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What to expect BEFORE you’re expecting

Planning on starting a family while working abroad? Read our suggested questions to ask yourself before making any plans. 

Deciding to start a family is exciting no matter where you are. But if you’re living abroad on assignment, it’s especially important to keep in mind some considerations unique to expats. Here are five questions you’ll want to ask as you make your plans.

1. What maternity benefits does my health plan offer?

Knowing what your current health plan covers and whether you need to buy a maternity add-on option is key — especially because some plans require that you have medical cover for a minimum time period before you’re eligible for maternity benefits. It also affects your choice of doctors and hospitals, since seeing in-network providers for prenatal care and childbirth will usually cost you less.

Review what’s covered in any maternity benefits you have or may purchase. During an uncomplicated pregnancy, this could include routine obstetrician visits, ultrasound or other scans, recommended vitamins and your hospital stay. It may also cover routine exams, vaccinations and screening tests for your newborn following delivery. (Routine costs for newborns are often covered from birth for their first 30 days to give you time to add them to your family plan.) Childbirth education classes, one-to-one nurse care for high-risk pregnancies and other prenatal resources may also be available.

Don’t forget to ask what the plan covers when complications arise. This might include the costs of durable medical equipment, medical evacuation, transportation to appropriate medical facilities or your home country, and travel expenses for a companion accompanying you. And be sure to understand what coinsurance, deductibles and other costs you may be responsible for.

2. What doctors will I use during my pregnancy?

Many parents-to-be turn to their family or friends to get suggestions for an obstetrician or certified nurse midwife. If that support network doesn’t reach as far as your current community, though, choosing who will provide your prenatal care and deliver your baby can seem daunting. One strategy is to search online expat forums and doctor reviews covering your area. Or you can reach out to local in-person or online support groups and ask your own questions.

Then you’ll want to check with your plan (or the maternity option you expect to add on) to see which of those recommended professionals are part of the plan’s provider network. With an in-network doctor, you’ll save money on maternity care and delivery. Aetna International members can use our provider directory to identify in-network doctors and pediatricians in advance.

3. Where will I deliver my baby?

Hospitals and childbirth facilities usually require that doctors or midwives attending to you during labour and delivery have admitting privileges with them. Without that, hospitals can reject an obstetrician’s request to treat you there. You can ask the hospital or doctor’s office about their admitting privileges, then check with your health insurer to confirm that the facility is in network.

If you have more than one facility near you to choose from, see if you can arrange a visit to tour them. Note whether they seem clean and have adequate security. Ask whether they offer private rooms, have space for your partner to spend the night if desired, and allow newborns to stay in your room instead of a separate nursery.

You’ll also want to find out if hospital staff are fluent in your language. If not, you may want to consider hiring a translator to accompany you during your labour and delivery. This helps ensure that everyone is capable of fully understanding each other and following your wishes.

4. What pregnancy-related laws and cultural norms exist where I’m living?

You’ll understandably want reassurance that you’ll be able to have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery according to accepted medical standards of care. Beyond that, though, what’s considered ‘customary’ in pregnancy and childbirth can vary widely across cultures. To avoid unpleasant surprises, it’s smart to determine in advance what people where you’re living are accustomed to.

For instance, creating a ‘birth plan’ that covers your expectations for labour and delivery may not be common where you are. But it’s key to making sure that you aren’t subject to existing local customs that conflict with your preferences or beliefs. It’s also wise to look into whether breastfeeding in public is considered acceptable.

On the legal side of things, find out if prenatal vitamins or other supplements are available where you are or can be lawfully shipped to you with a doctor’s prescription. And where you give birth may determine what rights to citizenship your child will have in both your host country and your home country, so you need to understand the laws and registration procedures in both places.

5. Once I’m pregnant, when should I notify my insurance?

The sooner the better — not only to be sure every prenatal visit is covered, but also because many companies offer free or low-cost supportive resources during and after your pregnancy. This can include childbirth education classes, prenatal fitness, smoking cessation, breastfeeding supplies, lactation consultant services, new parent classes and more. And once you’ve delivered your baby, remember to contact your benefits administrator as soon as you’re able to officially add your newborn to your plan.

Our CARE team is always standing at the ready to assist members with maternity planning, pregnancy support and newborn care.

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