Having a Baby in France, My Story & Guide

Having a Baby in France 

When my husband received a job opportunity in the south of France we couldn’t pass it up. We knew we would spend the rest of our lives wondering “what if?”. So I quit my corporate job, we packed up our life including our two dogs and arrived in Montpellier, France. Life was great exploring Europe but looming was the notion that we were also ready to start our family and didn’t want to delay that just because we were living in another country. But were we really going to have a baby with no family, very little language or understanding of how it would all work here?! It seemed daunting, but in our hearts we knew we were ready and so we braved the process (which was amazing). I hope sharing our story provides an interesting perspective and guidance to those of you who may also be considering or in the midst of having a baby in France! 

I do want to preface that this is just my personal experience. While I’m sure it would be fairly similar to others or standard French practice, I cannot speak for other moms or families! Also, this was my first baby, so while I have knowledge from plenty of friends and family in the USA, I cannot speak from personal experience on some of the differences so these are just my interpretations and what my experience was like. 


Considering I did not even have a general practitioner in France I figured I better find one and figure out what the first steps would be prior to getting pregnant so that I wouldn’t be stressed with logistics when the time did come. None of this part is necessary, but if you have a personality similar to mine, it will save you a lot of stress. 

Get on DoctoLib – it’s your best friend for finding doctor appointments in France. You can filter by language spoken and doctor type in order to make appointments. There is also 1clic1doc. I will upload a whole separate article on navigating the French healthcare system and link it here when complete. 

When I met with my new found GP and informed her I would be trying to conceive she prescribed me daily folic acid to take for 3 months before trying. 

Note, I did not purchase but I did find ovulation tests on the shelf at the pharmacies if you are hoping to purchase. 

Pregnancy Test Steps

  1. Pharmacy test – in any pharmacies I went to, a pregnancy test was one of the easy things to find out on the shelf, no need to ask the pharmacist. 
  2. Schedule an appointment with your general practitioner once you have a positive at home test. They will give you a prescription for a blood test. This can be a video chat appointment from home. 
  3. Take the prescription to a laboratory and await blood test results. 

I’m pregnant! Now what?

Make another appointment with your general practitioner, either in person or video. I preferred in person for this appointment so I could really sit down and ask my questions about what was next – I remember telling my doctor I was absolutely clueless with it being my first baby and in a country I had no community to discuss with. At this appointment we went over the following:

  • Need to declare the pregnancy to the government. My guidelines were slightly different as an expat resident versus a citizen so I advise you work with your midwife to make sure you declare the proper paperwork. 
  • Importance of taking folic acid, I received a prescription to continue taking it through the first 3-4 months of pregnancy. Considering in the USA everyone takes prenatal vitamins with folic acid being just one ingredient I of course asked about prenatals. My doctor informed me I could buy them at one of the mega pharmacies if I wanted to take them but it is not standard practice in France as if you are eating a well balanced diet you should be receiving enough of all the other nutrients found in a prenatal in your food. Folic acid is fully covered by your carte vitale or insurance, but a full prenatal is not (unless of course your doctor deems you need one and prescribes it). 
  • General diet guidelines which pretty much mirrored the guidelines in the USA. Cut out foods considered high risk, limit caffeine. Contrary to popular belief, wine in small amounts or moderation is not something the French are okay with.
    • Side note – the diet part felt extra difficult after just having moved to France! I mean no French wine, all the unpasteurized cheeses, constant abundance of charcuterie at every market, foie gras, tartare, you name it. Some of the foods that are so synonymous with French cuisine are off limits. My baby was so worth it, but That. Was. Rough. 
  • It’s time to choose a midwife or OB GYN to see regularly throughout the pregnancy, more on this below. 
  • Receive a prescription for the 12 week ultrasound (echography) which will also be prescribed by your midwife or OB, but in the event that I hadn’t found my midwife in time, my doctor prescribed it to me as a precaution. If you have a midwife by week twelve, use their prescription so the results are sent to your midwife. 

