Your interactive family guide to France as recommended by local mums | Last updated 7 months ago

Healthcare

Your stories

The best research for having a baby in France is to read about other Mums birth experiences. Some are positive and others have been less so. We hope that in this section, we have offered you a broad selection of experiences about childbirth in France. We are constantly expanding this section and really value your stories. If you would like to contribute you don`t have to give your real name.

  • Anna Powney in La Mayenne

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    "My second child was born here and, being my second, I didnt make much use of the pre-natal / post-natal support that was offered to me but it was available if required, as were breastfeeding groups. The routine checks and examinations were faultless and they do a monthly blood test, you can ask for a nurse to come to your house so that you dont have to go to the hospital each time. The healthcare system here is very thorough and Ive had a good experience with it so far. Most doctors speak a little English if you get stuck with communication and medical terms are all very similar anyway. I think if it had been my first baby I would have been a little overwhelmed and would have missed the support and social aspect of groups like the NCT, as would I if I had had any problems with the pregnancy. By the time Romilly was born we had enough friends, a good enough grasp of French and previous experience of labour to not need extra support.
    The birth itself was somewhat old fashioned, I had to wear a hospital robe and was wired up to a drip, unlike in the UK. They also were quite insistent that I should lie on my back to give birth. The normal amount of time in hospital after giving birth here is 5 days (although I managed to escape on the third as it was a national holiday) and one is supposed to tell the staff the childs name before they are born so they can start the registration process (this is customary not imperative, I didnt make my decision until the following morning). I had three midwives attending to me and the hospital was spotless if a little unimaginative – no water baths or big rubber balls to get through labour with. The hospital rooms were twinned, for a little extra per day you could buy a single room if you wanted the privacy. The only real complaint I have is that they served me a slice of tongue for dinner that evening"

    To read Annas full story click here
     

  • Jane Fraser-Bryan in the Dordogne

    "Having spent many years trying to conceive, I then had 4 very intense years within the French health care system undergoing various Fertility procedures, that were all covered within the standard healthcare offered to all people in the French system. The treatment I received was first class, with private rooms in every hospital and clinic I stayed in. Eventually I was successful in becoming pregnant and my pregnancy was followed to an unsurpassable standard, with twice weekly visits throughout my pregnancy from a local midwife (because I live an hour away from the hospital [Bordeaux] where my Gyno/Obs is based and as he had followed me for several years, I did not want to move to one of the more local hospitals). The same Gnyo//Obs saw me every 4 weeks throughout my pregnancy (with 8 scans throughout the 9 months!) and promised he would be there to deliver my daughter, which he was. Although it was a very difficult journey, I know that if I had been in the UK, I would not have had the opportunity to undergo the various treatments I was offered and undertook here and would never have received the care and attention that I had during my pregnancy and I cannot express my gratitude to the French health system for that and the superb medical staff that I was lucky to be assigned to. In my opinion and experience it has been unsurpassable" (JFB, Dec 2010)

    To read Janes full story click here

  • Valerie Beatson in Paris

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    "Initially very scary. I was still so sure that the astronomical cost and stress I had for medical care in the USA meant is was "the best" but the French system was impressive. I gave birth at St Vincent de Paul, a public hospital very highly rated and the team was excellent and treated all the ladies alike and with great respect. I would have loved my own bathroom and divine meals at a private clinic, but we went with public care as we were told they were more equipped for any unforeseen challenges. The punchline: the equipment that saved me from a last minute cesarian was not available at the private cliniques of Paris yet" (VB, Aug 2011)

    Click here to read Valeries full story

  • Christine Greveldinger in Paris

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    "It was quite amazing. They really follow your pregnancy and do many preventative tests so I did not worry much with my first daughter Chanelle. With Charlie I had the chicken pocks while I was pregnant so I had to do many more tests but I had doctors meeting together and comparing notes so I knew there was not much to be worried about. Both births went well and very fast. The funny thing is you stay four days at the hospital no matter what, even if the birth went well. They really insist on this here and even more so for your second child as they think you need the time to relax and be with your new born baby before you go home and start doing the dishes!" (CG, Dec 2010)

