If you’re having a baby in France, Expatica’s guide has everything you need to know about the entire process! From prenatal care through to delivery, aftercare, leave and benefits, we’ve got new mums and dads covered in La République
If you’re thinking about having a baby in France, you will find that the French healthcare system is regarded as one of the best in the world for childbirth. In addition, you’re likely to be eligible for childcare benefits (including a one-off payment of close to €1,000) and your child could also be eligible for French – and EU – citizenship at the age of 18.
However, it’s important to make sure you are registered with a doctor or midwife (sage-femme), as well as a hospital, well in advance of giving birth in France, and understand what services and allowances are available to you and your bébé; 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 Aetna 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 exhilarating journey to giving birth in France.
Aetna International is one of the largest international health benefits providers. By delivering comprehensive health benefits and population health management solutions worldwide, they are committed to helping create a stronger, healthier global community. Their award-winning expatriate business provides health benefits to more than 800,000 members worldwide.
Pregnancy and childbirth in France: an overview
Over 700,000 babies are born in Europe’s most fertile country each year. Most French women – 98%, according to the WHO – give birth in maternity hospitals (maternités) with the assistance of a midwife (sage-femme). The majority of these are public and the public French healthcare system ranks typically well in international surveys.
It is also possible to go to a private hospital (clinique) in France, which will ensure your stay is more comfortable. You can choose to have a private room, complete with a mini fridge and your husband sleeping over. However, if something goes wrong, a private clinic may well put you in an ambulance to a public hospital if it isn’t equipped to deal with the problems at hand.
Also remember to check with your insurer – not all insurance covers private hospital care and it can exceed the amount of € 5,000 per day.
Home birth in France is not common and is usually not covered fully by insurance. It’s generally seen as a riskier option and attendant professionals face a greater chance of legal action. However, if you do decide to go ahead with a home birth in France, a midwife will be present.
Insurance for maternity costs in France
If you have public health insurance in France, the majority of costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth will be covered – but you must first declare your pregnancy to the Sécurité Sociale. From that moment, you will benefit from the Tiers Payant, meaning you won’t have to pay pregnancy-related fees upfront anymore. Please note that the first two sonograms are only partly covered (70%). 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 hospitalized.
Note that the public health system only covers the government-set rates. Doctors’ fees over this range (in the free sector, known as dépassements d’honoraires), will only be refunded in line with this tariff.
For these extra fees (including the first sonograms), and for those who want a higher level of coverage, or extra facilities such as a private room, private health insurance is a good option. Large international companies which provide maternity coverage for expats in France include:
Accessing maternity services in France
Typically, anyone can choose their own doctor in France – but since medical professionals aren’t allowed to advertise, you’d do well to ask friends and family for recommendations. You can search the L’Assurance Maladie website to find a doctor in France working within the state system or check the French Yellow Pages (Pages Jaunes) for French doctors near you.
When heading to your first appointment, you’re likely to be asked for several documents such as:
- Passport or local ID card
- Proof of address, such as a utility bill
- Insurance/mutuelle card
- Securité sociale or CMU attestation. Ask for this at your CPAM center or via your CPAM account on Ameli.fr.
- Previous lab results you may have, including ultrasound summaries
Expatica’s guide to the French healthcare system has more details.
Pregnancy testing in France
Home pregnancy tests (tests de grossesse – gros can also mean fat, but we’re not judging) are easily available over the counter at most pharmacies and supermarkets in France from upwards of about €1.
Since home kits have a tiny margin of error – up to 2% – you’ll want the confirmation of a lab test. This can only be done on prescription, and you’ll typically be given the results the next day. The test is usually covered by social security.
Prenatal care in France
Once you have your test results, your doctor will refer you to a gynecologist (or you can choose your own) who will be your principal contact during the pregnancy; the gynecologist 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 gynecologists. Read Expatica’s guide on how to choose a French doctor or check this list of major hospitals in Paris and around France.
Some gynecologists in France will speak English but this is not guaranteed; asking friends for recommendations can help. Giving birth in France is often but not always handled by the gynecologist, however. In public hospitals in particular, it is usually managed by the team on duty at the time.
Following your first antenatal examination (premier examen prénatal), which must be before the end of the third month, you will be given a three-page document declaring 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. 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.
By this point, i.e. the end of the first trimester, the CPAM will send you a maternity pack with a maternity record book (Carnet de Santé Maternité), as well as details on how to open an account on the national health insurance website (ameli.fr), and a calendar of medical check-ups and maternity leave in France (Congé Maternité). You’ll need these records to be reimbursed for some expenses.
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.
A lifestyle benefit for pregnant women in France: the CAF will issue you with a pass allowing you to go straight to the front of the queue in some public offices, or to ask people on public transport to give up their seat for you.
Be aware when having a baby in France that it is common practice for parents to be told of the gender of their unborn child, so if you do not want to be told make sure your gynecologist is aware.
(And yes, gender reveal parties are a big deal in France, although not as crazy as in les États-Unis!)
Scans, tests and checks
Your maternity record book, the Carnet de Santé Maternité, will indicate how often you need to get a check-up during your pregnancy in France. Seven examinations are routine, but your doctor may ask you to come in more often in case of complications.
Each time, doctors will test for a range of conditions, including toxoplasmosis, an infection that’s relatively harmless to adults but causes developmental problems in children. Medical staff should also inform you which tests are compulsory and which are merely recommended – it’s your right to know, so don’t hesitate to ask.