Choosing a Doctor

In my experience, which again, seemed standard, I was told that covered by medical care I was able to choose whether I wanted to see a private midwife, a midwife at a hospital, or an OB GYN during my pregnancy. If I chose a midwife I would see them monthly and they would be able to take care of basic healthcare as well as birth prep and so on, and IF there were any complications above the level of a midwife’s training that I would be referred to an OB GYN or doctor. I chose to go with a private midwife as it seemed to me I would have more personal care and guidance with a midwife over an OB GYN, and while this is such a personal choice, I’m so glad I did! I cannot speak to the experience in detail if you choose to see a doctor over a midwife from here on out. 

Something else to note is that there are three types of specialized midwives in France, and they do not cross over to another role. There are midwives for ongoing pregnancy care, ultrasound technicians, and delivery midwives. So while the ongoing pregnancy care midwife was the one I chose for my routine check-ups, I did in fact have three midwives. 

Choosing Where to Deliver

I recruited my midwife’s help on this, as again I had no idea what my options were, but it seemed it was important to decide on a hospital and register it as your birth hospital as soon as you can. I highly recommend discussing with your midwife, or if you are in a local expats or mom group on Facebook you could always reach out for advice. My midwife informed me of my three hospital options since with my first baby I wanted to deliver in hospital.

In my city there was one public hospital, one private clinic, and one private hospital to choose from. While the private hospital is favorable in many aspects my midwife informed me that the delivery doctors at the public hospital were in her opinion the best as they were not only great doctors but had a reputation for really following birth plans, listening to mom’s wishes and having compassion during labor. Information I wouldn’t have gotten just via Google! I later saw someone else ask for local mom’s advice in a Facebook group and they almost all shared the same sentiments my midwife did so I was feeling really confident in my choice even if it was not the most beautiful or new hospital in town. 

First Trimester

  • Visit your midwife once a month.
    • Testing and prescriptions:
      • During your first appointment you will receive a prescription for monthly blood work and urine tests for toxoplasmosis and glucose. Your first blood test will likely be a full panel so that later in pregnancy they can monitor any major changes for health and nutrition purposes, but on a month to month basis you only test for a few things. You’ll want to find a laboratory near you that you can visit regularly and then each month get your tests run before seeing your midwife so he/she can discuss the results. Hang on to that prescription as well, you’ll need to bring it back with you the lab each month.
      • If you do not have folic acid, your midwife will get you prescribed. 
      • You will also receive a prescription for your 12 week ultrasound. You will need to ask your midwife for a recommendation or look on DoctoLib for an 1er echographie. 
      • Lastly, you will receive a prescription for some blood work to be done at a very particular time, instructed by your midwife, for testing for the down syndrome markers. A fuller genetic testing panel can be done, but is not common practice or necessarily included by insurance/carte vitale. 
    • Other than all these standard tests, your appointments will just be checking vitals, weight, and discussing any questions or symptoms you may have. 
    • Depending on your citizenship / visa status, your midwife will also guide you on some paperwork to mail in and declare the pregnancy to the government as a viable pregnancy you are moving forward with. After the birth you will mail your baby’s birth certificate to the same place(s). 
  • This one was a hard, but interesting, pill to swallow. France does not offer a first trimester blood test to find out the gender. It was explained to me waiting until further in the pregnancy is required as you have more of a connection to your baby which in turn fosters a better bond with your baby postpartum and reduces chance of disconnection due to gender disappointment. It is in summary, to protect the baby and provide the best chance for a deep loving bond toward them throughout their life. This is apparently backed by research, but research that I just took my midwife’s word on, I did not choose to investigate further on my own. As much as I wanted to know if my baby was a boy or a girl, I did not hate the reasoning behind having to wait, and since there was nothing I could do about it (unless I went back to the USA and paid for a blood test out of pocket…no thanks) I practiced my patience which is a good thing for a parent to have anyway. 🙂 . You will find out gender at the 2nd trimester ultrasound which was sometime around week 22. 
  • First ultrasound – this is such a memorable day! You will hear your baby’s heartbeat and see their little features forming. This ultrasound happens at week twelve. This is a fairly quick and standard ultrasound check to make sure everything that can be seen at this point looks okay, that the heartbeat sounds good and so on but did not last too long. At this appointment you will also find out your due date!
    • Side note – your due date is at 41 weeks, not 40 in France. I am not sure why, but

