If you’re having a baby in the Netherlands, this guide explains Dutch prenatal care, delivery, aftercare and parental leave in the Netherlands.
If you’re living in the Netherlands, you’ll find the country is recognised as having one of the best health care systems in Europe and is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby, despite a more unusal pre-natal and delivery system when compared to other European countries. New mothers, however, have few complaints with the high level of post-natal care, which can even include personal help at home covered by the state health insurance system.
Bupa Global, specialized in health insurance packages for expats, explains what to expect when you’re expecting in the Netherlands.
Bupa Global is one of the world’s largest international health insurers. They offer direct access to over 1.2 million medical providers worldwide, settling directly with them so you don’t have to pay up front for your treatment. They provide access to leading specialists without the need to see your family doctor first and ensure that you have the same level of cover wherever you might be, home or away.
Giving birth in the Netherlands
Hospitals remain the most popular place to give birth in the Netherlands, although as many as one in eight babies are born at home – one of the highest rates of home births in the western world, although significantly less than the 35 percent recorded in the 1990s. This is in stark contrast to countries such as the UK, where home births make up just over 2 percent of the total births each year.
In contrast to many other countries, pregnant women have limited contact with doctors during their pregnancy. Instead their prenatal care will be provided by midwives, due to the Dutch belief that pregnancy is a natural process as opposed to a medical condition.
Following the birth, parents are entitled to a maximum of 10 days of assistance from a maternity nurse. The nurse will be on hand to offer advice and support and to assist with every day chores such as cooking, cleaning and shopping.
The ‘Having a baby in Netherlands‘ booklet by ACCESS provides further information on giving birth in the Netherlands.
Prenatal care in the Netherlands
Similar to most other countries in the developed world, the first port of call upon suspecting that you’re pregnant in the Netherlands is to visit your doctor. He or she will confirm the pregnancy and carry out a blood test before referring you to a midwife. From here on, your prenatal care will be provided by the midwife, unless you suffer complications which require the attention of a GP.
You are free to select a midwife of your choice, so it’s a good idea to speak to friends or colleagues for recommendations, particularly if you are keen to find a midwife with a strong grasp of English. However, Dutch nationals generally have an excellent command of English.
You can also visit The Royal Dutch Organisation of Midwives (KNOV – Koninklijke Nederlandse Organisatie van Verloskundigen) website, where you can search for midwives in your town or city. You can also pick up a directory of local midwives from your GP during your initial screening.
Your first appointment with the midwife usually takes place three months into the pregnancy and consists of an initial screening to identify any potential complications. At this point you are asked whether you prefer a home or hospital birth but be sure to check with your insurance provider prior to selecting the home birth option, as it may in some cases involve an additional cost to your premium.
The midwife will also provide you with a schedule for future appointments, as well as information booklets outlining dietary advice, the expected due date and other relevant information.
Appointments with your midwife will be scheduled at regular intervals throughout the pregnancy, starting at every four weeks and then continuing on a fortnightly basis as you near the due date. You will also be issued with a booklet which will be used to chart your pregnancy process. The booklet is particularly useful to those opting for home births, as it contains information which will be of great help to the midwife assigned to assist with the delivery.
Delivery in the Netherlands
If you choose to give birth in a hospital, you must attend the one closest to your home unless told otherwise. Click here to view a list of all the hospitals in the Netherlands. Your midwife will meet you at the hospital’s maternity ward on the day of delivery.
It’s important to note that midwives in the Netherlands prefer the birth to be as natural as possible, hence why the use of drugs to relieve pain during birth is quite rare. If you do insist on accessing drugs, however, then you must discuss it with the hospital prior to delivery.
Most women leave the hospital within 24 hours of delivery, although they are sometimes permitted to leave earlier if approved by the midwife. Any complications before, during or after the birth will usually see an obstetrician or paediatrician called upon.
Following the birth, parents will receive a book (Het Groeiboek) in which to keep track of vaccinations and other important medical details relating to the child.
For home births, the midwife will arrive upon being notified and assist you through the process. A nurse will also be present to ensure the delivery goes as smoothly as possible. Bear in mind, however, that pain relief is not an option during home births.
In some towns and cities you can also access special birthing houses (kraamzorghotel), which are designed to offer a homely environment while also enabling a partner to stay overnight. You must register your intent to use a kraamzorghotel up to two months in advance of your due date. Visit this website for a Rotterdam birth house as an example.
Outpatient clinics (poliklinisch) are also available and popular with some women, as the delivery is overseen by both a midwife and a doctor. This service is available in most hospitals, however, it is recommended you contact your nearest hospital to clarify this well in advance.