    To read Christines full story click here

  • Rachel Roxborough in La Vienne

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    "Having had both of my children in France I can not recommend the French healthcare system highly enough. I gave birth in a small friendly hospital and had a room to myself. The staff were fantastic and the healthcare was brilliant, with your first child they like new mums to stay in hospital for at least 5 days after the baby is born to give the mum and baby some time together without all the business back at home. My husband was there for both births and was able to cut the cord and help with the delivery (he is a nurse working over here). Giving birth to my second child I was much more relaxed and knew the routine, I was keen to get out of hospital as soon as possible so after 3 days they made sure that all the tests were carried out and results back so that I could “make my escape”. Visitors were welcome pretty much all day and they made my husband, daughter, friends and family very welcome (he was able to stay the night and have dinner at the hospital whilst waiting for our first child to be born). I cannot recommend it highly enough.
    There is no aftercare from a midwife here, you take your baby to the local doctor each month for the first year to be checked and progress noted in their health book. For the mothers there is an appointment with the gynaecologist 6 weeks after the delivery to make sure everything is back to normal. This is the one side that I found hard, not having someone to ask questions after the delivery – more so with my first baby than the second"
    (RR, Nov 10)

    To read Rachels full story click here

  • Birgit Mehrens in Nice

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    "The French people are very considerate to pregnant women and the health system is highly rated.
    Priority is given to pregnant women and you will be encouraged to go to the front of queues when in public, which is really nice.
    The locals are all very interested in babies and like to talk to them when we pass by. You might even get advice from a local person, like you baby needs more clothes or I have been told my son should wear sunglasses to protect his eyes. I have been kindly donated some baby shoes by an elderly couple who regularly walk our street"
    (BM, Jan 2011)

    To read the full interview with Birghit click here

  • Catherine Sharp-Aouchiche in Paris

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    "Compared to the British and American systems, the French system is extremely thorough - sometimes overly so. Each month there are a barrage of tests to do, and the whole process is very medicalised. As with other areas of the French system, theres a high level of care but a low level of choice. I was lucky enough to get a space in a public hospital (you need to register - in person - extremely early in the pregnancy) after being turned down by about 4 other hospitals. Because of problems with my pregnancy, I spent a week in hospital at six months and was then told to stay in bed for the rest of the pregnancy...not easy when you have an 18 month old, as I did at the time. I was readmitted at 8 months and not allowed home because of the distance between the only hospital with a place for me and my home. In the US I gave birth with a dr who I had seen throughout my pregnancy, and for whom I had a high level of trust. Here, the midwife who delivered my baby refused to let my husband into the room until I had an epidural. After the birth, you stay in for 4 or 5 days and I could not wait to leave - despite Frances culinary reputation, their hospital food is as abysmal as the UK!" (CSA, Paris, June 2011)

    To read Catherines full story click here

  • Isabelle Guyon in Paris

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    "I had my baby at a public maternity ward. Women who give birth in Paris are very lucky to be able to benefit from all the following services at a low cost : "training classes for birth", a rather long stay at the maternity ward after giving birth, perineal reeducation either with a midwife or a physical therapist after birth, free of charge baby follow-up visits at the PMI . Also, there is physical therapy (kiné respiratoire) for babies with respiratory problems (bronchiolites) in the winter time, it really helps . I enjoyed being pregnant and having my baby here. The only drawback I can think of is the long waiting list when you want to see a pediatrician. I ended up going to a MD (médecin généraliste) who is used to take care of babies/children; MDs are less expensive than pediatricians" (IG, July 2011)

    To read Isabelles full story click here

  • Joanna Page in Paris

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    "Finding a place in a maternity in Paris can be a real nightmare. When I told my Parisian friends I was two months pregnant and did not yet “have” a maternity they literally told me it was too late, and I would probably have to go to the suburbs. Most women in Paris book their maternity before they get pregnant. But as I wanted a natural birth, preferably in water it was absolutely essential for me to go to one of the two, more “gentle birth” orientated maternities “les bluets” or “les lilas” . I was lucky enough to be accepted in “les lilas”.
    I was followed there every month, often by different midwifes. I did not find them very caring, they always made me wait at least 45 mins, without even apologising! I had a pretty tough birth, it lasted over 48 hrs, and had to be transferred from “les lilas” to “les bluets” because their elevator was out of service. I will also mention that Les lilas lost part of my file, so when I arrived at Les bluets they had to do some blood test and send them to the lab. Once in Les bluets though all went really smoothly with the staff. The building in itself is brand new, clean and very warm and welcoming. The birth rooms are fantastic; I had a birth pool, nothing to do with the relatively old and not very clean rooms at Les lilas.
    I had to have a C- section, but I felt well surrounded and taken care of. The days after the birth of my baby boy I was given a lovely room with a private bathroom and a bay window looking over Paris. I was given good advice, and friendly staff regularly popped in to check up on baby and me. I highly recommend Les bluets, but I was quite disappointed with Les Lilas"
    (JP, june 2011)