Second Trimester Highlights

This trimester is the least eventful when it comes to doctor appointments and things to do. I found this trimester the most fun as I was sporting a bump that was still a comfortable size and had more energy but still felt like I had time to prepare. I really soaked things up and loved this trimester! Here’s what to expect in the way of French care:

  • You will continue on with monthly standard health check ups and review of any questions and symptoms with your midwife.
  • You will receive a prescription for your second trimester ultrasound which is when you will finally find out the gender, if you haven’t yet and want to! This ultrasound is also a more thorough anatomy scan and is a longer appointment. 
  • Not everyone takes the standard gestational diabetes test – you only have to take it if you check off certain markers they are looking for where they feel you need to take it. This could include results of your monthly urine glucose tests, weight gain, symptoms etc… 
  • You’ll start working on and hopefully finish your birth plan, knowing that you can always adjust it, but for a 3rd trimester step you will see, it was helpful to have it done by the end of month six. Ask your midwife if they could help review it and make sure it is worded in a way that makes sense to how the French would write a birth plan. I created mine in English, and then used Google translate and my midwife cleaned it up and made suggestions from there which was so helpful! 

Third Trimester Highlights

  • Month 7
    • While this part might depend on your midwife, in month seven I started weekly classes with mine that lasted eight weeks. Each week we had a different topic such as breastfeeding, infant care, pain management etc… During these classes my midwife encouraged me to take notes and ask questions. 
    • Continue with monthly check-ins to review blood work, blood pressure, etc… 
    • Receive instructions about making appointments at your delivery hospital to register and get checked by a hospital midwife or OB GYN. 
    • I believe this is the month that my midwife provided me with a hospital packing list so I could start preparing anything I would want to have on hand. 
    • My last ultrasound was towards the end of month seven … it’s possible it could fall early in month eight as well. During this ultrasound if your baby has already rotated head down and birth weight prediction falls in a certain range, it may be your last ultrasound! It is also possible the technician will advise another one for a later date (which will require another prescription from your midwife) to make sure that the baby has turned, isn’t too large, etc… 
    • During this month my midwife also prescribed me compression garments – this was fascinating to me. Instead of being told to order some online for comfort I was able to go to the pharmacy and get custom fitted with whatever style I wanted for FREE! 
    • Lastly during this month I received a prescription to take vitamin K to help boost mine and babies levels which was standard practice. 
  • Month 8
    • Continue with weekly classes and monthly check in with your private midwife. 
    • Eight weeks prior to delivery I was instructed to meet with a doctor at my delivery hospital – during this appointment I brought my birth plan and all blood results and ultrasounds to date. The doctor reviewed everything and registered me into the system, asked questions, checked vitals and so on. I don’t remember exactly what it was for, but there was further blood testing the hospital wanted at this time, I think it may have been a full panel to compare results to early pregnancy.
      • During this eight week prior appointment I also met with an anesthesiologist who reviewed my birth plan, asked a bunch of questions to make a risk assessment and discussed what to expect with epidural and so on. It was so nice to have this information in advance and not while in labor! 
  • Month 9
    • Start weekly heart rate and contraction monitoring with your midwife at week 36. I absolutely loved this for a few reasons. I just got to relax and listen to my baby’s heartbeat for thirty minutes each week. I also had no idea what a contraction would feel like so seeing a contraction monitor and being able to feel weird movements or sensations and confirm that it was not in fact a minor contraction was just informative. Lastly, during this last month your baby can move less due to being cramped and for me just to see her little heart rate doing well and know she was good in there was such peace of mind!
      • Your blood pressure will also be checked weekly at this point. 
    • Four weeks prior to the due date I met with the same hospital doctor I did at eight weeks out for a final appointment. During this appointment we did the following:
      • A swab to test for bacterial vaginosis to see if antibiotics would need to be administered to baby during delivery – this is extremely common and I believe in the USA they are administered to most babies as a precaution. 
      • Dilation check and overall well exam of weight, blood pressure, etc… 
      • Made sure my folder of documents to bring during delivery was complete. 
      • Discussed steps for what to do when I went into labor. 
      • Discussed steps for what to do if I went past my due date. In my hospital’s case it was to call the hospital four days prior to the due date and set up an appointment for the day after the due date which would encompass an ultrasound and full check up on mom and baby to see if labor induction was necessary. If not then I would repeat this process every 48 hours until labor or induction began. I did set up my 41+1 appointment however I went into labor in the middle of that night and didn’t end up going through this whole process. 
      • Last but certainly NOT least because this is an amazing one … if you are too uncomfortable in month 9 to make it to your private midwife then the hospital doctor will write you a prescription to have your midwife come to your house to carry out your last month appointments. I had the rx but opted to keep going into my midwife’s office because it was just an activity to do outside of the house in that last uncomfy month… but honestly how amazing is this in the event that you are unable to do so or miserable?!

