Having a Baby in France
What to expect when having a baby in France...
If you think you are pregnant in France, you should confirm it in an initial examination with a doctor, gynaecologist or midwife. If you want confirmation of the pregnancy before making an appointment you can take a home pregnancy test. These are readily available from all pharmacies – ask for a test de grossesse.
Having a baby in France as an expat can seem daunting, especially if you don’t speak French, but the French health system is excellent and pregnant women are well looked after in both the private and the public sector. There are many English-speaking gynaecologists - ask around for recommendations or at your local pharmacy.
Declaring your pregnancy in France
During your first appointment, the doctor or midwife will question you on family health history and any allergies, and prescribe tests to determine your blood type and to identify the presence of illnesses that may present risks such as rubella and toxoplasmosis. The doctor or midwife will also calculate your due date. It’s worth noting that in France a pregnancy due date is 40 weeks and 6 days from the date of your last period, unlike in the UK and other countries where it’s 39 weeks and 6 days.
After this first official examination (Premier examen prénatal) the doctor or midwife can either declare the pregnancy online, or issue a three-part document to declare the pregnancy. This is the déclaration de grossesse.
You need to make sure this declaration is done within three months, and no later than the fourteenth week of pregnancy, to avoid risking the loss of allowed benefits. If not done online the papers need to be sent as follows:
- The pink sheet is sent to the health insurance fund (Caisse d’Assurance Maladie, CAM)
- Both blue sheets are sent to the family allowances fund (Caisse d'allocations familiales, CAF)
The Caisse d'Assurance Maladie will then send you dates of medical examinations, details of permitted maternity leave and a health booklet to explain the steps of pregnancy and care, and inform you of the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
It is advisable at this point to update your Carte Vitale (either at a pharmacy, a CPAM office or in a hospital or clinic) – you just need to insert the card into one of the green Carte Vitale terminals.
Detailed information on the process from pregnancy to post-natal care, and the health and maternity allowances are published by l'Assurance Maladie en Ligne (Ameli.fr), the French national health insurance organisation.
- The Ameli website has more information on pregnancy and birth (in French)
The maternity record book
A maternity record book - Carnet de santé maternité OR carnet de grossesse, is sent to you after the first compulsory prenatal check-up.
This maternity record book has two principal functions:
This multi-part book must be taken to every medical consultation. It is composed of detachable layers corresponding with the various stages of a pregnancy. It states the point at which a specific check-up is required, and where to go and where to send documents. Every examination or process by a doctor or a midwife will be filled in. This entitles the mother to 100 percent reimbursement on certain expenses. If you don’t go to all the compulsory pregnancy check-ups as laid out in the carnet de maternité, you may find your rights to reimbursements of medical costs and employment allowance are jeopardised.
- Further information about the Carnet from Service Public
The CAF office also issues a pass which that as a pregnant woman you have the right to go to the front of the queue in public places, and request that someone gives up their seat in a public place or on public transport.