If you’re planning on having a baby in Portugal, this guide explains the entire process, from prenatal care through to delivery, aftercare, and benefits.
If you are planning on having a baby in Portugal, then you will be pleased to know that the country’s healthcare system was ranked as the 13th best in Europe in the 2018 Euro Health Consumer Index. Portugal also has one of the lowest national fertility rates in the world – 1,31 births per woman in 2016 – and the second lowest birth rate in Europe in 2018, making it an attractive country for expectant parents.
Portugal has a publicly funded national health service, called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), and legal residents are entitled to numerous childcare benefits and maternity care under the Portuguese healthcare system and social security system.
This guide will help explain what to expect when you’re expecting in Portugal:
- Pregnancy and childbirth in Portugal
- Accessing maternity services in Portugal
- Insurance for maternity costs in Portugal
- Pregnancy testing in Portugal
- Prenatal care in Portugal
- Giving birth in Portugal
- Postnatal care in Portugal
- Registering a birth in Portugal
- Parental leave in Portugal
- Child benefits in Portugal
- Useful resources
Pregnancy and childbirth in Portugal
Maternity care in Portugal is available free or charge or low-cost to residents who have made health insurance contributions through the Social Security system, as well as to their dependent family members.
In Portugal you can choose to have your baby in either a public or private hospital maternity ward, and you can also opt to have a midwife present at the time of birth. Maternity care is covered by the national healthcare system and you are generally free to choose the public hospital you prefer – otherwise you can attend a public hospital in your area, unless another is requested by your practitioner. You may also choose to receive private healthcare, if you are covered by health insurance, at one of the following private maternity hospitals:
- Hospital Cuf Descobertas SA
- Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa
- Hospital da Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa
- Hospital da Luz SA
Accessing maternity services in Portugal
If you are planning on giving birth in Portugal, the first thing to do is make sure that you are registered at a local health center (or “centro de saúde”) so that you can access doctor and midwife services.
Read our guide to healthcare in Portugal for detailed information and conditions for joining the Portuguese healthcare system.
Insurance for maternity costs in Portugal
Most of the costs of having a baby in Portugal are covered by public health insurance, which is available to residents who are eligible for Social Security in the country.
If you need to take out private health insurance to cover childbirth costs in Portugal, the following international companies provide maternity coverage which is suitable for expat residents:
Pregnancy testing in Portugal
If you think you may be pregnant, you can go to any pharmacy in Portugal and buy a pregnancy test (or “teste de gravidez”). You can also visit one of the local health centers (or “centros de saúde”) for a blood test.
Prenatal care in Portugal
Once you are registered with a health center, you can benefit from prenatal care through the public healthcare system. This is mainly carried out in health centers, although it can be provided in a public hospital, where the last few weeks of prenatal care is usually provided. The doctors at the health center can also refer you to a gynaecologist, who can provide support during the pregnancy and help you find a midwife.
Medical examinations, during which you and your baby’s health are checked, are free if you are a resident in Portugal, however prenatal care classes typically have to be paid for.
You should book your first prenatal appointment as soon as possible, and before the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Generally speaking, appointments will take place every four to six weeks (until the 30th week); every two to three weeks (between the 30th and 36th week); and every one to two weeks (between the 36th week and the birth).
When the pregnancy is first recorded, you will be given a pregnancy booklet (or “Boletim de Saúde da Grávida”), in which your doctor or gynaecologist will record ongoing medical information as the pregnancy progresses. You should also take this with you to the hospital when you give birth.
Many medical staff and some hospital staff speak at least some English, but this cannot be relied upon, therefore it is advised to take someone with you who can translate, or learn a few Portuguese medical terms to help you along the way.
You can also opt for the services of a doula, who provides advice and emotional support, however, as doulas are not trained health professionals, they may only be allowed to enter the birthing room if the hospital has specific policies for this, or if there is no partner or relative present. You can find a doula in your region on the Doula Association of Portugal website.
Scans, tests, and checks
During your prenatal appointments, you and your baby’s general health will be checked. Your blood pressure, weight, urine, and nutritional condition will be tested regularly. You can also expect to have gynaecological exams, sonars, and an analysis of the baby’s heart rate. You will also have an ultrasound scan every trimester of your pregnancy.