The Birth and Hospital Stay

I won’t go into too much detail on what to expect during delivery as every single woman’s experience is so different. Your methods of dealing with labor, delivery choices and birth plans are completely your decision and right! The rest of this section is some details or advice I would have found extremely helpful to know:

  • Post Delivery Room: Find out what your personal insurance covers when it comes to birth and then find out from the hospital what an estimated cost of birth, epidural and daily stay is. If you can afford with or without insurance coverage your own private room instead of a shared room at the hospital I would personally recommend you request one in advance when meeting with the hospital. Otherwise you may spend your recovery in a shared room which does not allow your partner to be with you overnight. I had a private room requested but still had to share the first night until my room was ready as there were lots of births that week – mentally prepare yourself for that! 
  • Hospital Packing: I highly recommend you not only look online at what other mom’s recommend you bring to the hospital but really look at your hospital’s website or discuss with your hospital doctor as I found that what was provided for post-birth at a French hospital did not align with what USA hospitals or bloggers may have recommended. The biggest difference probably being that in France you are expected to have a delivery room bag packed that includes your baby’s first outfit – they are not swaddled in a hospital swaddle right after birth but rather they are cleaned up and immediately put into your outfit and blanket / hat that you brought for them. 
  • Length of Hospital Stay: France has you stay in the hospital longer than you typically would in the USA. While you can’t wait to get home with your baby, the time to recover and have help is so nice. Many moms in the USA I told this too said they wished they would have been able to stay longer without it being so costly (if even allowed) so this is a huge plus in my opinion. If you have a vaginal delivery the average length of stay is three days. If you have a C-section the average length of stay is five days. The length of stay is determined by your baby’s weight patterns. Most babies lose weight after birth and the hospital will be looking for when your baby’s weight stops dropping and has plateaued or started to increase again over a 24 hour period. From there a doctor will do an exit well-check on your baby and approve you going home. 
  • What to Expect During Stay: While I’m sure this varies a little depending on the hospital, my midwife made it sound pretty standard that there will be lots of baby teaching and lactation support. This was the case and amazing for me. I was very fortunate to have my baby latch and take milk so well in the early days (because I was personally hoping to breastfeed, if you aren’t that is your choice!) but I highly attribute this to all the lactation care postpartum. I called in a midwife so many times during my stay to help adjust the position and help me with tips if I was experiencing any pain or felt like something was off. By the time we left the hospital baby and I were a true team! Midwives also came in occasionally to review some basic infant care with us, teach us to change diapers, show us how to give baths and so on. While we could have figured it all out, it was so nice to have the lessons for confidence. In addition to the baby care, there were also nurses checking on me regularly to make sure everything was OK. 
  • Language Barrier: While not every single nurse or administrative staff will speak perfect English (and they shouldn’t be expected to!) I did find that almost all doctors and some midwives spoke English and if not were very willing to help me out with translation or find someone to translate for us. I never felt the language barrier was too overwhelming in this situation. I did have some elementary French that did help. 
  • Prescriptions (YES, more): A doctor will visit you before you leave the hospital and prescribe anything you and baby may need for the first days home and on. This includes any pain management for yourself, birth control, more compression garments, and baby vitamins, care items etc…
    • BREAST PUMP RX: This one gets its own line because this is amazing. If you are planning to breastfeed your doctor will write you a prescription to borrow a hospital grade Medela (or similar) milk pump from a pharmacy near you that provides rentals. They will also prescribe you all the parts and accessories needed to pump the milk. This is FREE to you for as long as you wish to breastfeed!!! (Note: you will need to get a routine rx from your midwife that you are still BF so that the pharmacy will keep allowing you to keep it, but from my experience there is no limit or cost to any of this). 
  • Baby’s Birth Certificate: Someone will come by during your hospital stay with paperwork to fill out and instructions on where to take it to receive your baby’s birth certificate. You will also declare the birth to the same agencies you declared the pregnancy. In my experience all this paperwork was taken care of together. 
  • Future Appointments: Text your ongoing private midwife when the baby is born so she can help set up baby’s first appointments. 
  • Carnet de Sante: Your baby will receive a book called the carnet de sante at the hospital and you will need to make sure you hold on to it and bring it to all future baby appointments. It tracks all their health information, stats, vaccines, etc… 

