy arrives overseas

If you’re planning on starting or growing your family and are moving abroad, it’s always best to check your insurance policy before you leave. Cultural differences can mean childbirth options differ greatly from country to country, together with the costs involved. Some insurers do not cover maternity costs at all, whilst others restrict options to such a degree, that there is in practice very little cover in case of an emergency, for example. The different experiences of women around the world is demonstrated most starkly by the World Health Organisation, which has a target of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015 as part of its Millennium Development Goals.

Its statistics show that only 66 per cent of women around the world have skilled birth attendants during labour, with maternity care being most notably absent in countries within Africa and Asia. One of the most obvious differences is the frequency of natural childbirth versus Caesarean section. In the UK Caesarean rates have doubled since the 1980s, partly due to the increase in older mothers and partly due to more elective Caesareans. However there is also a school of thought that believes potential litigation is also a contributory factor. As a result, countries around the world vary hugely in terms of the percentage of Caesarean births or C-sections that are carried out. Prospective mothers and fathers should check the rates of C-section in particular hospitals or clinics, as this may be a major factor in their choice of antenatal care provider. Something else to look out for is the possibility that C-sections are actively promoted, as they are more profitable than natural births for private clinics.

China has seen an enormous increase in C-sections, primarily in its private health clinics, it is suspected because more money would be made from this type of delivery. This leads on to the point that maternity medical costs are sometimes capped, so those expecting or planning for a baby should check carefully how much pregnancy complications could cost. As well as exclusion in mainstream maternal care, some insurers will also not cover costs for any complications or long term care required after complicated births either. The availability of pain relieving drugs should also be checked thoroughly before planning the birth of your baby. Again, countries and clinics vary enormously in terms of what they will provide and the costs involved. Insurers will often exclude maternity care or more likely cap it, so any resulting complications might not be covered. If someone has a history of birth complications or there are other factors that make birth difficulties more likely, then this is something that should definitely be looked at in detail, as some insurers will not cover any maternity costs over and above a natural labour.

At the other end of the scale, it may be that experienced mothers, those set on the idea of a home birth or something more alternative such as a water birth, may come up against difficulties. With such lifestyle choices being mainly a feature of affluent western societies, many countries’ healthcare systems are not set up for home births, particularly if it is for someone with private healthcare. It is also worth checking the availability of birthing pools for example, as although these are a common option in Europe and the U.S., they may be harder to find in other countries. April International UK has a policy limit of £10,000 for pregnancy complications, which includes C-section costs. CEO, Debbie Purser said: “As always, our aim is to provide the best possible care for our policyholders. For the vast majority of our clients, our maternity policy cover gives peace of mind for expectant mothers. We would strongly urge those wanting to start or grow a family whilst abroad to check the small print thoroughly, as the cost and experience of maternity differs greatly country to country.