Portugal has a National Vaccination Plan (or “Plano Nacional de Vacinação”) which is free and available to everyone. Read our guide to Vaccinations in Portugal to learn more about what vaccinations you can expect to have during your pregnancy.
Antenatal classes are available in both the private and public sectors, and mostly in hospitals. These classes usually give you detailed information and tips about pregnancy and giving birth, helping you to make this new adventure a more stress-free experience.
There is some availability of prenatal and postnatal care and classes at Portuguese health centers, although this is fairly limited, so you will need to check with your local health center to see what they provide. Prenatal classes are not usually subsidised and contributions will need to be made towards any medication.
Giving birth in Portugal
Most births in Portugal take place in the maternity ward of a hospital, while home births are fairly rare and not available through the public healthcare system, although there is a growing interest in alternative birthing options. You are free to choose your own midwife to assist in a home birth.
It is important to remember to always keep your Boletim de Saúde da Grávida with you when you arrive at the medical facility where you are going to give birth. Once there, a midwife may be present to assist the doctor with the delivery, and one other person is generally allowed in the room when you give birth, usually a partner or friend. If you want an epidural, make sure to express your choice beforehand. Once you have given birth in Portugal, the baby is weighed and its health is checked, and any illnesses or defects are recorded.
Mothers and babies generally have to stay around two days in the hospital after the birth, and around three days if the mother has undergone a C-section.
The costs for the delivery of a baby in Portugal, along with a (public) hospital stay, are covered through public health insurance. If you are from a country in the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland, and are a resident in Portugal, you can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to travel to your home country to give birth if you have made sufficient Portuguese Social Security contributions. Read our guide to the EHIC for more information.
Postnatal care in Portugal
Once your baby is registered at a Portuguese health center, medical records will be set up to document all vaccinations and health checks. You will receive a booklet recording all past appointments and ones that you need to attend, along with some more information and a hospital release form.
A few days after you have left the hospital, a nurse will come to check on you and the baby.
If you wish to join postnatal (or “pós-parto”) classes, you can contact your health center directly to know what they offer, and at what cost. External institutions also provide postnatal classes, which are usually listed online.
Vaccinations for children
Portugal has a national vaccination program through the Ministry of Health, which includes vaccinations at regular intervals up until 18 months and then at five to six years and 10-13 years.
The following diseases are vaccinated against: tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, Haemophilus influenzae type b infection, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, measles, mumps, rubella, and human papillomavirus infection.
Read our guide to Vaccinations in Portugal for more information.
Nurseries and childcare
Nurseries and childcare centers are not very common in Portugal, and children under the age of three tend to be looked after by family and babysitters. However, there is a range of crèches, childcare centers, nurseries, and kindergartens available in most cities. Read our guide to childcare in Portugal for more information.
Breastfeeding in Portugal
In the past, some expats have complained that attitudes towards issues such as breastfeeding versus the use of formula are a bit outdated in Portugal. A few years ago, the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) report showed that the country was still behind on that matter and that exclusive breastfeeding rates for the first six months (as recommended by the World Health Organization) were still low in Portugal. In addition, only 15 hospitals and one group of centros de saúde are currently certified ‘Amigos dos Bebés’ (baby and breastfeeding-friendly).
In 2017, however, a new report showed that over the last twenty years, exclusive breastfeeding rates up to three or four months nearly doubled in Portugal. This led to a modification of the law regarding maternity pay. Maternity leave in Portugal is currently officially limited to four months, with the possibility to extend it to six months. The mother receives only 25% of her gross salary during these additional months, however a current petition is asking for 100% of the six-months maternity leave in Portugal.
Registration of birth
Babies born in Portugal need to be registered within 20 days at the Portuguese Civil Registry Office; and you can find the closest office online. This can also be done, free of charge, via a government program called Nascer Cidadao, at the hospital maternity ward where your child was born.
To register your baby in Portugal, you will need to have the following documents:
- ID or passports of parents of the child
- Birth certificate issued by the maternity ward or place where the birth took place
The birth can be legally registered by the parents of the child, a close relative, a legal representative of the parents, or an appointed staff member at the place of birth.
