The maternity care, kraamzorg, in the Netherlands is totally unique. No other country in the world has this kind of maternity care, where a professional maternity nurse looks after a mother and her new born baby during the first days after birth. The nurse will show you how to care for your newborn baby, eg how to breastfeed properly, and how to bathe him.
The nurse will look after older children and make sure that meals are prepared, take care of laundry and light household cleaning. If you have visitors she will help arrange a time which doesn’t interrupt with your own or baby’s rest, she will prepare refreshments or even politely turn guests away if you’re feeling too tired ! If you have a home birth she will also be there after the birth to help clean up. Usually she will be there to help you 3-6 hours per day.
You are entitled to maternity care during the first 8 days after the birth of your baby. After that period you should be able to look after your baby yourself. ‘Kraamzorg’ is not to be confused with ‘thuiszorg’ (meaning ‘home care’), which are local organisations providing professional care in your home. The thuiszorg shops are the place to go for some things you may need to hire, eg breast pump (industrial strength, really makes you feel like a diary cow), special stilts to raise the height of your bed (required for home birth), etc.
While the maternity nurse is looking after you she will keep a special diary for you called a kraamdossier to make notes about you and your baby’s health and progress. This book is used for reference by your doctor, district midwife, consultatieburo etc. When the nurse is due to leave she will inform the district nurse at the consultatieburo, who will then be responsible for giving you help, support and guidance in looking after your baby.
How do I arrange maternity care ?
You are probably best asking your midwife to recommend the best maternity care agency in the area. They will have first hand experience of the nurses and will be best qualified to advise you. There can be very big differences in the standard of service offered from one agency to the next.
All you have to do is call the agency and tell them your due date and that you’d like to arrange maternity care with them. They will register your details and then will call you or visit you at a later date to discuss your wishes (intakegesprek). When you will have this meeting is dependent upon the agency itself, some will even leave it until late in the pregnancy. During this talk they will find out about your family, eg how many children you have, if dad will be around to take care of you (or if he has to go work for example). They will find out if you will be having a hospital birth or a home birth and any other details determining the care you receive. Based on all that information they will calculate how many hours of care you will need every day and will send you a summary of what you have arranged. This amount will be reassessed at the beginning and during the maternity care period. Your particular medical insurance policy will also influence the amount of care that are offered. You also have the choice of paying for additional care yourself in which case you should ask the agency what their hourly rate is. There are national guidelines (Landelijk Indicatie Protocol Kraamzorg) that the agencies should follow.
If for example you have a cesaerean birth then it’s unlikely you will be very mobile or be able to lift and carry your baby for a while. After major surgery you will need time to recover and you will certainly not be feeling very energetic! In special circumstances like this, maternity care can be increased to a maximum of 10 days and up to 8 hours per day. This is especially true if there are older children in your family. The nurse will make sure that you have enough rest and make sure that the children are taken care of so that you can start to make a good recovery.