Some experiences are significant enough to split your life into Before and After. Pregnancy definitely ranks as one of them.
In my case, pregnancy also made me think about things like buying life insurance, since that meant I’d have a financial dependent to care for. Of course, nothing about having a baby is simple. Applying for life insurance while pregnant comes with its own slew of things to think about.
Importantly, though, most life insurance is medically underwritten. That means underwriters (the people who figure out whether you can get coverage and how much it’ll cost) look at your health situation when assessing your risk levels.
Going through a detailed medical assessment when your body and emotions are in constant flux can be a little intimidating!
Pregnancy affects your weight, health, mood, alcohol consumption—many factors that underwriters consider when they assess your risk. It may feel weird to complete an application asking you all about your current health, when you can barely see your feet, never mind a scale.
Giving birth is complicated enough, without any added confusion around how to answer certain questions and fill out a health-based application when your body is very different from usual. That’s why we talked to an expert to learn how insurance providers handle life insurance applications when you’re expecting.
Weight isn’t the only indicator of health, but being overweight or obese is statistically linked to increased risk of certain health conditions. That’s why insurance companies factor weight into rating an application. Even a difference of 10 pounds can bump a life insurance policy’s cost up or down by thousands of dollars.
During pregnancy, medical professionals usually recommend that people with a normal pre-pregnancy BMI gain 25 to 35 pounds. Which makes it a little confusing to complete the weight entry on your application.
“You should always list your current and exact weight when applying for insurance. It is also advisable to provide your pre-pregnancy weight,” says Coleen Moser, Senior Director at ESMI Underwriting.
Sharing both numbers can give an underwriter a clearer sense of your baseline and how the pregnancy is going. Excessive pregnancy weight gain increases your risk of developing other health complications, like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. As a result, gaining more than the recommended amount during pregnancy can lead to a higher premium.
Similarly, if you normally enjoy a glass of wine a few times a week (or use marijuana, or any other substances), it can be helpful both to list your typical habits and clarify what you’ve given up during pregnancy. Medications matter here, too. A lot of meds, including antidepressants, aren’t safe during pregnancy. So note your usual (non-pregnancy) regimen and any substitutions while you’re expecting.
If the underwriter is able to offer you coverage at a higher rate than preferred, they’ll still make that offer and the decision is up to you. If, however, you don’t qualify for life insurance because of your current health status, you can reapply after you’ve delivered the baby and returned to normal health.
Being healthy beforehand doesn’t guarantee a picture-perfect pregnancy. Preeclampsia, a high blood pressure complication, affects 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies, and gestational diabetes affects up to 1 in 10. Other physical or mental health conditions, such as hyperemesis gravidarum or prenatal depression, can also appear without prior risk factors.
During my second pregnancy, for example, I developed glucose intolerance, a less severe form of gestational diabetes, despite having a spotless health record before.
Moser says that underwriters often take a wait-and-see approach regarding the usually temporary complications that can arise during pregnancy.
“In most cases, the application will be postponed until after the delivery,” she says. “If the applicant’s glucose and A1c levels return to and remain at normal limits post-delivery—and there are no other complicating factors due to the gestational diabetes—the application can then be considered for ratings other than ‘pre-diabetic’ or ‘diabetic.’”
In other words, because your pregnancy condition might be temporary, your application might be put on hold. As long as your condition clears up after pregnancy, you would likely be eligible for the same rates as another healthy person.
The same applies to many other conditions: If a complication resolves shortly after pregnancy and your doctor doesn’t identify any long-term health ramifications, it likely won’t affect your life insurance rates. If issues persist, the underwriter will evaluate the risk based on the lab results, treatment plan and prognosis information from your physician.
Eventually, of course, pregnancy ends and you’re (hopefully) finding your rhythm amidst the ups and downs of newborn life. If underwriters put your application on hold during your pregnancy, the first few months postpartum can be an especially important check-in time.
Generally, if you’re pregnant when you apply for life insurance, your application will incorporate a postpartum assessment. On occasion, the insurance company might notify you that it’ll need to put your application on hold until after the baby’s born. Moser says this is typically reserved for cases that fall on the border between being approved and being declined, or when underwriters need to see whether a pregnancy-related condition resolves.
Underwriters compare weight before, during and after pregnancy. “Normally, there should be about a five-pound-per-month weight loss postpartum,” Moser says, if you started out in a “normal” BMI range and gained weight according to your doctor’s recommendation. There are different guidelines for people who are overweight or underweight before pregnancy, or are carrying two or more babies.
Indulged a little extra in the name of eating for two? You’re hardly alone. Whether extra pounds will mean extra premium costs depends on a few factors. These include weight-related health complications and how your postpartum recovery is going.
In my case, for example, I gained 47 pounds in my first pregnancy (oops). Because I was otherwise healthy and losing steadily postpartum, I still got a good rate, despite not being back to my pre-baby self.
“Generally, there is a three-month postpartum look back regarding weight loss. After that three-month window, the applicant will likely be rated based on the weight at that time,” Moser says. This may also be an opportunity to check whether any pregnancy-related health conditions have resolved.
Some people really do “bounce back” after pregnancy, while others need much longer than three months to feel back to normal. In some cases, these guidelines might make you feel “on the clock” to lose weight after having a baby. If that would stress you out, you might consider whether you’d have more peace of mind crossing insurance off the list before you get pregnant, or waiting until you feel back to your regular self.
Pregnancy and a new baby’s birth are typically joyful occasions, but they can come with a lot of complicated emotions. Sleep deprivation and the relentless demands of a new baby are highly stressful. Postpartum mood disorders, like depression and anxiety, affect as many as 1 in 5 women, and it’s possible that even more cases go unreported.
It’s important to take mental health seriously. Postpartum depression is common and treatable, so if you need help, reach out! Talk to your doctor or partner, or call (800) 944-4773 to reach a Postpartum Support International volunteer.
Recovering from childbirth is hard. Think of the airplane instruction to put your own oxygen mask on first. Getting the help you need is top priority, more important than worrying about your life insurance application.
Moser says that in some cases, postpartum anxiety or depression may not affect your rates at all. Underwriters generally check for the following criteria:
The depression or anxiety is considered clinically mild
You’re seeing good results from sessions with a counselor and/or a mild antidepressant
You don’t have mental disorders on your five-year health history
You don’t have a history of hospitalizations, attempted suicide or suicidal ideation
You haven’t lost more than a week of school or work due to mental health
If you fall outside of the above situations, Moser says that an insurance provider might end up declining your application or offering you coverage at a higher-than-preferred rate. (Here's more on how life insurance underwriters consider mental health conditions.)
If life insurance is on your new baby to-do list, there’s no need to put it off until after the baby’s born.
When I was expecting my first baby, the thought of having a person depend on me completely was overwhelming. I was anxious to do everything I could to protect my family, including financial protection.
Even though I felt like a walking belly, I found it helpful to hear that who I’d been before baby mattered when assessing my life insurance application. I didn’t want to wait to apply until I’d lost weight postpartum because I wanted to be covered from the first day I became a mom. That said, you should think about what feels best for your situation. There are lots of ways to prepare for a family.
Underwriters consider various factors to get a snapshot of your health, even when your life is constantly changing. You may find, like I did, that tackling this financial milestone can make you feel even more prepared for the new adventure of parenthood.
This article is meant to provide general information and not to provide any specific legal advice or to serve as the basis for any decisions.
Fabric isn’t a law firm and we aren’t licensed to practice law or to provide any legal advice. If you do need legal advice for your specific situation, you should consult with a licensed attorney and/or tax professional.
Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on-the-go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.
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