Overview of maternity and childbirth care
The vast majority of births in Belgium take place in maternity hospitals, although private hospitals, home births and specialist clinics are three other options available when it comes to deciding where to give birth. In addition to a midwife, nurses, a gynaecologist and a physiotherapist (to assist with pain relief) will also be present at the birth in a maternity hospital. Parents can choose the physiotherapist in advance of the birth through ONE (the Office de la Naissance et de l'Enfance
) in French-speaking regions or K&G (Kind en Gezin
) in the Flemish region – both services being provided free of charge. Similar medical care will be provided in the specialist clinics known as birth houses (maison de la naissance
Your doctor or a midwife based at the medical practice where you are registered will be your first port of call to confirm the pregnancy. How involved your GP is during the course of your pregnancy will depend on the region in Belgium in which you live. In the Flemish region, the GP will play a significant role throughout the nine-month period along with a gynaecologist, but in the French-speaking regions you will probably just deal with a gynaecologist. You can get help in selecting one through ONE, K&G or the Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT), although the latter may have a cost attached.
In the French-speaking region, you will be given a maternity booklet, known as a Carnet de la Mère
, which should accompany you to all appointments during your pregnancy. The appointments will include spending time with a Medical Social Worker (travailleur médico-social, TMS
), who will be a ONE employee. In the Flemish region home visits from a nurse and information evenings on the birth, feeding and childcare are provided by K&G. The TMS will also provide similar classes during the prenatal stage of pregnancy.
You do not need to worry about the cost of giving birth. This is covered by the compulsory medical insurance that all employees or self-employed workers are required to pay. Should you not work and therefore not pay into a medical insurance the cost of giving birth will be covered by the Public Social Welfare Centre (CPAS/OMCW). Some information on the service is available in English.
If you are employed, you will need to inform your employer of the pregnancy at least eight weeks before the scheduled delivery date. If, for medical reasons, you are not able to continue working during pregnancy you are likely to receive payments from the Fund for Professional Diseases (Fonds voor de beroepsziekten, FBZ/Fondes des maladies professionelles, FMP
). The FMP will also make a payment should a pregnant woman move positions to perform a less manual role on a lower salary.
Home births will require two experienced midwives, who can be found by visiting www.sage-femme.be
, for the Flemish region and Brussels. If you are looking for alternatives to hospital births, check out www.alternatives.be/attouchments
.Delivery and The Birth
The birth will more than likely take place in a hospital, unless you have chosen a specialist clinic or to have a home birth. Regardless of the place of birth, a review of the baby will be carried out including, weighing, measuring and any possible defects. For premature births, the newborn baby may need transfer to a different hospital as not all of Belgian hospitals have specialist neonatal facilities. The TMS will be on hand to work with the medical teams in such circumstances.
Following the birth, in Belgium it is a standard practice for both mother and baby to spend five days in hospital before being allowed to go home.
Each child born in Belgium is issued with a Carnet de L'Enfant
, which includes all details about vaccinations and healthcare during the child’s early years. It is also used to chart weight, height, sight and hearing at regular periods of development. In Belgium, vaccinations are given at two months, three months, four months, 12 months and 15 months.Aftercare
Belgian law requires babies to be registered within 15 days of birth at the Town Hall (Maison communale/Stadhuis
) of the place of birth. To do so, the medical certificate of birth is required along with a marriage certificate or ID cards for both parents (if both are being named). For expats, the birth should be registered with the consulate in order to be able to claim citizenship for the child. Newborn babies can only take on Belgian nationality if the parents have been residents of the country for five successive years within a period of the last 10 years. More information can be gained by talking to the Community Help Service.
It is at the point of registration that government officials at the Town Hall will provide forms and documentation, which need to be completed in order to receive various child benefits. Family benefits fall under the governance of the Office for Family Benefits for Salaried Persons (ONAFTS).
A birth payment, known as allocation de naissance
, can be applied for by the father providing he is a salaried employee. Applicable in the first six months of the child’s life, it will be paid direct into a bank account and the figure depends on whether the child in question is a first child, second child or so on. Maternity and paternity leave
In Belgium, women can take up to 15 weeks maternity leave, one of which must be before the due pregnancy date and at least nine after the birth. Salary is paid at 82 per cent for the first 30 days of maternity leave and 75 per cent thereafter although confirmed figures are dependent on your employer.
Paternity leave for fathers is set at 10 days with seven of those days paid at the 82 per cent of salary figure. There is no timescale on when it can be taken, although it must happen with four months of the birth.Nurseries and Crèches
Most nurseries and crèches in Belgium will look after children from birth to three years, at which stage they will begin pre-school education. The majority of nurseries are either run by the local community or fall under the guidance of the Public Social Welfare Centres (Centre Public d'Action Sociale, CPAS
). Payment is usually split with parents paying a quarter of the figure and the government swallowing the remaining 75 per cent in childcare allowances, although reductions tend to be available for more than one child. Crèches in Belgium tend to open from 7am until 6pm to cover the working day.