Interestingly, the complete name of a baby born in Portugal cannot exceed six individual names. In addition, if one of the parents is Portuguese and you wish to give your baby a non-Portuguese Christian name, you might be asked to prove that this name is accepted in your country of origin.
If you are a British citizen, you can also register your baby at the British Embassy, which means that the birth will be recorded in the General Registry Office in the UK.
Non-residents, visitors, and tourists giving birth in Portugal
If you are a non-resident having a baby in Portugal, then you will need to take out private health insurance to cover the costs. See our guide to health insurance in Portugal for more information.
Will your child get Portuguese citizenship?
A child born in Portugal automatically acquires Portuguese citizenship if at least one parent was born in Portugal. They will also get automatic citizenship if they don’t possess any other nationality through their parents, or if at least one parent has lived in Portugal for five years at the time of their birth. Read our guide to citizenship in Portugal for more information.
Parental leave in Portugal
New mothers are entitled to maternity leave in Portugal at 100% of their pay for 120 consecutive days. They can take a maximum of 30 of these days before the baby’s birth and they must take at least 42 days leave (six weeks) after the birth.
Maternity leave in Portugal can be extended by 30 days to 150 days at full pay if:
- The leave after the mandatory 42 days post-birth has been shared between both parents. The additional 30-day period can be taken by both parents.
- The mother has given birth to twins (an extra 30 days is added for each additional birth, eg. 180 days total for triplets, 210 for quadruplets, etc.).
There are also two additional options for taking parental leave in Portugal:
- The parental leave period can be extended to 180 days, shared between both parents at a rate of 83% of total pay.
- Maternity leave can be extended to 150 days with no shared period, at a rate of 80% total pay.
To be entitled to parental leave in Portugal, you must have worked and made at least six months of Social Security contributions by the time of your claim. Applications for maternity and paternity benefits in Portugal can be made at a local Social Security office or at a citizen’s shop.
Parental social allowance is also available to those out of work or who have not made enough contributions to be entitled to maternity leave in Portugal. The entitlement period is the same as for standard maternity benefit, but is set at rates of 80%, 66%, and 64% of the Index of Social Support (EUR435,76 in 2019).
Paternity leave in Portugal is allowed for working fathers for five consecutive days after the birth of the baby, plus an additional 10 days within 30 days of the birth, which do not need to be consecutive. After this period, a father has the option to take leave for an additional 10 consecutive days within the period that the mother is on maternity leave. If twins are born, an additional two days are added to each period for each child.
However, a new father may have the same leave rights as a mother in certain cases such as the death of the mother, physical or psychological incapability of the mother, a shared decision by both partners to switch roles in taking care of the baby, or in cases where the mother does not claim any maternity benefits.
Read more about the conditions for family and maternity benefits in Portugal, or see the Portuguese Social Security (Seguranca Social) website for information on benefits, allowances, and subsidies available to those having a baby in Portugal.
Child benefits in Portugal
Pregnant women in Portugal are entitled to a prenatal family allowance from the 13th week of pregnancy, lasting for up to six months. The allowance is means-tested and paid only to residents whose earnings and movable assets are below a certain threshold. The weekly amount received varies according to income, but is currently set between €96,32 and €148,32.
Other child benefits in Portugal include a family allowance for children and young people up to 16 years old, maternity and paternity benefits, adoption grant benefits for the care of ill or disabled children, benefits for particular risks during pregnancy, and benefits for special leave for grandparents.
For more details about how and where to apply for these benefits, check the Social Security website. You can fill in the form for family allowance for children and young people online and send it directly to the Social Security.
This guide to family and maternity benefits in Portugal provides more information on the eligibility criteria and duration of these benefits.
For more information about giving birth in Portugal, refer to this list of links below:
- Portuguese National Health Service (SNS)
- Portuguese Social Security (section on maternity and paternity)
- Portuguese citizen’s portal website (family planning)
- List of hospitals in Portugal
- Birth registration in Portugal
- Parental rights in Portugal
- List of doulas in Portugal
- Ajuda de Mae (Mother’s Help)