Information on the birthing options available including hospital or birthing house deliveries, home births and water births, plus details on prenatal care and work considerations...
Various options are available to pregnant women when it comes to the time of their baby's birth.
Most women still opt to give birth in hospital and the choice of hospital will be decided in conjunction with the gynaecologist. Following the birth it is normal to spend five days in hospital.
As well as the usual medical carers, a physiotherapist will assist at the birth and in the weeks afterwards to ensure that the body recovers properly after the birth. The gynaecologist/obstetrician will almost certainly be present for the birth. Many women also choose to have a physiotherapist present to assist with pain relief. If the parents have not already had contact with the ONE (Office de la Naissance et de l'Enfance) during pregnancy they will receive a visit from a TMS on or shortly after admission to hospital.
Home births (l'accouchement à domicile) are available across the country. Mothers considering this should discuss it with their medical team as early as possible. It is only an option if the mother is in good health (no hypertension or pre-eclampsia) and the pregnancy is progressing normally and the baby arrives between 37 and 42 weeks. Women who have previously had a caesarean section or who are expecting twins will be strongly urged to give birth in a hospital.
A home birth is normally arranged and overseen by two experienced midwives. During the birth they can arrange transfer to hospital if the mother wishes, if she needs an epidural or if they are concerned for the well-being of mother or baby. In the months and weeks prior to the birth the woman must undergo regular checks and choose a hospital and doctor in case she needs one. The midwife will visit the home to advise on practical arrangements such as heating and equipment for when the baby arrives.
After the birth the midwives take care of mother and baby and will stay several hours until they are satisfied that all is well and normal. One midwife will then visit every day for 12 days (staying at least an hour) to check on progress and provide any medical assistance required. The baby must also be seen by a doctor during its first week of life.
The cost of a home birth and the post-natal care can usually be reclaimed in full from the insurer depending on the type of insurance.
- To find out more consult the site for alternatives to hospital births: Click here (in French)
- See the midwives' website for a list of those undertaking home births in Wallonia and Brussels: Click here (in French)
Clinics and "birth houses"
Women may also give birth in a maternity facility known as a birth house (maison de la naissance). Here the atmosphere is deliberately more homely and less clinical. Women are attended by experienced midwives and the birth is allowed to proceed at a pace which suits mother and baby. Clinics are also available where a woman can give birth and then return home the same day or the day after. The usual safeguards apply, however, and transfer to hospital will be advised where necessary. Again as with home births this route is not open to all women.
Most birth houses offer prenatal consultations, baby massage, post natal home visits, family planning advice, pre and post natal talks and classes and general support and advice.
Again, many insurers reimburse the costs of this care.
- Consult the alternative births website for links to individual birth houses and more information
Water birth (l'accouchement dans l'eau) is popular in Belgium. Facilities are provided in some hospitals and birth houses. Water birth is suitable for a lot of women but again there are some conditions, such as hypertension in the mother or foetal distress, that mean this is not an option for every woman.
Women wishing to have a water birth should ensure that they choose a gynaecologist who is in favour of this procedure.
- The Water Birth website has information in English and can supply a DVD or video
In the event of a premature birth or the baby requiring specialist neonatal care, facilities in Belgium are good but not all hospitals have the facilities. However, the TMS are present in neonatal care centres and work closely with the medical teams to ensure that parents are kept informed and provide advice on additional care requirements on transfer home.