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Pregnancy, birth and childcare in Belgium explained
In the very early stages of pregnancy, women can request a referral to a hospital from their GP or select a gynaecologist attached to a particular hospital. An early scan at six to eight weeks is available, though it is not reimbursed. Check-ups are conducted every month for the first two trimesters, every two weeks during the last trimester and every week for mothers who go past their due date. Ultrasounds are carried out at around 12, 20, and 34 weeks and are reimbursable.
The costs of giving birth are largely covered by the health insurance fund. Some employers offer top-up insurance that covers additional costs.
Women are offered nine pre- and post-natal physiotherapy sessions (largely covered by insurance). If you or your partner are employed in Belgium, you may be entitled to a pregnancy bonus, amounting to €1,272.52 for a first child or for each child of a multiple birth and €957.42 for subsequent children (prime de naissance/kramgeld), and monthly payments for your child as long as they are a minor.
Employees should check out their rights with regards to maternity leave and payment, while expats who work on an independent basis should apply for benefits from their mutual insurance scheme and social insurance provider.
Working mothers are entitled to 15 weeks’ maternity leave (19 for a multiple birth); nine weeks must be taken after the birth and at least one before the date when the baby is due. Self-employed women have eight weeks’ maternity leave.
The father has the right to 10 days’ paternity leave in the four months following the birth. Some women choose to extend their maternity leave with an unpaid breastfeeding leave.
Adoptive parents are entitled to six weeks of adoption leave if the child is under three. This goes down to four weeks if the child is between three and eight years old. The adoption leave is doubled if the child is handicapped.
All employed parents are entitled to a four-month parental leave until their child’s 12th birthday, during which time they receive a social security allowance. Parents may choose instead to work half-time for eight months, or 80% time for 20 months, or opt for a combination.
All children of salaried workers, irrespective of income, are eligible for child allowance. Parents on limited income can qualify for Omnio status on health insurance, which reimburses up to 90% of a family’s health expenses.
Most births take place in a hospital and medical interventions, such as epidurals, are common. Most women deliver in a private room that has a bath and a shower, and partners are welcome for the duration. It is also possible to have your physiotherapist present and a doula or birthing assistant. Mothers are entitled to three days and two nights in hospital, although mothers who have had a caesarean or other complications stay for longer.
This is also the period in which you should register the birth at the commune where the baby is born, regardless of where you live. Expats wishing to register the birth in their home country must contact their embassy. A representative of Kind en Gezin or ONE will also visit you while you are in hospital to give you information. Once home, you will be visited by a ONE or a Kind en Gezin midwife who will also lead you through the vaccinations offered.
If you are on a local work contract and plan to go back to work after giving birth, find a daycare place as soon as you know you are pregnant. Childcare is subsidised by the state. Most daycare facilities are registered with Kind en Gezin or ONE.