OK, We’re Home! What’s Next for Baby? For Me?

I felt my pregnancy care was incredible, but postpartum is where France truly is above and beyond. Sharing my experience with friends and family back home led to an over and over shock in the best way possible response. 

For Baby AND Mom:

  • The day after you get home from the hospital, your private midwife COMES TO YOUR HOUSE. Yes, you read that right. You do not have to brave getting up and getting your baby to the doctor while you are still recovering and have just finally gotten your baby home. This is why you keep in contact with your midwife while you are in the hospital on delivery date and expected date of release. While at your house they will take your baby’s weight and vitals. They will check you out if there are any stitches or medical attention needed. They will even provide lactation help or help with anything else baby care related if you have any questions or need. This is all included in covered healthcare… It’s truly amazing. 
  • Your midwife will return to your house a couple more times over the next couple weeks to check on all the same things as appointment one. Starting into week three, if you are able to make it to your midwife’s office you will do a week three and four check up there … if unable they can still come to you. 

For Baby:

  • After these first four weeks of check ups with your midwife you will make a one month appointment with a pediatrician, or general practitioner with training in babies. We stuck with our general practitioner so we all have the same doctor who we love and speaks English. She explained to me that as a baby trained doctor in France she can do all standard check ups, help with basic infections or illnesses and if anything was ever out of her scope she would send us to a specialist in that field. 
  • You will make an appointment for your baby every month with their doctor. Vaccinations start at two months.
  • If your baby has pain, constipation issues, etc you can speak with your midwife or baby’s doctor about it and they will prescribe you even basic things like Tylenol for your baby so that it is covered by healthcare. 

Other than the home visits for baby and free medicines it’s honestly all pretty standard and routine. Next section is where I give France some praise again because the baby care should be great everywhere, but affordable (or free), amazing care for the mom is a little harder to come by! I mean hello, we just birthed a whole human!!! We deserve a little TLC and support. 

For Mom:

