Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably know that recently we were blessed with the most beautiful gift of life. Our little girl Adeline was born in spring last year. Until then, I did not share anything about my pregnancy online because I don’t know why but I considered it as something very fragile and I wanted it to be personal only. I don´t plan to swift from food and travel to mama blogging but as a foreigner undergoing this big life change in a different country, I want to share some tips for pregnancy and giving birth in Belgium for those of you who are entering the same journey here and Belgium is not your native country.
In this first part, I will write about the regular check-ups, list of things to do during your pregnancy, maternity leave in Belgium, and in the end, I will give you tips on cool pregnancy shooting localities in Belgium. I hope that some of you may find it useful – please do let me know! Or let me know in any case if you feel like sharing your experience from Belgium or any other country where you live. I would like to point out that these are only my tips based on my own experience at that time but you can find more accurate and up to date and detailed information through your health care provider/mutuelle, ONEM ( Office National de l´Emploi) or your employer.
Being Pregnant in Belgium – Regular check-ups
In Belgium, after confirming your pregnancy, the doctor tells you two things. First, to subscribe your unborn child to the daycare asap. Especially in big cities such as Brussels, there are long waiting lists. Second, to avoid any salads and raw vegetables when eating outside. And no non-pasteurized milk products! The risk of toxoplasmosis and listeriosis is seen as not negligible here. In my home country though, when I washed tomatoes three times or with vinegar, friends looked at me like at somebody from a different planet…
During pregnancy, you are usually being followed up by a “sage-femme” who can even lead a delivery as they are highly qualified in Belgium. In case of a risk pregnancy or complications, you would be followed by a doctor. At your checks at the hospital, you would have also arranged regular appointments with a social worker from ONE (Office National de l´Enfance, or Flemish Kind en Gezin) that helps you with the administrative and organizational tasks.
Concerning the maternity ward, Hopital Iris Sud in Ixelles or Clinique de l´Europe in Etterbeek are said to be the best public ones where most of the visits including delivery is covered by your health insurance/mutuelle. If you are searching among the private ones, check out the new CHIREC Hospital Delta. I delivered in Ixelles but for those who don´t speak French, I´d opt for the other two. I chose Ixelles because of a recommendation of competent personnel, types of pain relief other than just epidural such as kalinox or bath and their pro-breastfeeding attitude. It was also only 20-min walk from where I lived.
A list of things to do during your pregnancy in Belgium (for employees):
- Find out what is covered with your health insurance (mutuelle, or if you have a private one such as DKV etc.) – sometimes, the birth preparation courses including exercises (if lead by sage femmes) are covered by certain health insurance so why not to take advantage of it
- Subscribe your unborn baby to the daycare in the place where you live as from the 4th month or even earlier as in some communes there are long waiting lists
- In the case of unmarried couples, declare the paternity at the municipal office before the baby is born
- Announce your pregnancy and expected date of birth to your employer at the beginning of the 4th month and negotiate also parental or breastfeeding leave if desired, and later on, confirm also last day at work before leaving on maternity leave
- Ask for the price of services and products at the maternity of your choice (sometimes you can even take a guided tour) and fill in the admission form
- Ask for the birth prime (allocation de naissance) as from the 6th month to your mutuelle
- Announce to your mutuelle from when you take the maternity leave including the expected date of birth so that they can pay you during that period instead of your employer
Maternity leave in Belgium
Maternity leave in Belgium is 15 weeks including the time before the delivery. Most of the women work until one week before the expected date of birth (obligatory) so that they can stay longer with their newborns. But, in case you need to be on sick leave (any reason) during the last 6 weeks of your pregnancy, it is automatically taken from those 15 weeks! (But I have heard there is a petition somewhere for the abolishment of this.)
If you find out that the 15 weeks of Maternity Leave is not enough for you, you can still take other types of leave that may apply, but your employer needs to agree with that and you need to follow the procedure of ONEM in this matter. Here below is the list of all solutions applicable to employees in the private sector I made when I did my research:
- Maternity Leave (congé de maternité; 15 weeks, you will receive +/- 70-80% of your salary)
- Breastfeeding Break (congé d´allaitement; until 5 months after the delivery and it is unpaid but with allocations from the mutuelle) and consequently breastfeeding breaks at work (pauses d´allaitement; one hour per day until 9 months after the delivery)
- Parental Leave (congé parental; 4 months full-time max. with some partial financial support)
- Career Break with a motif of taking care of a child under 8 years (crédit-temps avec motif soins à son enfant de moins de 8 ans; 51 months full-time max. with some little financial support)
The last two types of leaves can be taken either full time or partially for a longer time, being paid pro-rata. Most of the women in Belgium though take only Maternity Leave and then put the baby in the daycare because they are more likely to accept a 3-4 months old baby than a 7-8 months old due to the separation anxiety of that later age. Again I would like to remind you that for up-to-date and more detailed information, go to the website of ONEM.
Tips for maternity shots in Belgium
In Belgium, there are some beautiful locations to take some pregnancy shots outside. I would recommend you to check out the Arboretum Wespelaar in spring where magnolias bloom usually between April and May, the so-called blue forest Hallerbos which is covered with a carpet from bluebells in the same time, or the Japanese garden in Hasselt which is beautiful in spring as well as in the autumn. And any time of the year some of the parks in Brussels, Tervuren, or Chateau de la Hulpe. And what about the beach?
To finish this post, I add pictures from our session with Andreas from Medialounge, he is such a great photographer – look at the magic he made by the end of March, just 10 days before Adeline was born! I still remember how tired I was that day, felt so fat and swallowed, so heavy, but now I am happy we have these pictures. Do you like them?