Three ultrasounds (échographies) are standard during pregnancy.
The French medical establishment believes vaccines should be administered before and after pregnancy as far as possible, except for the injectable influenza vaccine. This is in contrast with other countries, where the combined DTP or TDAP vaccines, covering diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), are also often prescribed during pregnancy. France does, however, have an aggressive post-natal vaccine schedule, so discuss any concerns with your doctor. See more information on Vaccines in France.
You and your partner will also be offered a prenatal interview to prepare for the birth of your child in France. A set of up to seven more subsidized sessions may be offered over the pregnancy period, with experienced midwives providing birthing training and answering all questions from pregnancy-related hemorrhoids to breastfeeding techniques.
Some university hospitals run English antenatal classes in France, but availability depends on where you’re located. Ask your doctor for more information. It’s also worth cross-checking with your insurer about coverage.
Abortion in France
A woman can ask for a termination of her pregnancy until the 12th week, with part of the fee covered by the social security system. By law there must be a week’s time between making the request and having the procedure, so as to allow anyone who might change her mind to do so.
Teenagers below 18 years old and those who are single are also required to undergo counselling. It’s important to note that doctors can refuse to carry out the procedure; if they do, they must refer you to another doctor who can help.
Giving birth in France
You’ll want to register with a maternity hospital of your choice as early as possible to avoid losing a place there.
Some French women have been known to walk to their preferred hospital as soon as they get their lab tests, but there’s no need to be so dramatic – your gynecologist will be able to help. Remember that your gynecologist is a good source of reference when having a baby in France.
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%) 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.
European 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).
Home births 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 about giving birth at home or in a hospital while resident in France.
Postnatal care in France
At the time a child’s birth is registered, he or she will be issued with a health record book. 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 ninth or 10th month and finally during the 24th or 25th month.
When you leave the hospital, you will be given the telephone number of the nursery nurse on your area. She’ll be an invaluable resource, turn to her with any questions or concerns.
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.
Vaccines for children in France
Pregnant women aren’t administered vaccines in France as a rule, except for the injectable influenza innoculation. As a result, infants and toddlers will need to see doctors for their shots according to a predetermined schedule.
Children growing up in France must be administered 11 mandatory vaccines, as of 2018. They are administered in a schedule of 10 injections spaced out over a period of two years. Schools and recreation centers have been tasked with monitoring that these vaccines have been administered for children born after 1 January, 2018.
If a child is not up to date with his or her vaccinations, they will be denied entry to community centers – although schools and nurseries will be able to admit them on a provisional basis for three months, while the vaccines are administered. In case of persistent refusal, the head teacher is entitled to exclude the child.
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.
Breastfeeding in France
The average French women generally breastfeeds her babies for only about 17 weeks, according to a 2015 study of 18,000 mothers. This is partly due to a lack of education about breastfeeding. In recent years, however, several groups have been formed to help new mums, providing help and support as needed. Some associations are:
- La Leche League
- The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
- Information For Breastfeeding
There are also lactariums that collect, store and redistribute breast milk for babies who need it. They are supplied principally by donations.
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 Mairie or town hall – this process is called a déclaration de naissance. A child whose birth is not registered could find it difficult to access health or education services, and its parents risk a prison sentence of six months and a fine of €3,750.
It’s often the father who files this declaration, but the doctor, midwife or other professional present at birth can also register the birth in France. At some hospitals, a civil registrar comes around to register new births.
Whoever registers the birth will need the certificate issued by the doctor or midwife, a declaration of name choice (if they’ve made this), proof of the act of recognition (if it was made before the birth in France or if the parents are unmarried), and parents’ identity cards or passports.
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.
It is recommended that non-French citizens also register their baby’s birth at their home consulate after giving birth in France. British citizens can alternatively register the birth at the British Embassy, which means the birth will be recorded in the General Registry Office in the UK.
Non-residents, tourists and visitors giving birth in France
Tourists and visitors on holiday in France are required to have medical insurance covering any health eventuality. If you’re pregnant and think there’s a chance you may need to deliver while on holiday, check with your insurer to see if you’re covered.
European citizens who are having a baby in France while on holiday can benefit from the reciprocal privileges provided by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Will my child get French citizenship?
A child is automatically given French citizenship only 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.
Maternity leave 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.
You can choose to return to work sooner but must take at least eight weeks off, including six after birth in order to receive the allowances due to you.
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 quarterly social security ceiling of €9,933. State social contributions and taxes at a flat rate of 21% are deducted from parental leave in France. The daily payment for individuals on parental leave in France cannot be lower than €9.26 or higher than €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.
Child benefits in France
France pays family allowances to citizens and regular residents who are responsible for at least one child – their own, adopted or hosted. Some allowances are paid depending on income levels.
Several early childhood benefits are available, paid out variously at birth or on adoption (Prestation d’accueil du jeune enfant or Paje; €927.71 as of 2018), a basic allowance (between €92 and €185 per month), a shared education allowance (from €146.94 for working parents) and a variable supplement to pay for a micro-crèche or other assistant until the child turns six.
Special allowances are also available for disabled children (€130.51 per month) and those returning to school as well as for family accommodation. More information is available at on the national solidarity fund’s website.
Age limits to receiving these allowances are set at 20 years for all children who do not work, or whose remuneration does not exceed €918.35 per month. Housing benefits and family income supplements continue until the child is 21.
More information on childcare benefits in France is available on the family allowance office’s website.