Navigating Tricare: How to Get the Birth Experience You Want
Those moments when you find out you’re expecting can be so thrilling. You have this new life growing inside you and no one knows! Well, until you’re hovering cautiously near the bathroom for extended amounts of time, that is. Then, especially for first time moms, you are faced with the task of finding a healthcare provider that will help you grow and guide your baby into the world, hopefully in the way you imagined.
It’s no secret that birth is changing in the U.S. More women want fewer interventions and holistic, mother-centered maternity care. There are baby-friendly hospitals that allow for extended skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, delayed cord clamping and champion breastfeeding for any new mother that wishes to do so. There are free-standing birth centers staffed by caring midwives and birth centers in hospitals. And of course, there’s the home birth option.
Great, right? But how does Tricare fit into all of this? You might be surprised at all of your available options, even if you are currently being seen at Military Treatment Facility (MTF).
My family and I PCSed this past summer when I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second child. I’d been very happy with prenatal care at a private hospital in Vienna, Austria until that point, and I knew that I wanted to have the same intervention-free birth that I had with my daughter in Germany. I knew I wanted to have the remaining 20 weeks of my pregnancy monitored by a midwife. I happily set out searching for one on Tricare North’s website but I wasn’t happy with what I saw under Tricare Prime. A few midwives, a considerable travel distance away from me, were all that were available. Next, I began to search for birthing centers that Tricare Prime would cover. Nothing within a three hour drive! I was frustrated, but I wasn’t giving up on my planned birth experience. I couldn’t imagine seeing a doctor that delivered 120 babies a month. I wanted a more personal relationship.
I started by calling Tricare and expressing my desire to see a midwife within a close distance of my apartment (we live in the greater New York City area). I was advised to switch to Standard as all maternity care costs are covered after meeting the $150 deductible. Unfortunately, Tricare Standard didn’t seem to have any midwives within network, either. Undeterred, I began emailing midwifery practices in my area and pleading my case. The next day, my wonderful and caring midwife contacted me and said she would be delighted to accept Tricare and finish the journey of this pregnancy with me. She also delivered at the only hospital to have a birthing center within it in the city!
Back on the phone with Tricare, I confirmed that she had been added to the non-network provider list and that the facility was Tricare approved and in network. It was, even though it was not listed on the website. Lesson learned, call to see if a doctor or facility is in the network--don’t take the website as the gospel.
I went on to have a normal pregnancy and had a wonderful delivery in the birthing center with my midwife. I was even more excited to be discharged with my handsome boy just 18 hours after walking through the doors!
Of course, your local MTF will have varying options for birth depending on location, including midwifery care and water birth in some instances.
To make the most of your birth and experience, you must be your own best advocate. Call Tricare and ask if the facility or doctor/midwife you desire is either a network or non-network provider. If the doctor or midwife you would like to see doesn’t take Tricare, call and ask if they will. As my mom has always told me, you never get a yes until you ask.
Bringing your baby into the world is a special and important task. Tricare has many options available, though you may have to switch plans or ask your provider for an exception to their policy. Every woman deserves to have the birth they desire (or as close to it as possible) in a safe and loving environment. With an empowered voice, she can have it.
Were you happy with the options you had for the births of your children?