In this article you will find information about pregnancy, maternal care and abortion access in the Netherlands. The system in the Netherlands may differ from your home country’s system so we are here to support you with all the information you might need to feel comfortable in your pregnancy journey.
The Dutch maternity system relies heavily on midwives. Midwives play a significant role during pregnancy, birth and in postnatal care. Your pregnancy will mainly be monitored by the midwife and they are also the first professionals to help in uncomplicated births. You can find detailed information about prenatal testing and other pregnancy-related questions here.
You’ve found out that you’re pregnant, what now?
The Dutch system may differ slightly from the system you are used to in your home country. When you become pregnant here, you have two options.
1) You can search for a midwife in your area. It is important that the midwife is close to your home so that they can reach you easily in case of an emergency. There are several midwife practices in Maastricht such as:
After selecting your midwife, you will become their customer and they will be taking the lead in your care during your pregnancy. As long as you have Dutch health insurance, the midwife care will be covered by your insurance. In case you want to receive additional care such as non-medically indicated ultrasounds, you will have to pay for these yourself.
2) You can visit your GP. They will confirm your pregnancy and then refer you to a midwife.
During your pregnancy, you will be visiting the midwife or obstetrician approximately every four weeks during the first half of the pregnancy. After this, the visits will increase until you are full-term.
There are additional tests which can be done during pregnancy. These are fully optional and you do not need to take part in them if you prefer not to.
Early in your pregnancy, you have the option of doing a blood test. It will tell you your blood group, rhesus blood group and if you have been exposed to certain STDs such as HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis.
Screening for congenital conditions
You will have the possibility to have a screening for three congenital chromosome conditions: Down Syndrome, Edward’s Syndrome and Patau Syndrome. The screening is usually done between weeks 9 and 13. It is usually done through a blood test.
It is most likely that your insurance company will reimburse two ultrasound checks during your pregnancy. The first one will happen approximately during week 13 and the second one during week 20 of your pregnancy. The first ultrasound is only reimbursed if you agree to take part in a nation-wide study. If your midwife or obstetrician is concerned, they may indicate other ultrasounds as well in the second or third trimesters.
Considering all the options that come with giving birth can be overwhelming. In the Netherlands, you can choose to give birth at home, at a midwife clinic, out-patient clinic at the hospital or in the in-patient clinic of the hospitals. We will explain the basics of each option here.
1 in 4 women in the Netherlands decide to give birth at home. This is usually safe as the health-system has been built to support home births. When birthing begins, you will call your midwife who will come to your home and help you in the delivery. They are equipped with the knowledge to handle any difficult situations and in the case that something was to go wrong, they have a close contact with the hospital.
You may want to give birth in a birth centre (kraamzorghotel). This is not a hospital but there will be a midwife present at all times. They provide a more homey feeling compared to hospitals and often have some types of pain relief medications available.
There are two options for hospital births: in-patient and outpatient. If you have a medical reason to give birth in a hospital such as labour complications or a twin pregnancy, you will be giving birth at the inpatient clinic. There will be doctors present at all times. If you do not have medical indications for an inpatient hospital birth but want to give birth in a hospital, you will be visiting the outpatient clinic. At the outpatient clinic, you will always have a doctor and midwife present. In short, you can give birth in the inpatient clinic if your doctor indicates it.
There are some quite progressive aspects in the Dutch parental system. After giving birth, you will receive an option for maternity care (kraamzorg). Basically this means that you will get a set amount of homecare help during the first week after giving birth. The maternity nurse will come to your house at set times and will help with household chores. They can for example help you with the cooking, cleaning or laundry. Or if you have problems with breastfeeding, they are able to help you with that as well. This service is mostly covered by your insurance.
It’s mandatory that your child will be registered within the municipality. This must be done within three days of giving birth. Registering ensures that your child receives a birth certificate. More information about the process can be found here.
If you are working in the Netherlands, the mother is entitled to at least 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. The leave includes 6 weeks of pregnancy leave, beginning from the 34th week of pregnancy or later (zwangerschapsverlof) and 10 weeks of maternity leave (bevallingsverlof). Your employer may also decide to extend the paid leave.
If the child has two parents, the other parent is entitled to one week of paid leave (geboorteverlof). Additionally, they can take up to five weeks of unpaid leave (aanvullend geboorteverlof).
Abortion in the Netherlands
In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, abortion is widely available in the Netherlands. Termination of pregnancy is available until the 24th week of pregnancy. However, most doctors will only complete a termination of pregnancy until the 22nd week of pregnancy due to uncertainty of gestational age.
If you are considering an abortion, you should contact your GP or an abortion clinic. There is no abortion clinic in Maastricht, the closest one is in Roermond. At the Gynaikon Kliniek in Roermond, abortion can be performed until week 18. If you want to have an abortion after this, you will need to visit the clinics in Heemstede or Utrecht, where termination can be done until week 22 of pregnancy. Find all of the abortion clinics in the Netherlands here.
If you want to discuss your options regarding pregnancy termination or the process, you can either contact an abortion clinic, your GP or the FIOM. FIOM is a centre of expertise in unwanted pregnancies. They provide counselling by phone as well as face-to-face. The website is in Dutch but can be translated.
A termination of pregnancy in the Netherlands is free of charge. The costs are covered either by your health insurance or under the Exceptional Medical Expenses Act.
You can read more about abortion in the Netherlands here (in Dutch).