Pregnancy tests (test de grossesse) are available in most French pharmacies. If you test positive or think that you are pregnant, you should visit a doctor to have your pregnancy confirmed. The doctor or midwife will then ask about family history and take a blood test to identify the risk of any diseases to the baby. The doctor is then likely to refer you to, or ask you to choose, a gynaecologist who will be your first port of call during the pregnancy. It may be possible to find an English-speaking gynaecologist or maternity staff, but there are no guarantees.
After the first antenatal examination, you will be provided with a document consisting of 3 pages (declaration de grossesse). This is a very important document needed to claim social security and health insurance coverage. The forms are to be filled out and sent as follows: The pink sheet to your nearest Family Allowance Fund [Caisse d’Allocations Familiales (CAF)] and both blue sheets to the Health insurance fund [Casse d’Assurance Maladie (CAM)].
After the first antenatal examination, you are entitled to eight further examinations by the gynaecologist before the birth. This includes ultrasound scans and delivery preparation. Once the Caisse d’Assurance Maladie has received your forms, they will issue a pregnancy guide booklet and dates for medical examinations and maternity leave.
You should also receive three payments from the CAF, the Congé Maternité during the pregnancy, and the Congé Parental and Congé Pathologique after the birth. The prime de naissance is paid at seven months of pregnancy and is €912,12 (2013).
Your gynaecologist will also issue you with a maternity record book (Carnet de Santé Maternité) where the details of each medical examination will be recorded. It also entitles you to get reimbursements on certain expenses.
If you do not want to know the sex of your baby it is recommended to say so from the beginning since it is common practice in France for the gynaecologist to reveal it during the scan.
In France, you are entitled to both antenatal and postnatal maternity leave. The length of time is dependent on the amount of babies born and existing children. On average, women are allowed 16 weeks’ maternity leave in France. For the third child, maternity leave is 26 weeks. If you have twins you are entitled to 34 weeks and triplets 46 weeks. You can choose how many weeks to take before and after the birth; for example, you could take 6 weeks antenatal and 10 weeks postnatal, or 3 weeks antenatal and 13 weeks postnatal. Fathers are also entitled to parental leave of 11 consecutive days.
To receive maternity pay you need to have been registered with social security in France, 10 months prior to the expected birth date. You will also need to prove that you have worked 200 hours in 90 days, up until antenatal leave.
The daily rate is calculated on the average salary received three months prior to antenatal leave. The maternity leave is paid every 14 days by the CAF. The maximum amount a woman can receive is €76.54 per day. Every day of the week including public holidays are included in daily payments. The payments are submitted to the income tax office and count towards your pension.
Visit the French Government website www.service-public.fr for further details.
If you decide to stop working or work part-time once the baby is born, you may be entitled to Prestation d’Accueil du Jeune Enfant (PAJE). Since 2004, those who have a baby or adopt a child can claim for PAJE. It includes a bonus for birth or adoption, a basic allowance and a choice of child care. If you have just one child, you can claim PAJE for six months from the date of birth, end of maternity leave or adoption date. If you have more than one child, you can claim for up to three years.
Further information can be found www.caf.fr.
Most women will choose to give birth at a maternity hospital with a midwife in France. Parents should find an appropriate hospital as soon as possible and the gynaecologist can help you reserve a place. The gynaecologist will also put you in touch with a midwife who can help you with birthing exercises and preparation for the big day. If you choose a private hospital, expenses may not be covered by your insurance. Insurance is paramount as hospital costs can reach 5,000 euros or more.
The hospital expenses for delivery, including epidural anaesthesia and the screening for diseases of the newborn baby, are fully covered up to the 12th day of your stay in hospital by the Casse d’Assurance Maladie. If you are discharged from hospital within five days of giving birth, you are entitled to visits from the midwife at home. On average, a hospital stay will be three days.
The registration of birth (Déclaration de Naissance) is compulsary and must be made within three working days of the birth. The birth is usually declared by the father, or alternatively, by the doctors, health workers or other person present at the birth.
The birth notification is made at the local mairie. The birth certificate is written immediately by an official known as the officier d’état civil. Babies can also be registered at the consular section of British Embassy in Paris. This form of registration is not compulsory; however it is proof of citizenship. Such registration will ensure that the birth is included among the records of the General Registry Office in the United Kingdom.
Home births are not a popular choice in France. It is not usually possible to get full insurance cover since it is seen as more risky. A home birth will take place with the midwife present. Talk to your gynaecologist and midwife if you would like to arrange a home birth. Partial but not complete costs of a home birth will be covered by the health insurance.
A child may acquire French nationality at birth, as well as British, if at least one of its parents is French or at least one of its parents was born in France. Otherwise, a baby born in France to non-French nationals may receive nationality at 18 years of age providing they are resident in France.
Postnatal care is provided for both mother and baby in France.
The Caisse d’assurance maladie entitles the mother to a postnatal examination within 8 weeks of giving birth and, if needed, sessions with a physiotherapist.
You will be issued with a health record booklet (carnet de naissance de l’enfant) by your doctor after the baby is born. From then onwards, every time you take your child to the doctors you must take the booklet so that a medical record can be kept for your child.
The baby will be examined during its first week, and then regularly during its first year. The child will continue to have examinations up until the age of six years.
Mother and baby can also take advantage of Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI) at local clinics. The staff can provide postnatal checks, offer health and nutritional advice and even perform vaccinations. The services are usually covered by the State.
There are a number of child benefits and allowances available in France. The relevant CAF office can advise on this, and what you may be entitled to. Entitlement depends on a number of factors, including parents’ income and how many children there are.
If your pregnancy is unwanted, you can have an abortion (avortement) in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy in France. If there are complications with the pregnancy, the doctor may prescribe a therapeutic abortion.
Brady, M. Michael, “France: A handbook for new residents”, How To Books Ltd, 2007.