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Expat Exchange - Having a Baby in France
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Strasbourg, France


Having a Baby in France

By Joshua Wood, LPC

French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
French Riviera House Hunting - FRH

Summary: If you're going to be pregnant while living in France and want to learn what it's like to have a baby in France, this article is a must read. Topics covered include public vs. private hospitals, pain management, finding a doctor and more. Plus, expats share their experiences having a baby in France.

Welcoming a new baby is a life-changing experience, and for expats and digital nomads living in France, it comes with its own set of unique challenges and rewards. France is known for its high-quality healthcare system, and this extends to maternity and childbirth services. Expats can expect comprehensive prenatal care, a choice between public and private healthcare options, and a generally supportive environment for childbirth. However, navigating a new healthcare system in a foreign language can be daunting, and understanding the nuances of French maternity care is crucial for a smooth experience. This article aims to provide an overview of what it's like for an expat to have a baby in France, from choosing a healthcare provider to understanding the options for pain management during delivery.

Choosing a Doctor

When expecting a baby in France, the first step for an expat is to find a doctor or midwife to manage the pregnancy. General practitioners, obstetricians, and midwives are all involved in prenatal care, and it's important to choose a professional who makes you feel comfortable and supported. Many expats seek out English-speaking doctors to ease communication, and while there are English-speaking healthcare providers in France, they are more readily found in larger cities and expat-heavy regions. Hospitals and clinics in urban areas are more likely to have English-speaking staff. It's advisable to ask for recommendations from local expat communities or to use online directories that list English-speaking doctors in France.

What to Expect for Prenatal Care

Prenatal care in France is thorough and well-structured. Expectant mothers will have regular check-ups with their chosen healthcare provider, and these appointments will include physical examinations, blood tests, and ultrasounds to monitor the baby's development. France also offers optional prenatal classes, which can be particularly helpful for expats to understand the French approach to childbirth and parenting. The French healthcare system emphasizes preventive care, so expectant mothers can expect to receive advice on nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments to support a healthy pregnancy.

Do Expats Typically Have Private Health Insurance when Having a Baby in France?

While France's public healthcare system covers a significant portion of maternity costs, many expats opt for private health insurance to cover additional expenses and to have more options in terms of healthcare providers and facilities. Private insurance can offer quicker access to specialists, private rooms during hospital stays, and a wider choice of hospitals or clinics. It's important for expats to review their insurance options and choose a plan that best suits their needs and preferences for their maternity care.

Giving Birth at Public vs. Private Hospitals

The experience of having a baby at a public hospital in France is generally very positive, with high standards of care and well-trained medical staff. Public hospitals are equipped to handle routine and high-risk pregnancies and are more likely to have a neonatal intensive care unit on site. Private hospitals, on the other hand, may offer more personalized care, shorter wait times, and more luxurious accommodations. However, they can be more expensive, and not all private facilities have neonatal intensive care units. Expats should consider their priorities and insurance coverage when choosing between public and private hospitals for childbirth.

C-Sections in France

In France, the rate of cesarean sections is relatively low compared to some other countries, with a focus on natural childbirth whenever possible. However, C-sections are performed when medically necessary for the safety of the mother or baby. The decision to perform a C-section is typically made by the medical team based on the specific circumstances of the labor and delivery. Expats should discuss their birth plan and any concerns about C-sections with their healthcare provider well in advance of their due date.

Pain Management During Delivery

France offers various options for pain management during labor and delivery. The most common form of pain relief is the epidural, which is widely available and frequently used. Other methods, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas), TENS machines, and hydrotherapy, may also be available, depending on the hospital or birthing center. Natural pain management techniques, such as breathing exercises and massage, are also supported. Expats should discuss pain management preferences with their healthcare provider to ensure their birth plan aligns with the available options.

Hospitals with Neonatal Intensive Care Units

Hospitals with neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are primarily located in France's larger cities, such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse. These facilities are equipped to provide specialized care for newborns who are premature or have medical conditions requiring immediate attention after birth. Expats living in more rural areas may need to travel to a larger city for access to a NICU if their baby requires such care. It's advisable for expectant parents to inquire about the availability of neonatal services at their chosen hospital early in the pregnancy to plan accordingly.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
French Riviera House Hunting - FRH

French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
French Riviera House Hunting - FRH

Strasbourg, France

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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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French Riviera House Hunting - FRH
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