Congratulations, you’re pregnant in the Netherlands. You must have heard all kinds of horror stories about giving birth at home, without any kind of pain relief. Luckily, we’re here to tell you that in most cases it’s going to be fine. That said, it never hurts to prepare when having a baby in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands, pregnancy is seen as a normal phase in a woman’s life, not a life-threatening condition. Dutch women are seen cycling until the very end and they keep on exercising and socializing like before.
The Dutch approach to birth has its advantages and disadvantages. Your birth is not likely to be over-medicated, but you may have different expectations because of your country of origin or previous experiences.
In this article, we’ll give you a run-down of how things are done in the Netherlands and what you can do to turn this time into a great experience.
Assuming everything goes well, midwives will be your primary care providers when having a baby in the Netherlands. In fact, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant you should choose a midwifery clinic that’s most convenient for you. Yes, even if you want a hospital birth with an epidural. A midwife can refer you to a hospital if necessary but you’ll need to get in touch with her first.
If there is a medium risk, you may be sent to a doctor for more tests before being sent back to your midwife for the remainder of your pregnancy.
If there is a much bigger issue, you will have to go to a doctor. Most OBGYNs work at the hospitals, not private practices and you’ll probably see a different one at every visit.
If it’s a doctor you prefer, try a slightly different route: ask your GP to refer you to an OBGYN if your midwife doesn’t want to do that. Remember, midwives are great but they’re not for everyone and some women will just feel safer with a doctor.
Getting the care provider that you wish for your pregnancy is your right so don’t be afraid to speak up. You can visit a gynecologist by yourself but then your visits won’t be covered by insurance. Another way is to ask around for an expat-friendly hospital in your area that will take you in for check-ups.
Ultrasounds, check-ups, and tests, oh my!
With midwives, your first appointment will be around 12 weeks into the pregnancy, based on the date of your last period. The midwives will ask for your medical history and determine your due date with an ultrasound. Your appointments will start at being every four weeks but as you get further along, they will get closer together.
You’ll have your blood tested twice for iron deficiencies and other issues.
You’ll also be entitled to two ultrasounds – one at 12 weeks to determine your due date and one at 20 weeks to see if the baby is growing well. On your insistence, and if there are medical reasons, you can also get an ultrasound at 30 weeks (to check the baby’s growth) and at 36 weeks (to see if the baby is in a head-down position).
What do you need for the birth?
Regardless of where you want to give birth, you’ll need a few things (more if you’re planning a home birth). But don’t worry, your midwife should give you a list. Depending on your insurance, you will be sent a kraampaket and most pharmacies in the Netherlands, such as Kruidvat, HEMA, Etos, and others will have baby boxes or kraampaketten (as they’re known in Dutch) as well.
You’ll also need to arrange for kraamzorg care, your maternity leave, and other formalities.
Home or Hospital?
The midwifery system with its focus on homebirth has been heavily criticized in the last few years, and the number of babies born at home has been steadily dropping.
But if that’s your wish, homebirths are still a part of the Dutch maternity care system and if there are no issues with your pregnancy, you can consider it.
The benefit is that you’re in a familiar environment which may help speed labor along and calm you down.
But there are drawbacks. For example, if you need to be transferred, the stress may be even bigger than if you’d to go to the hospital in the first place. Not to mention in the event of emergencies it’s certainly better to have a team of doctors around you. Furthermore, transport under labor is not really a relaxing affair.
But if you want to go to the hospital, your midwife will arrive at your home first, then call ahead to the hospital so that they’ll have the room ready for you.
While hospitals can be scary for some women, others like the fact that they have specialists on call just in case. While the hospital approach is more medicalized than at home, it will still be more hands-off than in other countries.
Moreover, the majority of women choose to give birth in the hospital – either because there is a problem, they just feel safer with a medical team, or simply because they want to get pain relief such as the epidural.
But if the Dutch system is not to your liking at all, there are a few things you can do. First of all, you can go back to your home country a few months or weeks before birth so that the baby is born there, then fly back to the Netherlands as soon as you’re able.
Going to the nearest hospital in Germany or Belgium is not unheard of. While it’s an option, driving for a few hours under contractions is not necessarily optimal. Still, some couples choose to do so if they really don’t want to deal with the Dutch maternity care system.
There is a third option that lies between home and hospital, and that is the geboortehotel or birth center. Birth centers will have the cozy, feel of home but since they’re usually located in (or close to) hospitals, you may get immediate medical attention should you need it.
Other team members
While husbands are a fixture in the delivery room (as is your team of midwives or doctors and nurses), there are many other options to consider. For example, a doula is a birth coach who will help you achieve the birth experience you want. They are becoming increasingly popular when having a baby in the Netherlands.
Think whether you want to hire other professionals such as birth photographers (although some doulas also offer that service), prenatal educators and lactation consultants.
Congratulations, your baby is finally here!
If the child was born at the hospital, your baby will get weighed (but not measured as it’s the case in some countries). If the birth went well, you will be sent back home after 6 hours, although sometimes they may want to keep you and the baby overnight for observation. You’ll then go home the next day.
If the child was born at home without any issues, your midwives will take care of the weighing and stay with you to make sure you’re doing fine and then they’ll leave you in the very capable hands of the kraamzorg.
Guardian Angel Kraamzorg
After birth, you’ll meet the guardian angel known as kraamzorg. This nurse will be with you for eight days for a few hours every day to check whether both you and baby are doing well, help you establish breastfeeding, if that’s what you choose, or watch out for signs of postpartum depression. But that is not all. She’ll also clean your house, do your laundry, fix light meals, make tea, remind you to rest and, if you need it, take care of your other kids. Of course, her tasks will depend on your specific situation and needs.
While the number of kraamzorg hours can vary, you get more in certain situations. For example, if you’re a single parent, or if you have other children in the house. However, if you had to stay at the hospital, you’ll get fewer kraamzorg hours.
Dutch postpartum traditions
In the hospital, you’ll be served beschuit met muisjes – or rusk with sugar-coated anise seeds which will be pink if the baby is a girl and blue if it’s a boy.
The Dutch love announcing the new arrival with “Hoerra, een meisje” or “hoerra, een jongen,” hung across the windows in big colorful letters.
Also, the Dutch love sending out birth cards – or geboortekaartjes. Some are very elaborate, while others are simpler in design and wording.
You need to register your newborn at the municipality within 72 hours. This is most commonly done by the father and will result in the issuing of a birth certificate. Your baby will have their parents’ nationality (or nationalities). You can also register your baby in your home country through its embassy.
You have probably used around 4 weeks of your maternity leave before the baby was born, but you have 12 more. Fathers only get five paid days of paternity leave but this is progress as before 2019 it was only 2.
The important thing for you to know is that you have options so don’t hesitate to make use of them.
Please Note: Expat Republic does not provide medical or clinical advice, we’re not doctors. Please consult your doctor for health-related issues (whether related to having a baby in the Netherlands or not).