Having a baby in France and maternity leave in France
If you're having a baby in France, here's a guide to giving birth in France including prenatal care, delivery, aftercare and maternity leave in France, as well as paternity leave in France.
If you're planning to have a baby in France, you will find that the French healthcare system is regarded as one of the best countries for childbirth. However, it's important to make sure you are registered with a doctor or midwife well in advance of giving birth in France, and understand what services are available for you and your bébé (baby in French), for example, maternity leave in France.
The process of having a baby in France may differ to what you're used to back home. In this guide Expat health insurer Bupa Global explains the process of giving birth in France – including antenatal care, delivery, postnatal care, registering your baby in France and how to access paternity leave in France – so you know what to expect every step of the birth in France.
Maternity and birth in France
Expectant parents mostly choose to give birth in France at a maternity hospital with the assistance of a midwife (sage femme). The majority of maternity hospitals are public and the public French healthcare system ranks typically well in international surveys. It is also possible to go to a private hospital in France, which will ensure your stay is more comfortable. Check your insurance first, however, as not all insurance covers private hospital care and it can exceed the amount of EUR 5,000 per day.
Home birth in France is not common and is usually not covered fully by insurance as they are seen as a riskier option. However if you go ahead with a home birth in France, a midwife will be present.
Prenatal care in France
Once you go to a doctor, gynaecologist or midwife to confirm you will have a baby in France, they will discuss your family history and take a blood test to identify any risk of diseases to the baby. The doctor will then refer you to a gynaecologist (or you can choose your own) who will be your principal contact during the pregnancy; the gynaecologist can help you choose a maternity hospital and to find a midwife. Alternatively, the staff at the hospital you choose may be able to give you contact details for their accredited gynaecologists. Read Expatica's guide on how to choose a French doctor or check this list of major hospitals in Paris and around France.
Some gynaecologists in France will speak English but this is not guaranteed; asking friends for recommendations can help. Giving birth in France is not always handled by the gynaecologist, however, particularly in public hospitals. It is usually managed by the team on duty at the time.
Following your first antenatal examination (premier examen prénata), which must be before the end of the third month, you will be given a three-page document declarating your pregnancy in France (declaration de grossesse). You will need this to claim health insurance for childbirth in France and social security coverage for parental leave in France. It is important to send the documents to the Caisse d’Assurance Maladie (or your insurance advisor, Conseiller de l’Assurance Maladie, CAM) and the Caisse d'allocations familiales (CAF) respectively no later than the 14th weeks of pregnancy to avoid any loss of benefits.
Be aware that it is common practice for parents to be told of the gender of the child when having a baby in France, so if you do not want to be told make sure your gynaecologist is aware.
Important documents for having a baby in France
Following the first antenatal examination, you can attend a further eight sessions with the gynaecologist (including ultrasound scans and delivery preparations) if you plan to give birth in France. Your gynaecologist will provide you with a maternity record book (Carnet de Santé Maternité) for details of your medical examinations to monitor your situation (where to go, what to do and information on the various stages of having a baby in France). It is possible to obtain full reimbursement for compulsory pregnancy-related expenses; after the sixth month of pregnancy, however, all costs are fully covered, whether or not they are pregnancy related, or after the fourth month if a mother has to be hospitalised.
Your health insurance fund will send you a pregnancy guide booklet with dates for medical exams and maternity leave in France (Congé Maternité). The Family Allowance Fund will make a one-off payment to you for giving birth in France, which is effectively a birth grant. Two further payments are then made after having a baby in France.
In some circumstances, expectant mothers may also be provided with home help after giving birth in France, usually in cases of medical, social or financial difficulties. Applications for further assistance can be made to the Social Action Community Centre (CCAS) or Services of Child Social Assistance (ASE). Read Expatica's guide for safety tips during childbirth in France.
Home births in France, meanwhile, are uncommon but can be arranged upon request. Home births aren't fully covered by state insurance, so it is important to speak with your health insurance provider before making a final decision.
Giving birth in France: The delivery
Following the birth in France, the baby receives a comprehensive review including being weighed, measured and checked for possible defects. The healthiness of the baby is assessed against the Apgar scale, which checks heart rate, breathing, muscle tone and responsiveness to stimulation. The measurements and Apgar score are then noted on the first page of the health record.
The score ranges from 0 to 10, with 10 meaning the baby is in the best possible health. As a rule of thumb, a score of 7 or more is considered to reflect a healthy baby. A lower score need not be a cause for concern, however, as some babies simply take longer to adjust to life outside of the womb. The doctor and midwife will make a full scale assessment and inform you of any concerns they may have after giving birth in France.
Before being discharged, the baby will also have a compulsory check from a pediatrician. The results of this are duly recorded on the baby’s health record.
