Congratulations! You’re pregnant! Having a baby in The Netherlands is often a good experience and you will find that the health care system provides excellent and well-organized care.
You will find that many practices here differ from what is usually done in your home country. For instance, more than 60% of Dutch women fall pregnant, have a baby and go home without seeing a gynaecologist once. And, home births and using only a mid-wife to assist at the birth are fairly common practices here – although the numbers are declining.
In general, there is a natural, non-interventionist approach to medical and maternity care in the Netherlands. It is also known that doctors tend to volunteer much less information to their patients about their conditions, and there is far less preventative screening than in many other western countries.
Pregnancy and birth are treated as natural events, and your doctor may even suggest you have a home-birth. This may be something you would never consider, but others may wish to investigate. However, you are free to decide on the birth of your choice. A good informational pre-natal / childbirth preparation class will help you learn more about your options and give you a sense of security and control.
Pre-Natal Classes / Exercise / Information
Comprehensive courses are designed for both partners. Complements pregnancy exercise with information on health care options in The Netherlands, preparing for labour, physical skills such as breathing techniques, massage, positions for labour and birth, care of the pelvic floor and perineal massage, pain relief, role of birth partner, hospital procedure, breastfeeding, postnatal support, life with a newborn, postnatal changes. Courses usually last between 6 & 7 weeks and are followed by a postnatal reunion.
It is recommended that you book your course around week 16 of your pregnancy. Your course should begin around week 29/30.
1) Confident Birth Courses by Birth in Holland
Understand what a woman’s body does during labour and birth, and explore your options and choices during childbirth. This course focuses on developing practical coping strategies and helping you, as parents-to-be, to prepare for parenthood, while getting to know others embarked on the same journey.
2) ACCESS Childbirth Preparation Classes
A series of six sessions, held at Bronovo Hospital on Wednesday evenings with either Nester Moyo or Lee Tollman.
3) Mindful Birth
Childbirth preparation in Oegstgeest (near Leiden Centraal Station and just off the A44).
Three half-day (Saturday) workshops. Everything you’d expect from a birth preparation course as well as learning mindfulness skills, proven to help cope with pain. This includes access to the online course materials (see below).
Self-study online childbirth preparation course. A six-step programme using videos, PDFs, imagery and MP3s makes for an involved experience that you can follow and replay whenever you like.
Private lessons (face-to-face or web-based meetings via Skype) are also available and are tailored to your needs.
Course founder: Marie Hobbs-Vijendran
Decisions to be Made
When you are an expat living away from home, having a baby can be an overwhelming experience, but it need not be a stressful one. It is up to you to carefully research all your options. You will need to make good decisions ahead of time to insure that you get the kind of birth that you will be comfortable with. There are two main options in The Netherlands, a home birth assisted by a mid-wife (about 55% of births are planned to take place at home) or a hospital birth assisted by a midwife and / or gynaecologist and arranged in advance by your doctor.
If you choose to give birth at home a midwife (verloskundige) will be there to assist you. A midwife cares for the pregnant mom before, during and after the birth. She is responsible for the health of the mother and child, and also offers information and support. You can make an appointment with a midwife after week six of your pregnancy. Best would be to ask your doctor, friends or colleagues for their recommendation If you encounter any complications, your midwife will suggest that you see your doctor or go to the hospital.
If you choose to have a hospital birth, you should arrange everything in advance with your midwife and / or doctor (huisarts). This is usually the norm in western countries and this may be the most comfortable choice for you to make. If everything went well during the birth, the normal hospital stay is around twenty-four hours. If a caesarean section is required then your stay will be 4 – 5 days, depending on your recovery. If you want to select your own particular hospital you must also arrange this with your midwife ahead of time. VERY important is to check with your insurance company to ensure you are covered for any unforeseen medical treatments.
Because natural births are so popular here, real pain medication is not routinely offered during birth: at home or at the hospital. If you want pain relief, you must ask for it. Do not be afraid to ask (or demand!) it – in advance. Inform your doctor or midwife that that is natural practice where you are from and that is what you want and expect. They will comply with your request. However: be aware that midwives are not trained to administer pain relief medication, so it will only be available during a hospital birth with an anaesthetist. Bronovo Hospital now offers pain management during delivery 24 hours a day.
All births in the Netherlands must be registered by law, within three days of the birth. The births must be registered at the town hall (gemeentehuis) by you, your partner or a nurse. Bring the following documents:
Both parents passports, Child’s birth certificate, Marriage Certificate with apostille (if applicable), Residence permits.
If you are unmarried, a declaration must be written by the mother stating the identity of the father. The couple must bring this and their passports to the town hall before the baby is born. Some countries allow you to register the foreign birth of a child at the embassy. Contact the embassy before the birth so that you know what to do and what the time limits are. When you register your child’s birth, you can ask the official at the town hall for an international birth certificate which will be useful in your home country. If you need the internatinal birth certificate to register a foreign birth at your embassy, it will be profided free of charge.
Apparently, it is no longer necessary to register the baby with the Aliens Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie).
Soon after birth, a district nurse (wijkverpleigster) from the “child health centre” (consultatiebureau) in your area will make contact and visit you at home. Then, your baby will have regular check-ups and vaccinations for free until they are 4 years old.
If you are working in the Netherlands, you are entitled to four months maternity leave. It will begin six weeks before your due date and extends ten weeks afterwards, depending on the date of your child’s birth. Your partner has a right to two days paternity leave. In addition, both parents have the right to take unpaid parental leave. Check with both your employer and insurer regarding your options.
A huge benefit to all mothers after the birth is the wonderful maternity care (kraamzorg). It is available for everyone, whether they have a home or hospital birth and paid for by your medical insurance. The Netherlands is the only country where a professional maternity nurse will come to your home and look after you and your baby after you have given birth. You are entitled to this excellent, professional maternity care during the first eight days after the birth of your baby. The nurse will show you how to care for the baby, how to bath him or her, and how to breastfeed properly. The nurse will help with the other children, make sure meals are prepared and may also take care of laundry and light housekeeping. This is a tremendous support for new mothers and mothers with young children at home. It is especially comforting for expats who may not have any family available to help them out during the hectic first days.
A list of all the kraamzorg organisations in The Netherlands can be found at this (unfortunately Dutch) website.
A doula is an experienced, professionally trained woman who provides emotional support, physical comfort and assistance in obtaining information before, during and after childbirth for the woman and her partner. A doula is not a nurse or mid-wife so she does not do examinations or check the baby’s heartbeat as a doctor or mid-wife would do. A doula will help you obtain all the information you will need for your pregnancy and birth. You can hire a doula whether you are having a home or hospital birth. A doula can be a great go-between to help you communicate your needs to your medical caregivers.
Babies and Toddlers
The Access Guide to Having and Caring for Children in the Netherlands. This is a comprehensive guidebook that gives a great overview and valuable and relevant information about the Dutch maternal health system. It contains relevant and valuable information. It can be purchased by phone, mail, or online. (www.access-nl.org)