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Having a Baby in France

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Baby France Pregnant Hospital Doctor

With French health care widely considered to be among the best in the world, many expat women find that having a baby in France is an organised and enjoyable experience.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while living in France, rather than mutter those immortal words, “In England we do it like this…” it is better to learn a bit about how the French do things.

Health Insurance

The most important thing to do first is ensure you have your health insurance in place. With no NHS-type provision that is free at the point of need, you must have either an E form from the UK Department of Work and Pensions, health cover from your employer or your own health cover through being registered as employed or self-employed in France. Whatever your status, you will also need to get a mutuelle as a top up insurance. That said, it has been reported anecdotally that having a baby in France with no health cover costs around €2000, although there may be paperwork to fill in and hoops to jump through at a time when you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about.

First Requirement

In France, the first contact you need to have with a medical professional when you are pregnant is a check up with your GP, gynaecologist or midwife at some point around your 12th week. If you go to your GP much before that (unless it is for another reason) they are likely to raise their eyebrows to say ‘and…?’

After your 12th week appointment, you are required to get a ‘déclaration de grossesse’, a three-part declaration of your pregnancy from your GP or gynaecologist. Before your 14th week, you must present a page of this to your local CPAM office (this is usually in the biggest town in your prefecture and is the state health care office), a page to your local CAF office (Caisse d’allocations familiales – the state office for families) and keep the third page for yourself.

This must be done by the 14th week as it triggers your rights to all manner of benefits, including maternity pay, additional benefits for those on low incomes (including a one off payment to buy the necessary items for your baby) and details on local provision for vaccinations and health checks.

Your doctor will also give you a ‘carnet de sante maternite’, or a book of maternity care, which will inform you of the required checks and tests, such as blood tests to ascertain your blood groups and details of any allergies.

Antenatal Checks

Expectant mothers are required to have seven antenatal checks in France during their last six months of pregnancy, details of which are given in the carnet. They also need to book themselves a place at their chosen hospital or maternity unit in relation to their due date. Note that home births are very uncommon in France, both for cultural and insurance reasons, although they are gaining some popularity thanks to expats, particularly in Paris.

French Hospitals

For the birth itself, it is worth noting that you will need to provide all manner of small accessories for yourself that you would be provided with automatically in the UK. You will be given a list including paper pants, wipes and towels. Epidurals are given freely and there is often very little control given to the mother regarding birth plans.

The majority of British women who have given birth in France say that it is a positive experience. It is often considered more ‘medical’ in France that the ‘touchy-feely’ way that’s promoted in the UK, but the three day average stay after the birth, including help to feed, wash and dress the baby is often well received.

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