    To read Joanna¡s full story click here

  • Nancy Simons in Lot et Garonne

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    "My prenatal experience was not very good for either of the girls due to a particularly nasty Obstetrician (fell into he bracket of “better the devil you know” by using her again second time round)… Oh how I regretted this decision… At 8 months pregnant having handed over my very simple birth plan (expressing my hopes and dreams of how I would like the process to pan out, and what route I’d prefer, should things go wrong). Mme Obstetrician declared that it wasn’t up to me to make these decisions; a medical professional would decide what would happen to my baby and I, and if I didn’t like it I could “go and have my baby somewhere else”!!
    HOWEVER… I cannot praise the midwives at Villenueve Sur Lot Hospital highly enough. They were amazing, and the after care I received from the PMI at home and in their drop in centers was just as good. I also highly recommend the emergency 15 number. It doesn’t necessarily mean an ambulance will be sent out to you but you can have your fears put to rest at 3am by a medical professional should you feel your baby or child is seriously ill and they make the decision as to whether to send an ambulance or if medical treatment can be delayed until the morning when you can see your GP"
    (NS, Nov 2010)

    To read Nancys full story click here

  • Keren Sharpe in Bar sur Loup (Cote dAzur)

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    "I was one of the lucky ones, a quick relatively painless birth. I did manage to annoy the hospital staff by giving birth in the monitoring room - you have to remain in the room in which you gave birth for two hours! I stayed in hospital for four days in a shared room and was given the option of having staff change, bath and look after my newborn if I had wanted them to. The food was alright, although they did provide cauliflower and beef and other foods that they themselves said should be avoided during breastfeeding as these foods could taint the breastmilk! On the whole it was a very pleasant experience and I really benefited from the calm to bond with my baby" (KS, March 2011)

    To read Kerens full story click here

  • Rose Quigley in La Mayenne

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    "I had 2 very different experiences – one in La Roche sur Yon with Rio and the other 8 years later with Jasmine in Fougeres. Both were Caesarean section as both were breech.(As was Indie in her Liverpool birth too). I found that while all staff were lovely the pain relief was nowhere near as good as in the UK – on day 2 with Indie I was up and about and after 5 days with Rio I was still in lots of pain and felt very isolated. I have so many feelings about the first experience it’s hard to compare equally, as I did not have a straightforward birth for any of them ! I had lots probs breastfeeding too and the bedside manner of many midwives was a tad ‘get-on-with-it –dear’ and so much advice conflicting, however thats pretty much the same in most countries I’m told so there you go ! On the whole fine, would do it again, no worries.(4 ? what I am thinking…. !)" (RQ, April 2011)

    To read Roses full story click here

  • Scheenagh Harrington in Castres

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    "It was strange but very good. At first it was terribly confusing, because there was so much bureaucracy, form-filling and the like, and they set such store by appointments. But once Id passed that stage, the level of care was excellent, and the fact it was all free was wonderful. The doctors and midwives are gentle, kind, patient people, and only once did I have a negative experience, when I missed a scan appointment. There are subtle differences though - for example, we had to buy the drugs for Roberts vaccinations and give them to the doctor. That was weird, but like all things, its easy when you just accept thats how its done here" (SH, Jan 2011)

    To read Scheenaghs full story click here

  • Sharon Keens-Soper in Brittany

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    "I found out i was expecting again and was recommended to go to a clinic in a town about an hour away. I had had all our other children at home in the Uk, no medical intervention at all and had rather enjoyed each birth. What a shock when i was talked through my birth plan with the midwife.....epidural given at so and so cms, drips etc..well protest as much as i liked that was how it was done here..so when i went into labour i was very aprehensive and set off to the clinic dreading what was going to happen. I had a different midwife to the one i had met before and told her i didnt want styrups, or an epidural or a drip and she acted as though i was a nut case but respected my wishes, with my husband standing guard to make sure i had what i wanted, we delivered a little boy , healthy and naturally..the midwife, hugged me , told me how brave i was and promptly got me to sign loads of papers that said the birth was unassisted at my request. I had to fight to go home after 3 days in the clinic...Our sixth child was born in the local hospital with a completely different attitude, the midwives fell over themselves to let me do exactly as i wanted and I went home 3 hours after the birth...so it pays to shop around if you have a birth plan you really want to stick to" (SKS, Sep 2011)

