- Short-term disability insurance is commonly used to supplement lost income when a new parent takes time off after having a child.
- Disability benefits typically last between six and eight weeks for uncomplicated births and can last longer if there are complications.
- If you’re planning to have a child, you must purchase a short-term disability insurance policy before you become pregnant to receive benefits for pregnancy or childbirth.
Short-Term Disability and Pregnancy
Expectant parents can use short-term disability insurance to cover their paychecks while they take time off of work during or after pregnancy. Disability insurance replaces a portion of your income if you’re unable to work due to an illness or injury.
Because short-term disability insurance is designed to cover conditions that resolve within one year, these plans can cover some complications that can result from pregnancy or childbirth.
If an employer offers you disability coverage, normal pregnancy may be considered a qualifying disability to receive benefits. In these cases, employers may use the short-term disability plan instead of a clearly defined maternity leave policy.
If you plan to become pregnant in the future, short-term disability insurance is an important option to consider to replace your income following childbirth and in the event of pregnancy complications.
What Part of Pregnancy and Maternity Leave Is Covered?
In most cases, short-term disability benefits kick in after childbirth, so your body can have time to recover.
“The most common usage of short-term disability insurance is after the birth and gives a six-week benefit period,” said insurance agent and president of Surf Financial Brokers Chris Castanes, adding that births requiring a cesarean section usually get an eight-week benefit period.
Disability benefits may also cover pregnancy complications. These include physical conditions like preeclampsia or mental health issues, like postpartum depression. A long-term disability plan may also cover some of these conditions; however, the waiting period to receive benefits for those policies can be between three and six months.
FMLA vs. Short-Term Disability Insurance
Expectant parents often use short-term disability insurance in conjunction with unpaid family leave to take time off work before and after their child is born. The federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires certain employers to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year.
To qualify for FMLA leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 1,250 hours over at least 12 months. Their employer must have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
Additionally, employees can only use FMLA leave for one of the following reasons:
- For the birth and care of their newborn.
- For placement of a child for adoption or foster care.
- To care for an immediate family member like a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.
- To take medical leave when they cannot work because of a serious health condition.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
FMLA leave differs from short-term disability insurance because it does not cover any lost income while the person isn’t working. The regulations outlined in FMLA simply mean that your employer cannot take disciplinary action against you or terminate your employment for taking those 12 weeks off.
How To Apply
It’s important to note that if you plan to use short-term disability benefits for pregnancy and childbirth, you must apply and purchase a policy before you become pregnant. If you purchase coverage while pregnant, your pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition and you will likely be denied benefits for pregnancy complications or childbirth recovery.
When you apply, your insurer will ask you some questions about your age and health status. These characteristics factor into whether you’ll be approved for a policy and how much your premiums will cost.
Once you purchase your policy, you won’t receive benefits right away. Most policies have a waiting period of 12 months before you can file a claim for disability benefits.
Other Options for Funding Maternity Leave
If you’re unable to access paid maternity leave from your employer and you can’t get short-term disability insurance, there are other options for funding the time off work after you have a child.
First, you might upgrade your health insurance coverage to a more comprehensive plan before you give birth. The health care costs of pregnancy and childbirth can quickly add up, and having better health coverage can resolve some of the financial strain.
Another option is to divert some of your savings to cover living expenses while you’re out of work. You could consider reducing your retirement plan contributions before you take off work to build up some more accessible short-term savings.