Your health insurance in France will cover all expenses (100 percent) including compulsory prenatal tests, delivery, epidurals and screening for diseases of newborns from your sixth month of pregnancy up until the 12th day of your hospital stay. However, hospital stays generally average around three days after giving birth in France. If you leave the hospital within five days of having a baby in France and recuperate at home, you will also be entitled to receive home visits from the midwife.
Europan nationals who are French residents can also deliver their baby in their home country instead of giving birth in France. The government may cover the related expenses under the French health insurance system or the expectant parents' European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Registering your baby in France
It is compulsory by law to register all children born in France within three working days of the birth at the local town hall – this process is called Déclaration de Naissance. Most likely, it will be the father who goes but the doctor or the midwife can also register the birth in France.
Whoever goes to register the birth will need the certificate issued by the doctor or midwife and if the family is using a declaration of name choice they should bring this as well as the act of recognition (if it was made before the birth in France). The registrar (officier d’état civil) will then complete a birth certificate (extrait d'act de naissance) for your baby. Registration is free for any birth in France. You can also request a copy of the birth certificate online through the French public service website.
If you are a British citizen, you can alternatively register the birth at the British Embassy, which means the birth will be recorded in the General Registry Office in the UK. It is recommended that non-French citizens also register their baby's birth at their home consulate after giving birth in France.
Will my child get French citizenship?
A child is automatically given French citizenship if at least one parent is French. The law also states that a child born in France to non-French parents may receive French citizenship at the age of 18, provided they are a resident in the country. Read our guide to getting French citizenship.
Postnatal care in France
At the time a child is registered, a health record book will be issued. This will contain all of the medial information used to keep tabs on your child's health – including vaccinations – right up until your child reaches the age of 16. It is a very important document and aids the communication process between health professionals and your family after having a baby in France.
Compulsory medical examinations of children are carried out at regular intervals. The first is within eight days of giving birth in France, another is held in the 9th or 10th month and finally during the 24th or 25th month.
Mothers and children can also access mother and infant care (Protection Maternelle et Infantile, PMI) at local maternal and child health clinics (MCH) after giving birth in France. Staff there will provide postnatal checks, nutritional and health advice and can even administer vaccinations. This can be a valuable support, so ask your doctor or midwife about the benefits of mother and infant postnatal care. They will also be able to provide you with more detailed information on how to sign up for the service.
Maternity leave in France and paternity leave in France
It is mandatory to take at least eight weeks' maternity leave in France, although women are allowed up to 16 weeks of maternity leave in France (congé maternité), usually six weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and 10 weeks after. This allocated time can increase to 26 weeks if a woman is having her third child. If you are having twins, the period is 34 weeks and for triplets this increases to 46 weeks. Adoption leave is also granted for 10 weeks. Read the conditions for maternity leave in France.
There is some flexibility when taking your maternity leave in France and mothers can choose to spread their French maternity leave so more is used after giving birth in France. Additional leave may be granted in the event of pregnancy-related medical issues. Under no circumstances can your employment contract be terminated during the period of your maternity leave in France.
Paternity leave in France is usually around 11 consecutive days and increases up to 18 days for multiple births.
New mothers and fathers on parental leave in France receive a daily benefit equal to their average wage during the three-month period before the birth in France, up to the monthly social security ceiling of EUR 3,218 monthly (2016). State social contributions and taxes at a flat rate of 21 percent are deducted from parental leave in France. The daily payment for indviduals on parental leave in France cannot be lower than EUR 9.26 or higher than EUR 83.58 per day as of 1 January 2016, and payments are usually fortnightly and cover a period of at least eight weeks. These rates are subject to yearly change.
If you are unemployed it may be possible to claim maternity leave in France, but you will not be able to receive maternity leave without stopping your unemployment payments first.
To qualify for parental leave in France you must have worked at least 150 hours within a period of three months, or 600 hours within 12 months if working part-time or sporadically. There are other ways to qualify, although you typically don't need to do anything to receive your benefit; your health insurer will assess your eligibility and send a salary certificate to your employer outlining what you will get.
Your French health insurer is the first point of contact for advice on what is applicable in your situation. You can also use this calculator (in French) to estimate your parental leave in France.
Nurseries and childcare in France
It is recommended to pre-register with nurseries when the expectant mother is in her second or third trimester. This involves contacting several nurseries and forwarding a registration form – obtainable from the local council or nursery – so start well in advance of having a baby in France. However, registration can cover several nurseries at once.
Nurseries will typically ask for the birth certificate (after the child is born) and may also request additional documentation. It is advisable to make a decision and register with a nursery before giving birth in France as there can sometimes be long wait times for free spaces. Read more about childcare in France and daycare in France.
Websites for having a baby in France
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Expatica / Updated by Bupa Global
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Bupa Global offers international health insurance to expats in more than 190 countries worldwide.
Updated 2016. / Photo credit: Meagan (pregnancy).
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