    To read Sharons full story click here

  • Vicky Formston in Toulouse

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    "I think that France is a fantastic place to bring up children and thats why we wanted to stay here (originally my husband was just on a 2 year contract). I had Alicia at the ambrose paris in Toulouse and found it hard being in the hospital as the mid wives contradicted each other all the time, and I checked myself out after 4 days. But the care I had while I was pregant was amazing, being able to have a scan every 4 weeks was brilliant" (VF, July 2011)

    To read Vickys full story click here

  • Rachel Capie in Maubeuge

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    "I was disappointed that Paul my husband wasnt be with me during the birth, apparently the French frown on the idea of non-medical staff in the operation room during caesars, so I was scared and alone in what was a pretty terrifying situation and he was left to pace the floors outside. However the assistant anaesthetist was great, she held my hand through the whole thing, told me exactly what was going on and offered plenty of reassurance. I got a five minute cuddle with the smallest baby I had ever seen before she was whisked away to the neonatal unit and didnt see her again until the following afternoon when I was fit enough to pop into a wheelchair and be rolled up to see her, clearly that was quite traumatic" (RC, Sep 2011)

    To read Rachels full story click here

  • Jennifer Iddon in Cahors

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    "My twin boys were born in Cahors Maternity Hospital last November at 0330!! I had several people in the delivery room, including my husband whose hand I clutched throughout most of the births (I think its just about recovered). My gynaecologist was wonderful, and determined I give birth naturally, although I was wheeled into the operating theatre just in case. I was pretty much left to my own devices throughout the labour, checked on most hours but getting on with it. The birth was itself was quick and painful and 2 perfect little boys arrived within 11 minutes of each other. The only real complaint I have is the lack of support for breastfeeding. Ive been feeding the boys exclusively for 6 months & continue now Im weaning & its just not supported here" (JI, Sep 2011)

  • Emma Nelson in Toulouse

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    " I found the most fantastic obstetrician in Dr Kobuch (based at Ambroise Paré in Toulouse) who I cannot praise highly enough. He speaks English fluently which was crucial for me, especially with my first child, who was born at a time when I could only understand about 1 word in 10! With each pregnancy I had about 4 scans (I think) and saw him every month. I also had a monthly blood test to check for Toxoplasmosis throughout all three pregnancies. By the time I was pregnant with Anna, my doctor had invested in a state-of-the-art 3D scanner which was very cool, and he downloaded the images onto a USB key! One thing that’s really good here (and I think this applies to France as a whole) is that the obstetrician who follows you throughout your pregnancy is the one who delivers the baby. It’s really nice to have the continuity and you have a specialist ‘on call’ for nine months, in effect.
    I found the quality of care during the births themselves to be second-to-none. Fantastic midwives, very caring and capable. The midwives accompanied me through the labour itself and the obstetrician only got called right at the end when the baby was about to appear, or in the case of my first, because he was refusing to appear! This didnt strike me as completely fair. The midwives did all the work but he got all the glory! Having said all that, this wasnt the case for the birth of my second child which involved a pretty tough labour, brilliantly managed by a wonderful midwife called Veronica. When the doctor arrived at the eleventh hour ready to do his stuff, he asked me if I wanted Veronica to deliver Sam seeing as shed been doing such a great job. I said yes and Sam was duly delivered!
    Based on my experience, it seems to be much more ‘medicalised’ than in the UK. Not sure the midwives at my clinic would have known what a birthing pool was! This didn’t particularly bother me coz I’m all up for ‘managed pain’ involving lots of drugs but I can see how the set up wouldn’t appeal to everybody. They also seem to like you to give birth lying down with your legs up in stirrups - at least that’s what I had to do!
    The only frustrating part was the many and varied (and occasionally, forcefully put) opinions of the different midwives who came by in the days following the births, at various times of the day and night, to give me completely contradictory advice about breastfeeding. Not overly helpful! I dont think the clinic I was in had a hugely pro-breastfeeding policy. The midwives I encountered were quite quick to push a bottle in my hand when things didn’t go according to plan.
    I was lucky that my Mutuel covered the cost of a private room and I would highly recommend that! As I understand it, there are no wards in French hospitals. It’s single or double rooms only I believe, so you’ll never be packed in with a load of screamy newborns, but if you can get a private room, then do so! On each occasion, I found myself sharing with another new mum for the first night, then got transferred to a private room the next morning. They kept me in for four days I think after each birth, which possibly wouldn’t suit everyone but didn’t bother me. The quality of the food in my clinic was pretty good and frankly I was enjoying being cooked for and cleaned up after!
    " (EN, Feb 2012)

    Read more about Emma`s life in Toulouse here