  • Let’s start with PPD or baby blues – prior to having the baby my midwife informed me that if postpartum I experienced any depression, blues or sadness that I was always able to reach out to her for help and that she would PERSONALLY DRIVE ME AND ACCOMPANY ME TO A THERAPY SESSION IF I WANTED. This is in all caps because I cannot get over the level of care and compassion for moms postpartum. It’s incredible.. Let’s keep it rolling. 
  • Lactation support is not something expensive to pay for if you need it, it is available to you through midwife care as needed. 
  • A follow up appointment (especially if you had a C-section, I’m not sure about otherwise) with the hospital about eight weeks after birth to make sure you are healing well, vitals are good and that you are doing okay mentally and physically. 
  • Mom’s Physical Recovery:
    • Pelvic floor physical therapy – this was standard practice by my midwife. At around four weeks PP we scheduled out some sessions that started with general lessons and basic understanding of the pelvic floor and its importance, continued on to learning proper pelvic floor workouts and ended with doing some pilates and breathing sessions to learn some moves that were great for starting to strengthen the core again as well as safe practice ways to make sure pelvic floor is engaged while working out as you navigate on with your new body.
      • Note: While pelvic floor PT is standard, my midwife did know that I specifically practiced pilates so I’m not sure if the therapy is the same for everyone.
      • I know enough women in my personal life who have pelvic floor problems to know that this is so, so important and truly amazing. 
    • C-Section scar therapy – now this one I had to ask my general practitioner for a prescription for (advised by my midwife to do so), it wasn’t just offered so in the event you have a C-section please, please remember this is an option for you! I was able (for free) to see a physical therapist who specializes in scar massaging and treatment. She used an electro-frequency machine to work into the deep layers of my scar and soften the scar tissue. Why is this so amazing?? The scar tissue is through so many layers of organs, muscle, fat and skin after a C-section and scar tissue hardens creating tension around it. I personally had pretty bad internal pain even after my scar healed externally. This therapy softened the scar tissue all the way down to the uterus relieving my pain AND took the color out of my stretch marks and lightened the scar. Now the pain thing is major — the other things are just cosmetic and I understand that. However, the fact that included in postpartum care options is this treatment that can help you feel more like yourself is truly amazing to me. 
    • Standard physical therapy – this is where things get maybe a little more personal to my situation, but I think it’s important to discuss and let you know what your options could be. I had sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy that unfortunately didn’t go away postpartum, even though I had never had issues prior to being pregnant. I discussed this with my general practitioner and she prescribed me workout sessions with a physical therapist who could specifically help me rehabilitate my core muscles in a safe way and start alleviating the sciatic pain. There was no limit to the amount of sessions covered, at least with my insurance. It was all about how long I needed to not have pain anymore… Again, this is just amazing. So if you have postpartum pain don’t just chalk it up to just having a baby… that may be the reason, but you can ask for help! The abdominal therapy alone was great as your abdominal muscles and overall core change so much during pregnancy and it takes a while to get that strength back! 

Other Random Tips

  • Talk to your midwife or doctor about all your symptoms! Don’t be embarrassed or keep any to yourself. In my experience, anything I brought up we were able to talk through ways to make me more comfortable whether it be a prescription, workout advice, etc… 
  • I don’t remember exactly which month, but at some point later on in my pregnancy I was offered a prescription for discounted or free prenatal swimming or yoga classes. I can’t remember why I opted out but this is something you could ask your midwife about if interested. 
  • France’s C-section rate is much lower than the USA… knowing this information I prepared myself mentally for all types of births but did not research much about C-section recovery. I advise you to prepare yourself for any outcome prior as I ended in emergency C-section after over 24 hours of labor and felt a little lost. I wish I had read more beforehand. 
  • Vaccinations during pregnancy – I was personally due for a whooping cough shot and when I brought it up to my midwife she agreed it was a good idea to get while pregnant and sent me to my general practitioner to carry out. It wasn’t something that was recommended to me without my initiative so I recommend doing research on what vaccinations you may want during pregnancy or breastfeeding and consult with your doctor. 
  • Even if you aren’t becoming fluent in French, learn some vocabulary that will help you along the way. My midwife, physical therapist, and doctors all spoke pretty good English, but it was incredibly helpful to have some French vocabulary relating to the topic so we could work together to make sure I understood everything. Words like appointment, telling time, birth, body parts, etc… are very helpful. For example, my ultrasound technician spoke great conversational English, but her knowledge down to every body part wasn’t perfect… so during the anatomy scan we spoke English, but the parts of the baby we were looking at were in French so having recognition of basic organs and body parts was super helpful! Also even if your doctors at the hospital speak great English, the receptionist making the appointment might not. Learn how to say “I only speak a little French” and how to make an appointment so that they are patient and help get you scheduled in a way that you understand. 

Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have if you’ll be going through this experience yourself. If you had a baby in France was your experience similar?

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