Although birth and pre-natal care are covered as part of your basic health insurance package, it may be helpful to purchase additional private insurance in order to protect yourself from the costs of any medical complications that may follow.
All new-borns in the Netherlands receive Vitamin K following the birth and will also be vaccinated within eight days of their birth, with regular vaccinations scheduled up until the age of nine. New-borns may be vaccinated against infectious diseases such as Hepatits B, Measles, Polio or Tetanus to name but a few. More information can be found here: www.rivm.nl. Your child’s health will thereafter be taken care of by the GGD GHOR Nederland, which provides community health services.
Registration of birth
Any new-born must be fully registered at a local town hall (gemeentehuis) within 72 hours of birth. The registration must take place in the town of birth, which is important to note in the event of delivery taking place in a different town from the one in which you live. Both parents must present their passports, birth certificates and residence papers at the time of registration. If applicable, marriage certificates must also be included. The child’s birth certificate will then be issued upon completion of registration, along with a kinderbijslag form which enables parents to claim child benefits. Read more information on child benefits in the Netherlands.
In terms of the child benefit payment, parents can expect to receive approximately the following quarterly payments per child:
- 0–5 years old: EUR 191.65.
- 6–11 years old: EUR 232.71.
- 12–17 years old: EUR 273.78.
Expats wishing to register the birth in their home country can do so via their relevant embassy in the Netherlands. However, this can only be done once a Dutch birth certificate has been obtained.
Post-natal care in the Netherlands
One of the unique features of giving birth in the Netherlands is every woman’s entitlement to a maternity nurse (Kraamzorg), the cost of which is covered by your mandatory basic insurance package. The service will see a medical professional attend your home every day during the week following the birth, with their services covered by your health insurance. In some cases, however, it may not be completely covered, so it is important to clarify this beforehand.
As well as being able to offer advice and answer any questions you may have, the Kraamzorg can also assist with everything from general household chores to purchasing groceries. Depending on your needs, the maternity nurse will be available to assist you full time (up to eight hours per day) or for just a few hours each day. This will be discussed when you register for Kraamzorg.
If you wish to take advantage of the service you should register your interest prior to your 12th week of pregnancy in order to ensure you are allocated a nurse in time for your birth.
Parents will also be issued with a book in which they document the child’s growth and general health information. During the first few years, the child will receive regular check-ups in order to monitor his or her health.
Other post-natal services are available from various church and community groups, offering everything from exercise classes to additional nursing assistance at home. English-speaking nurseries (Peuterspeelzaal) are also available, although most nurseries in the Netherlands are Dutch-speaking only. See childcare in the Netherlands for more information.
Dutch maternity and paternity leave
New mothers are entitled to 16 weeks paid maternity leave, which typically starts anywhere between four and six weeks before the due date. The leave taken during pregnancy is known as zvangerschapsverlof. Ten weeks of the leave must be taken after the birth (bevallingsverlof), and if the baby is a week late then that time will be added on to the leave entitlement.
As a new mother you are entitled to 100 percent of your earnings for the duration of your leave, which is calculated by dividing the social security income (SV-loon) over the last 12 months by the average 261 working days in a year. There is a maximum amount of EUR 203.85 per day.
Salaried employees must notify their employer a minimum of two to three weeks before the start of their maternity leave in the Netherlands., while maternity benefits should be applied for no later than two weeks prior to the commencement of your leave. Applications can be made either via your employer or the UVW (Employee Insurance Agency).
The partner is restricted to two days of fully paid paternity leave, though this can also be extended by three extra days (unpaid) up to a maximum five days of parental leave. By 2019, parental leave is expected to be expanded to five paid days. Partners are allowed to take unpaid leave spread over several months, however, only around a quarter of fathers do so.
Self-employed workers can also receive the same maternity benefits as employees if they apply for self-employed maternity benefits with the UWV.
Top Dutch baby names
According to the SVB’s 2015 list, the Dutch social insurance bank which pays out child benefits, Emma (793 babies) and Liam (72) were the most popular Dutch baby names.
A report from the Amsterdam University, however, took into account the variants of name spelling and revealed there were 1,054 Sarah, Sara and Zaras and 1,000 Sophie and Sofies, followed by Anne and Anna in third place and Lisa, Lize, Lise and Liza in fourth, although no variant of Lisa makes the SVB’s top 10. For Dutch boys names, Luuk, Luc and Luke ranked first (860), followed by Lucas and Lukas (809). By taking different spellings into account, Mohamed, Mohammed, Muhammed and Mohammad ranked 10th (651).
The report also found that the trend is for shorter names; following World War II names had an average of seven letters which how now gone down to five.