Having a baby in Belgium
If you're having a baby in Belgium, here's a guide to prenatal care, delivery, aftercare, birth registration, child benefits, and maternity and paternity leave in Belgium.
Prenatal care in Belgium
The degree of contact you have with your doctor throughout the pregnancy period will vary according to which region of the country you reside in. Doctors in the Flemish region tend to play a key role throughout the pregnancy, as do gynaecologists. In the French-speaking areas of Belgium, however, women generally only see their gynaecologist.
You are free to select a gynaecologist of your choice, and there are plenty of organisations for those looking for help when it comes to choosing a gynaecologist, such as the French-speaking ONE (Office de la Naissance et de l'Enfance), Dutch-speaking K&G (Kind en Gezin) and the Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT). These organisations are able to provide you with a gynaecologist free of charge, similar to other essential pregnancy services, such as the birth itself and subsequent hospital stay – all of which are covered by the mandatory health insurance paid by anyone who is employed in Belgium. Even women who aren't covered by insurance will find that their pregnancy costs are covered, courtesy of the Public Social Welfare Centre (Les Centres Publics d'Action Sociale, CPAS, in French, or Openbaar Centrum voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn, OCMW, in Dutch ).
In the French-speaking regions, expectant mothers will have regular check-ups with a Medical Social Worker (travailleur medico-social or TMS) who will be employed by the ONE organisation. Once pregnancy is confirmed you will receive a maternity booklet, known as the Carnet de la Mere in French. You must bring this booklet with you to all future consultations with your GP or TMS.
The Flemish region, meanwhile, will see mothers receive regular home visits from a nurse and have the opportunity to attend pre-natal courses, some of which are available in English.
Giving birth in Belgium
If you opt for a home birth it will only be granted if you are deemed to be in good health, and the process will generally be overseen by two midwives. The midwives will remain at your home for several hours after the birth to ensure there are no unexpected developments. One midwife will then drop by for a visit every day for up to two weeks after the birth in order to assist and offer advice, and a visit to the GP is also required within the first week after delivery. Midwives for the Flemish region and Brussels can be found at www.sage-femme.be.
Alternative birth locations include so-called 'birth houses' (maison de la naissance) which are designed to provide more home comforts, with a midwife overseeing the birth. The houses offer a range of post-natal care services and classes, while some also allow the father to stay overnight during the birth. Some insurers cover the costs of birth houses, so it's wise to consult your relevant provider prior to making a final decision.
Maternity aftercare in Belgium
Parents can also choose from a range of nursery services aimed at new-borns up until the age of three. Nurseries can be found in many local community halls or run by the Public Social Welfare Centres and many are often government-subsidised by up to 75 percent, meaning parents only pay 25 percent of the fee. You can read more information in our guide to childcare in Belgium.
Upon completion of the registration you will be issued with documents which can be used to apply for child benefits. Expats are advised to also register the birth with their relevant consulate as soon as possible in order to ensure the child receives citizenship to their relevant country.
It is important to note that babies born in Belgium will only be eligible for Belgian citizenship if the parents have spent a minimum of five consecutive years living in the country in the 10 year period prior to the birth.
Up until recently, all new-borns in Belgium were required by law to take the surname of their father. In early 2014, however, a government bill was passed which enables parents to choose whether the baby takes the surname of the father or the mother – or both.
Belgian maternity and paternity leave
If you are working, you need to tell your employer no later than eight weeks before the due date. Mothers can take up to 15 weeks maternity leave, receiving benefits equivalent to 80 percent of your salary for the first 30 days and 75 percent for the remainder (subject to a maximum). Fathers can take 10 days paternity leave, seven of which are paid at 82 percent of the salary (subject to a maximum) within the first four months of the birth.Mothers can also opt to take eight months part-time leave, meaning they take on part-time hours at their place of work for the eight month period.
Childbirth benefits in Belgium
The application is made to the National Office for Family Benefits for Salaried Persons, although those in employment usually make their application via their employer. The medical experts providing the pre-natal care will provide the relevant documentation and the actual pay-out will be made directly to the mother. You can expect to receive the money at some point after the eighth month of pregnancy, with the amount depending on how many children you already have.
Once the birth has taken place you must provide the benefits office with a proof of birth, which can be obtained when registering the birth at a local registry office.
For a detailed breakdown of Belgian child benefit rates visit: www.kids.partena.be.
- Brussels Childbirth Trust (BCT): www.bctbelgium.org
- Office de la Naissance et de l'Enfance (ONE): www.one.be
- Kind en Gezin (K&G): www.kindengezin.be
- Social Security Office: www.socialezekerheid.fgov.be
- Fund for Professional Diseases: www.fmp.fgov.be
- Office for Family Benefits for Salaried Persons: www.onafts.be
- Community Help Service: www.chsbelgium.org
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