Pregnant? 7 Tips to Help You Navigate the Health Care System

As an avid list maker, when I found out I was pregnant last October my brain went into checklist mode. Baby names, nursery themes, items for the shower registry – you know, the fun stuff. But I quickly realized when it came to my baby’s, and my, health care, I didn’t really know where to start.

Navigating the health care system isn’t always easy, even for someone who works in the industry. In the nine months (or let’s face it, ten) a woman is pregnant, there are many visits, screenings and tests. It can be a lot to manage. So I did what I always do when I’m overwhelmed with tasks – I made a list. Here are some of the most important tips to add to your own prenatal health care checklist.

Number 1Make an appointment with an obstetrician.

This was the first thing I did when I saw those two pink lines on my at-home pregnancy test. An obstetrician, also known as an OB-GYN, specializes in pregnancy, labor and birth. Your OB-GYN will play a huge role in your care before, during and after your baby’s birth, so it’s important to choose a doctor that you like and trust. Also check to make sure they can deliver at your preferred facility. During my first appointment I had a lot of mixed emotions from excitement to anxiety. It helped to have all of my questions and concerns written down ahead of time so I wouldn’t forget anything.

If you don’t already have an OB-GYN, check with friends and family, or use HAP’s find a doctor tool for a list of providers in your area.

Check your plan to make sure your preferred delivery facility is covered. Most plans require your facility to be in network.

Number 2Confirm your health plan’s benefits and costs for prenatal care.

The Affordable Care Act requires all qualified health plans to cover maternity care and childbirth. Many plans also cover prenatal visits, basic screenings and breastfeeding support at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

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Log in to hap.org and click “My Benefits” to download your Summary of Benefits and Coverage to learn more about what your plan covers.

Number 3Determine what screenings you’ll be getting.

At your first OB appointment, you’ll provide samples of blood and urine to confirm your pregnancy. There are several routine screenings you may get throughout your prenatal care such as a glucose tolerance test to confirm gestational diabetes – a condition that causes increased blood sugar during pregnancy. Ultrasounds show baby’s measurements and, if you’re not into surprises, can reveal the baby’s gender (I have a girl on the way!). Finally, you may choose to have genetic testing to screen for specific chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome. These tests are generally offered to everyone, and your OB may suggest them if you are over 35 or if you have a history of chromosomal disorders.

0891 Pro Tip DesignDiscuss all of your screening options with your doctor and decide what’s best for you. You should also know that not all health plans cover genetic screening or testing.

Number 4Order a breast pump.

Breastfeeding supplies such as breast pumps are considered an essential health benefit thanks to the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Affordable Care Act. Check with your health plan to see if a breast pump is covered, if you need to work with a particular supplier or if you’ll need to pay anything out-of-pocket.

Thankfully, my plan covers a breast pump. Once I confirmed which supplier I’d be using, the process was pretty simple. I just had to provide some basic information and have my doctor fax a prescription. My pump arrived within a few days, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Number 5 Register for a hospital tour and prenatal classes.

Most hospitals offer a tour of their labor and delivery units so you can familiarize yourself with where you’ll be giving birth. You may also want to sign up for childbirth and parenting classes. These range from learning expectations of labor, infant CPR, breastfeeding and more. You can typically find classes at your local hospital or baby store.

0891 Pro Tip DesignIf you’re a HAP member delivering at a Henry Ford Health System facility, many classes are offered at a free or reduced charge. Search for a class here.

Number 6Choose a pediatrician.

Just like choosing an OB-GYN, it’s important to find a pediatrician you respect and trust. After all, they’ll be helping to care for your new bundle of joy. A good tip I was given was to interview potential pediatricians before the baby arrives. That way you’ll have an established relationship as soon as you deliver. Some family practice doctors also provide newborn care.

Find a pediatrician or family practice provider here.

Number 7Add your baby to your health insurance.

Once your baby is born, they’ll need to be added to your insurance plan. Having a baby qualifies as a special enrollment period. This means you can update your health plan outside of the typical Open Enrollment period that occurs once a year. Your baby’s first checkup is usually within their first two to three days after birth, but most plans allow you a grace period as long as you add them to your plan within 30 days. If you have insurance through your employer, contact their human resources or benefit department to make this change. If you purchased your own plan, call the Customer Service number on your ID card.

Unfortunately babies don’t come with instruction manuals, but I hope this list will give parents-to-be some guidance when it comes to health care decisions. Being pregnant is emotional enough, so try to save yourself as much stress as possible!

Photo credit: Inner Circle Photography
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