What to expect when having a baby in France...
This is a guide to the legislation and administrative details of having a baby in France - the more personal decisions are just that, personal.
On Becoming Pregnant
Once a pregnancy is suspected it should be confirmed in an initial examination with a doctor, gynaecologist or midwife. Family health history and information about allergies will be required at this point. The doctor or midwife prescribes tests to determine the woman's blood type and identify the presence of diseases that may present risks such as rubella and toxoplasmosis.
After this first official examination (Premier examen prénata
) the doctor (or examiner) issues a three-part document to declare the pregnancy. This is the déclaration de grossesse.
Within three months - no later than the fourteenth week of pregnancy - this must be sent as follows (to avoid risking the loss of allowed benefits):
The Caisse d'Assurance Maladie
issues the dates of medical examinations, details of permitted maternity leave and a health booklet to explain the steps of pregnancy and care.
Detailed information on the process from pregnancy to post natal care, and the health and maternity allowances is published by l'Assurance Maladie en Ligne
), the French national health insurance organisation.
- Ameli have more information on pregnancy and birth (in French)
The maternity record book
The maternity record book (Carnet de santé maternité
) has two principal functions:
- It documents every medical procedure throughout pregnancy and acts as the "bond" between the medical personnel and the expectant mother.
- It provides a document for administrative follow up.
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 particular examination 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 100 percent reimbursement on certain expenses. This document is confidential, although a doctor has the right to inform the father of the baby on certain details, if it is considered necessary.
A woman who does not fulfil the conditions of examination as laid out in the carnet de maternité
may find their rights to refunds and employment allowance are jeopardised. In the case of an unmarried couple, the couple must decide and declare who will receive the benefits - be the "allocatee".
Antenatal classes are also subsidised by national health insurance. Records of medical examinations must be submitted to the medical insurer.
The CAF office issues a pass which show a pregnant woman has the right to go to the front of the queue in public places, and demand that someone gives up their seat in a public place or on public transport.
Employment protection and parental leave
Pregnant, employed or self-employed women receive a great many benefits and much job protection.
Women are allowed 16 weeks maternity leave in France, for the third child, maternity leave is 26 weeks. An allowance is paid during maternity off-time. A pregnant employee is not obliged to reveal her pregnancy until the time she wishes to take maternity leave. Notification can be made verbally or by letter. By law, a job must be kept available to the pregnant employee. Parental leave is also allowed to fathers.
If a decision is made to stop work or work part time after maternity leave, the parent is entitled to a parental leave (congé parental d'éducation
). Those with more than one child, who have worked for two out of the last five years, are entitled to an Allocation parentale d'enfant
. The congé
can be renewed until the child's third birthday.
Benefits and allowances
There is a range of benefits and allowances available when a child is added to a family (by natural birth or adoption). These vary depending on the number of children, the income of the parent(s) and other factors. The relevant CAF office can advice a parent/parent-to-be on their precise entitlement.
Prestation d'Accueil du Jeune Enfant
(PAJE) covers all children born or adopted from 1 January 2004. This entitlement replaces previous schemes including Allocation Pour Jeune Enfant
(APJE). If a child is born into a family already receiving APJE for older children, CAF applies a transitional system.
- For more information on who qualifies for what under PAJE, see the CAF website (in French)
Obligatory antenatal medical examinations
A pregnant woman is obliged to undergo seven antenatal examinations, which will be fully refunded. The first visit must take place before the end of the third month of pregnancy. After this examination, exams are monthly from the fourth month. Women not immune to toxoplasmosis will have their blood tested at a laboratory, monthly. Generally, three sonograms (échographie
) will be conducted during a pregnancy.