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There are many myths and legends surrounding pregnancy and child birth in the Netherlands. Here we deal with a number of them.

TRUTH or MYTH?
I will have to give birth at home.

Myth. Being the no-nonsense, medical-issues-are-merely-a-blip-on-the-road people they are, the Dutch definitely romanticize home births, stressing how at ease they will feel giving birth in their own bed/bathtub. Yet, not even 20% of births take place at home. You might have been told that only home births are covered by your insurance, but also that is not true. If you have a medical conditioning warranting hospital birth, your insurance will fully cover the birth in the hospital. Also, you can opt for a poliklinische bevalling, in which case you go to the hospital when your contractions reach a certain frequency and leave within hours of the baby’s birth. Most insurance companies cover this too. You might have to pay a contribution. Home birth-related costs are indeed fully covered.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
I won’t be able to go to a gynecologist; I will be treated by a midwife.

Myth. Most pregnant Dutch women go to a local midwife, who is also present when the baby is born. (Most midwifes share a practice. This means that you will not necessarily always see the same one on each visit and that the midwife who is on duty is the one who will be holding your hand when you give birth.) However, if you wish to go to a gynecologist, you can request this. Certainly if there are medical problems, you will be referred to one straight away. If the gynecologist deems this necessary, you will stay under their supervision.

If you have continuously been under midwife supervision, she will also be present should you decide to have your baby in the hospital. The advantage of the latter is that, now that you are in a hospital, a gynecologist will be close by in case of emergency.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
I will have to give birth without painkillers.

Myth. You don’t have to give birth without painkillers. Midwifes are generally not allowed to administer them, so if you give birth at home, you will have to make do without them – unless you try out acupuncture, TENS or hypnosis. If you give birth in the hospital, you have a variety of options: laughing gas, an epidural, remifentanil, and painkillers.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
The midwife does not carry out any medical check-ups.

Truth. Here’s what they do do. They listen to the baby’s heart; they monitor the baby’s position; the growth of your uterus; your blood pressure; and, if they can’t carry this out themselves, they send you to a specialist to carry out an ultrasound during your first or second visit, to verify the pregnancy, your progress and the number of babies inside.

You visit a midwife once every four weeks, during the first half of your pregnancy. After that, the frequency of the visits increases. Your midwife becomes your friend, someone who takes her time for all your questions, concerns, doubts and hopes, and she will always refer you to a gynecologist if you, or they, need more answers or reassurance.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
Someone will come help me out the week after I give birth.

Truth. This is called kraamzorg (maternity home care). The kraamverzorgster takes care of you and your baby and is a valuable source of information and reassurance who offers you practical tips on your recovery, the baby’s development, nursing, bathing, safety when sleeping, pets, etc. Generally, she will make sure that you take care of yourself too, and will provide you with healthy food and time to take a nap.

You have a legal minimum right to a total of 24 hours of kraamzorg, spread over eight days, though your insurance policy may cover, for instance, 80 hours over a maximum of ten days.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
There is no prenatal testing.

Myth. The Dutch medical system offers prenatal screening and prenatal diagnostics to those who want it. It is not obligatory. Prenatal screening includes: testing your blood group and checking for possible STDs; the Combination Test that tests for Down’s Syndrome (a combination of a blood test and a neck fold measurement); the Triple Test (to check for Down’s Syndrome); and an ultrasound at 20 weeks’ pregnancy. Prenatal diagnostics are offered to pregnant women who are older than 36, and include Chorionic Villi Sampling (to check the chromosomes and DNA and test for genetic abnormalities); Amniocentesis (to tests for genetic abnormalities and the chances of Spina Bifida); additional ultrasounds; and NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Test), to check for genetic abnormalities, and which can be used instead of Chorionic Villi Sampling or Amniocentesis.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
I have a right to pregnancy leave.

Truth. If you are (self-)employed, have a right to 16 weeks’ paid leave surrounding the birth of your baby, which can be initiated between 4-6 weeks prior to the estimated due date. In fact, you may not work from four weeks before, until six weeks after delivery (not that anyone will be checking this if you are self-employed). If the baby is late, and you have used up the six weeks beforehand, you also still have a right to a ten-week leave following the baby’s birth.

During pregnancy leave you receive 100% of your normal wages – either directly from the Social Security Institution or via your employer – up to a maximum of the so-called daily wage a day, though some employers pay out the gap between this and your full last-earned salary. For self-employed moms, the amount you receive depends on the number of hours you worked in self-employment the previous year.

 

TRUTH or MYTH?
Daddies also get some time off.

Truth. Dads/partners are entitled to paid leave on the day the baby is born, two paid days following the birth of their child, and a further three days (paid or unpaid) leave to stand by the mother right after birth. They can use this time to register the birth of the baby (which has to take place within three working days after birth) at the gemeentehuis (town hall) in the city or town where the baby was born – not where the baby lives, unless this is the same.

 

TRUTH of MYTH?
I, or my husband, can take unpaid leave to take care of my children.

Truth. At some point during the first seven years of your child’s life, both of you can take unpaid leave of absence to care for your child (adoption or foster child included). In principle, the idea is that you work 50 percent during a period of one year, but as the rules are not always practical – for either the employee or employer – other conditions may be agreed upon. Both of you can do this at once, or one after the other. In the case of twins, you can take twice the amount of leave. Although not required by law, some employers continue to pay up to 75 percent of the wages during parental leave.

This article was originally published in The XPat Journal June 2017 Issue

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