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Having a baby in Belgium? You're in good hands
If you’re having a baby in Belgium, you’ll be relieved to know that the Belgian healthcare system provides a high degree of support during and after pregnancy, regardless of your health insurance policy or provider. A standard policy with a mutuality such as Partena, will partly reimburse everything from check ups with a gynaecologist to maternity and paternity leave.
To confirm you’re pregnant, go to see your doctor or a midwife at a medical centre. In Belgium, gynaecologists play a pivotal role throughout the pregnancy and at the birth. If you haven’t already got a gynaecologist in Belgium, there are several organisations which can provide one free of charge, such as the Flemish Kind en Gezin the Brussels Childbirth Trust or the French Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance. All have websites in English and also offer all sorts of pre and post natal support and parenting information.
Don’t panic if you find you are pregnant and you don’t have health insurance - many of the pregnancy costs can be covered by the safety net provided at the Public Social Welfare Centre Les Centres Publics d’Action Sociale in the French speaking community or Openbaar Centrum voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn, in Flanders.
Maternity leave regulations and allowances differ for employed, unemployed and self employed mothers. If you’re employed or unemployed but covered by the Belgian social security system, you’re entitled to 15 weeks of paid maternity leave or 19 weeks if you’re having twins or multiple babies. If you’re self employed it’s down to 12 weeks and 13 weeks for multiple babies. Reimbursement is in the region of 82% of your gross salary for the first 30 days with no upper limit. After then it drops to 75% with an upper limit of 139 Euros a day.
To receive the payments, your insurance provider will require a medical certificate which indicates the expected due date of your baby and the dates of your maternity leave. You’ll need to check exactly when they require this certificate. Once they have it, they will send you the relevant paperwork on all your maternity leave rights and payments. Amongst this will be a form entitled 'attestation de reprise de travail' / 'bewijs van werkhervatting of van werkloosheid' – which you’ll need to fill in and return once you’re back at work.
The regulation details can be quite confusing, and may leave you out of pocket if not adhered to. The Partena mutuality has a specialist expat division, which offers help and advice on all aspects of pregnancy in English should you need it.
You’re also entitled to paid maternity and paternity leave if you’re adopting a child. The amount depends on the age of your child, so it’s best to check details with your policy provider.
Home and hospital births
Home births are still somewhat frowned upon by the medical profession in Belgium. Most births take place in hospital, overseen by the gynaecologist, midwife, nurses and a physiotherapist to manage the pain. However, if you do want to have a home birth, insist, as you’ll be granted one if you’re in good health. Home births are generally overseen by two midwives who stay for several hours afterwards to ensure there are no complications. If you’re having a hospital birth, expect to be kept in for five days.
Once your little bundle of joy has arrived, remember to register their birth at your local town hall within the first 15 days of their arrival and also at your consulate if you’re an expat, taking your hospital certificate and ID cards of both parents. You’ll need to have thought of names by then, and whether you’d like your child to take both or either surnames.