Blogger Libby of Lovely in Lux shares her experience with prenatal care in Luxembourg, as well as some tips for expat mums-to-be.
“I seem to remember you being here in April, when I said you would probably need hormone treatments when you decided you wanted to get pregnant. Well…….you’re pregnant. Any questions?”
Any questions? Any questions? My doctor might have just as well told me that my body had been invaded by aliens from outer space and that I had nine months left to live and I wouldn’t have had any more questions. Yet I was rendered so speechless by the entire situation that the only question I managed to ask was, “Is it safe to drink tea?”
Yes. Of all the things I wanted to ask, I asked if it was safe to drink tea. Blame the 30 odd websites I had been surfing over the previous few days, after taking a positive pregnancy test, warning of eggs, raw meat, unwashed vegetables, certain kinds of tea, and just about everything else otherwise fit for human consumption.
My doctor told me that I could drink tea, although I should avoid anise tea because it would cause me to overproduce, and thus leak, milk.
(This, my friends, is useless advice when you’re five weeks pregnant. You don’t even start producing milk until six months at the earliest, much less start leaking by drinking anise tea.)
And so ended my first prenatal appointment in Luxembourg; I left the office with heart racing, head absolutely spinning, and with a prescription in hand for pre-natal vitamins and some anti-nausea syrup. After spending EUR 60 on the vitamins and getting instructions at an absolutely incomprehensible speed of French at the pharmacy, I drove home bawling: “I wanna go hoooooome!!!!”
Of course, when you’re an expat, you don’t really know where home is. I think at that moment, I felt that ‘home’ would have been Germany, where I at least knew what prenatal care included, and where I assumed I would have a decent doctor who would have given me more support. And where I would understand what in the heck the pharmacist was saying about the pre-natal vitamins, which would have been more reasonably priced. Or maybe ‘home’ would have been the US, where I would have eaten a huge Arby’s roast beef sandwich to calm my nerves. Unless of course it would have made me nauseous. (Wait, can I still eat roast beef?)
First things first: choosing a decent doctor in Luxembourg
And thus my first item of business as a newly (shocked) pregnant woman was to change doctors. After seeking recommendations from friends, I found a German doctor who even had her own midwife on staff (and who looked awfully friendly on her website). And alas – I left my first appointment with her feeling much more informed, even if I was still a bit shocked and appalled that an uninvited stranger had taken it upon themselves to pitch camp inside my body and make me feel ill 24 hours a day.
Thank goodness for free choice when it comes to doctors! I can’t imagine having to choose a doctor based on a certain ‘plan’ as in the states! Free choice of health provider is just one of the many benefits of Luxembourg’s medical system, which also includes frequent pre-natal visits, 3D and 4D ultrasounds at no extra charge, and coverage of virtually all medical costs (with the exception of the aforementioned pre-natal vitamins and, of course, the overly priced stretch mark prevention cream that I bought in a total panic during my 10th week). (P.S. I have since switched to a much less expensive, much more pleasant-smelling body lotion and can report no stretch marks to date.)
What’s on offer for pregnant women in Luxembourg
In fact, Luxembourg is probably one of the easiest places for expats to have a baby. There are a wide variety of pre-natal and post-natal classes (including yoga and swimming for moms and babies) offered in English, most doctors here speak multiple languages, and there is a huge expat community of mothers and fathers who you can meet.
And if you want your child to go to an English-language day care centre or school, there are dozens of them here – in proportion to the number of people who actually live in Luxembourg and how small of a country it is, it’s quite amazing how many different opportunities there are for English-speaking expats (if needed). Many local communes even organize a babysitting registry where local teenagers can offer their services to parents in desperate need of a night out.
Maternity leave and benefits in Luxembourg
I’ve also failed to mention a couple of ittttty bittttty perks to having a child in Luxembourg, ones that make my American friends and relatives’ jaws drop: maternity leave (with full pay) begins a whopping 8 weeks before the actual due date, and extends for another 8 weeks after the birth (12 weeks if you nurse).
There’s also the opportunity to take parental leave for a period of six months after that with a portion of your salary, and if you choose to stop working altogether there is a monthly stipend of approximately EUR 550 to help you out.
And then there’s the allocation prénatale, allocation de naissance, and allocation postnatale, three EUR 580 bonuses that you receive just for going to all of the required doctor’s visits during the pregnancy and after the birth (oh yes, and for actually giving birth, of course. I’m glad they have an incentive for that, otherwise I’d be tempted to skip labor altogether and just go straight from pregnancy to having a two-year-old). When you’re having nightly sweats worrying about all of your financial obligations as a soon-to-be parent, that “free money” sure makes you feel better.
Advice to would-be expat mums in Luxembourg
1. The first trimester sucks. Don’t worry about too many things besides finding a GOOD doctor and getting your first scan; other than that you can worry about car seats and day care centers later. Things will get better soon. If you want, I can definitely recommend the birth groups at www.babycenter.com so that you can connect with other women who are experiencing the very same things as you. It’s incredibly comforting when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and/or alone.
3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have I always wanted an outie bellybutton? No. Did I realize that putting on shoes and socks would become difficult as soon as five months into pregnancy? No. But can I do this? Will I be alright? Absolutely yes!