After years of dreaming about onesies and pacifiers, you’ve decided it’s time to take the leap and start a family. As you plan a color scheme for the nursery and look through Pinterest boards of first year pictures, you’re also likely going to think about how you will make ends meet during maternity leave.

Only 15 percent of U.S. workers in 2017 had access to paid family leave benefits (up from 11 percent in 2010), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though Federal law requires most employers to give workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave and a guarantee of employment upon return, it doesn’t help with diapers and keeping the lights on in the meantime.

If you don’t have a paid family leave benefit through work, short-term disability insurance may step in and pick up the slack while you recover and bond with baby. Here’s what you need to know about using short-term disability insurance during maternity leave.


There are two main types of disability insurance: long- and short-term policies. If a sickness or injury prevents you from working, long-term disability will replace a portion of your income for many years or all the way to retirement (depending on the policy terms). Short-term disability insurance, as you may have guessed, covers lost income for weeks or up to two years — a temporary injury or sickness. Short-term disability is what you’ll lean on during a part of your maternity leave.

Many employers offer both short- and long-term disability coverage as part of a benefits package. So, as a first step, pull out your work benefits folder to see what, if any, kind of short-term disability coverage you have through work. There are several pieces of information you’ll want to gather about the policy:

  • Elimination Period: This is how long you need to be out of work before your benefits begin. Some policies pay immediately while others don’t pay until you are out of work for a certain number of days. You may need to use vacation or sick days if you have a long elimination period.
  • Benefit Period: This is how long you can claim payments while you are unable to work.
  • Benefit Amount: This is how much you’ll receive, based on a percentage of your income (some policies may cover nearly 100 percent of your income, but most cover only a percentage).

Short-term disability policies pay a weekly benefit when you are disabled following the elimination period. You may wish to take three months off work to bond with the baby, but the short-term disability insurance policy will only pay benefits if you are disabled due to the pregnancy. The typical timeframe you are considered disabled following delivery of the baby, without complications, is six weeks; eight weeks if a C-section was performed. Benefits may be paid prior to delivery of the child if your doctor has put you on bedrest due to the pregnancy.

Ready to take the next step? A financial advisor can help you build a financial plan for your growing family.

Ask yourself a few questions as you review the policy. Does the benefit period match the amount of time you plan to take off? Is the benefit amount enough for you and your family? Is the elimination period too long? The devil is in the details.


Starting a family is one of the most rewarding things a person can do in their lifetime — money shouldn’t get in the way of that. If you’re thinking about starting a family, it’s a really good time to speak with a financial professional who can help run through a pre-baby financial checklist. With the right planning, you can build assurances that your bundle of joy with fit right in with the long-term financial goals for you and your (growing) family.

RELATED CONTENT: What Is Disability Insurance? Our disability insurance guide can help you learn more about disability insurance and how it can benefit your financial plan.

To be used with form MN 992-STD, MN 992-LTD, MN 1096 SGSTD, MN 1096 SGLTD, ICC16.TT.DI.IIB.(0916), ICC16.TT.DI.FIB.(0916), ICC16.TT.DI.CAT.(0916), ICC16.TT.NCDI.(0916), ICC16.TT.GRDI.(0916), ICC16.TT.DI.PDB.(0916), ICC16.TT.DI.PDBO.(0916) or state equivalent. Not all contracts and optional benefits are available in all states. Disability insurance policies contain some features and benefits that may not be available in all states. The ability to perform the substantial and material duties of your occupation is only one of the factors that determine eligibility for disability benefits. These policies also contain exclusions, limitations and reduction-of-benefits provisions. Eligibility for disability income insurance, additional policy benefits, and qualification for benefits, is determined on a case-by-case basis. For costs and complete details of coverage, contact your Northwestern Mutual Financial Representative. Disability insurance policies contain exclusions and limitations that could affect individual coverage. For costs and more complete details, consult a Northwestern Mutual financial representative.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) (life insurance, disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits)

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