What it’s like to have a baby overseas – My pregnancy and birth experience in France

I moved to Paris, France in 2009 after my marriage to a French citizen. I had already been residing there for 6 years when we found out we were expecting twins, yet my first thought was to get on a plane (while I was still allowed to fly) and go home to SA.

I wanted to have my pregnancy experience in South Africa. Amidst family and friends and familiarity. With doctors who spoke fluent English. I didn’t know it then, but eventually deciding to have the babies in France was the best decision I ever made.

A twin pregnancy is automatically deemed “high risk”. There was a high possibility of the babies arriving prematurely and my team of doctors were outstanding.

My “social security” benefits covered every doctor visit, including ultrasounds (I had monthly visits and scans due to being high risk). It also covered the numerous blood tests and screening tests that are performed in the first trimester. Other benefits included antenatal classes and physiotherapy for lower back and sciatic pain.

I developed gestational diabetes about halfway through my pregnancy and was immediately referred to a diabetologist. I had weekly meetings with this specialist that included meal planning, testing and going over my daily finger-prick glucose records.

Pregnant women can collect a “badge” from their local municipality which ensures they receive a seat on any of the public transport modalities. I traveled to and from work on the metro, but found I never needed the badge, as I was automatically ushered to a seat each time I stepped onto the train.

My birth experience itself was a little traumatic, due to hemorrhage after my C-section, and I was particularly thankful to be in a world class hospital. The hospital was amazing! The private room was of hotel standard… really! Equipped with a large cupboard, flat screen TV, modern baby bassinet and bath, sofa and a large reclining chair that converted into a bed.

My pre-delivery room had a large hot tub where I could “work through the contractions” although I never used it.

The standard of care was amazing! The hospital provided literally everything we needed in the first few days for both myself and the babies. My glucose levels were monitored closely as well the swelling in my legs (with daily anticoagulant injections).

I had a lactation specialist visit me in my room to walk me through the initial breastfeeding experience.

The girls had their assessments done by my bedside and this included hearing testing.

The staff were so invested in us and our well-being… it was unbelievable to think we were just another patient.

Hospital meals were not only edible, but actually delicious, and came with a cheese course. It was after all, France.

A municipal officer visited our room to register the girls in private. We received their birth certificates two days later which she hand-delivered.

We left the hospital exactly 7 days after the girls were born. Correctly installed car seats were mandatory.

Post natal care for the babies included vaccines/ growth and development assessments and a mandatory ultrasound on the girl’s hips as they were both breech In utero.

For me, apart from (more) glucose testing, I was also covered for 20 sessions of “pelvic re-education” which is a type of psychical therapy to retrain and tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor. I’m NOT kidding. The French take this very seriously.

I had a midwife visit us at home a few days after we settled, and this was also fully covered by the social security benefits. She spent a good few hours with us, helping me with breastfeeding challenges and discussing the routine we had going. She checked the babies weight, and vitals and specifically looked for lip-tie issues.

After all this, I got to enjoy 34 weeks (yes, you read correctly) of fully paid maternity leave. Parents are then welcome to take time off from work (until the child reaches 3 years of age), to raise their children, while their job and salary is guaranteed to them when they return. They receive a social grant during this time if they opt for this benefit.

I am so happy with my ultimate decision to have continued with my pregnancy and birth in France. From the experiences some of my friends describe, I think South Africa still has a way to go to ensure the birthing experience is pleasant and enjoyable for families.

How was your birth experience? Anything stand out for you? Let me know in the comments.
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