Pregnant and Laid Off


It's not unusual to be a little stressed before you give birth, but lately pregnant women in my community are stressed out about something unrelated to health. Many of us are worried about our bleak financial situations and a downward-spiraling economy. Moms-to-be have found themselves, or their husbands, laid off with no imminent job prospects.

Even those pregnant women who are still employed are finding their health care deductibles rising to sky-high heights as their employers renegotiate their insurance plans.

"We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of people who need to negotiate their bills, or are facing hardships and asking for charity care," says Juliet Keeler LeBien, LMSW, a medical social worker who practices in New York City. Here, she shares her tips for surviving your pregnancy—and the bills that follow:

  • Research your insurance plan. Know your deductible, co-pays, and other benefits. Don't expect them to be the same as last year.
  • Be upfront. In your bleary postpartum state, don't wait to tell the hospital that you won't be able to immediately pay the bill. Discuss your options as soon as you receive the bill, because once the bill goes into collections, it's too late.
  • Make sure that the bill is accurate. Many times people will get billed, and it will be a mistake.
  • Don't be afraid to barter. Once the amount is deemed correct, try and lower the amount. If you get a bill for $150, you can ask if they'll accept $100 as full payment.
  • Negotiate a payment plan. I often tell people to negotiate a payment plan they can actually stick to—even if it's only $10 a month. Hospitals will be happy to get their money, and you will save yourself a lot of stress by making your payment plan realistic and within your budget.

Also, if suspect that you were laid off because you were pregnant, you may have some recourse that could extend your severance pay. If it's more than a case of bad timing, you should call the HR person who handled your termination and explain that you think you were terminated because you were pregnant. "If she responds with a, 'Let's talk about your severance,' then you can definitely negotiate higher. If she responds with, 'I'm sorry, but your pregnancy was not taken into consideration,' call a lawyer," suggests Suzanne Lucas, the writer of the Evil HR Lady blog.

But Lucas warns in her recent entry regarding pregnancy and layoffs, "Beware that a lawyer may end up charging you more than you could get in increased severance."

Next Page: Emotional effects [ pagebreak ]Expectant mothers want to make sure everything is ready for the new arrival. Imagine not knowing if you'll have to relocate, how you're going to pay the mortgage, or how you'll afford your child's birth. This can be unusually unnerving for a woman who should be washing and refolding dozens of onesies, feeling secure in her home situation.

But could there also be an upside to finding yourself, or your spouse, jobless as you enter parenthood? One mom in my community (who asked to remain anonymous), expressed her mixed feelings:

My husband was laid off last week and I'm 33 weeks pregnant. It is terrifying. Luckily, his company will pay for COBRA through the birth, but then we are on our own. I think one of the hardest parts is the planning. When will he start working again? Where? Will we have to move? I was going to hire some help since I already have a 20-month-old, but now I don't think we can afford it.

On the positive side, we are excited that my husband will most likely be home for more than a week when the baby is born, and he'll be able to spend quality time with our older girl. We are trying to keep our blessings in mind—we have each other, our health, a wonderful girl, and another on the way. We are both educated people who can figure out how to cope and get a job or two in some way or another.

There are many ways that the recession is affecting pregnant women. We worry about keeping our jobs, paying our bills, creating a well-feathered nest, and dealing with sudden uncertainty, but ultimately, we are so lucky. We have something—and someone—pretty amazing to look forward to.