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It's a good idea to check on all this before you get pregnant, in case you decide that your current plan doesn't meet your needs and you want to switch. If you decide to switch after you're pregnant, be sure that your new insurance plan covers pre-existing conditions.
If your employer doesn't offer health benefits, or you can't afford them, check out the children's health insurance program in your state. This program provides free or low-cost coverage to pregnant women and their babies, even if you and/or your partner are working. A good place to find out about programs like these is your local March of Dimes chapter and the blue pages in the white pages of your telephone directory.
Buy life insurance
No one likes to think about this, but you need to plan to take care of your child if something happens to you. Most new parents buy term life insurance, which insures you for a fixed amount for a given premium. It is generally the least expensive life insurance option and you can change the coverage, as your family's needs change. Don't forget to purchase life insurance for a stay-at-home parent. If something happens to that parent, the working parent will more than likely need to purchase child care and other services.
Get long-term disability insurance
Again, this is something you might not want to think about, but since people between the ages of 35 and 65 are more likely to become disabled than to die, it's very important that the primary breadwinner in the family has disability insurance. This type of insurance provides for your family if you're disabled and can't work. Check to see if you're covered by your employer and the terms of the coverage; if you don't think it's enough, get more.
Make a will and update beneficiaries
You need to be sure your child will be raised and provided for in the way you intend if something happens to you. One way to insure this is to make a will that states who should take care of your child and his or her finances (it doesn't have to be the same person, and often shouldn't be). Also check your retirement accounts. Usually you name the beneficiaries of retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s when you open them. You'll want to be sure these are updated to reflect your current intentions.
Look into maternity and paternity leave policies
It's important to know what benefits your company offers new parents. If you work full time and plan to return to your job after your baby is born, find out about your company's maternity leave policy. Moms and dads who have worked at least one year for a company with 50 or more employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off, thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act. You're also guaranteed your job back at the end of your leave.
All this might sound like a lot, but there's no need to panic. Start planning early, get all the information you need and be realistic. You'll find that you can just check each of these tasks off your list well before you bring your new baby home.
Last reviewed March 2008