When, as an expat, you start to think about having a baby in the Netherlands, it is a good idea first to acquaint yourself with how the Dutch health care system functions in relation to pregnancy, birth and beyond. It is quite likely to be different from what you are familiar with in your home country.
Do not stop visualising your dream birth; you might be surprised experiencing just that on the birthing day of your child.
The role of the midwife
When an expectant parent is healthy and the baby is healthy, pregnancy, birth and beyond is managed by a midwife. In the Netherlands, a midwife is an independent practitioner who can legally practise obstetrics without the supervision of a medical doctor. Therefore, if you and your baby are healthy, you will not encounter a gynecologist or obstetrician during or after your pregnancy.
You may also be surprised when you compare the thoroughness of pregnancy medical checks, such as blood tests, with expectant friends in your home country or with your earlier pregnancies in another country. But importantly, if there is any indication of any medical problem with you or your baby, you will be referred to a gynecologist for investigations. Depending upon the situation, you might then stay appointed to the gynecologist for the rest of the pregnancy and birth. If all doubts on the presence of medical issues are cleared, you might be referred back to your midwife practice.
Therefore, when you are thinking about becoming pregnant in the Netherlands, investigate midwife practices in your area. Talk to other internationals about their experiences with these practices. It is important that the midwife speaks English (or another language in which you are able to communicate clearly) and that they understand that you are from a non-Dutch birthing culture. It is likely you will need more answers and, with that, also more guidance and assurance.
Take a birth preparation course
Take a birth preparation course that is specifically designed for expecting internationals! General birth preparation courses, as well as HypnoBirthing® – The Mongan Method courses in English for internationals, take place in Delft, Den Haag and Rotterdam. Such a course will acquaint you with the anatomy, physiology, psychology and spiritualty of pregnancy, birth and beyond. It will also offer you a valuable insight into how Dutch health care functions for pregnancy, birth and beyond.
Also, this is the place where you will meet your tribe. In birth preparation courses you will meet other internationals who are most likely expecting a baby at the same time of year. Meeting these internationals will enable you to meet people in the same stage of their lives. This offers you the possibility to meet them again after the birth. For example, to join playgroups together and to share experiences. Or to be a shoulder to lean on in the absence of family and friends from your home country.
The choice is yours!
On a birth preparation course, you will learn that you are expecting a baby in a country where you have options on how you can give birth. Unlike many other countries, in the Netherlands birthing at home with your midwife is an option. Birthing in a birthing house or in a hospital are also options.
In hospital you can choose to birth naturally in different body positions, on a birthing chair or in a water pool. You can also choose to use pain management interventions such as epidural, remifentanil, pethidine or laughing gas. Different hospitals offer different choices which the hospitals present on their webpages or at regular information evenings. In preparing for the birth, take a tour so that you gain good insight into your pain management choices and birthing environment. Further, talk to other internationals about their experiences with birthing at home, in a birthing house or in hospital.
Preparation is the key
Last, but not least, do prepare for birth in the Netherlands. Not only be informed, but also prepare your body, physically and psychologically, for this extraordinary life event. Venues in Delft, Den Haag and Rotterdam offer pregnancy yoga, Pilates and other ways one can prepare physically for birth. And if you do not want to leave the house, mobile applications and YouTube can be a source of daily inspiration. Further, methods such as mindfulness, meditation, breathing techniques and HypnoBirthing®, when practised daily, can completely change your experience of birth. They are indicated to improve the possibility of birthing with calm and confidence.
Finally, I would like to compare preparing for pregnancy, birth and beyond in the Netherlands with preparing for running a marathon. Years ago, when I was preparing for my first marathon, I prepared for approximately 6 months before the race. My preparation included 4 to 6 runs per week, watching my diet, and researching the race trail and locations of water stations.
During training I dressed as I would be on the race day so that I knew how I would feel. My play list, with carefully selected upbeat tunes, was ready long before the race. Perhaps most importantly, I visualised seeing the mark for 40 km, people cheering me in the final stretch and the proud faces of my two sons at the finish line. That kept me going in preparing consistently and thoroughly. My marathon race was a success.
A final word: visualise your dream birth
Sadly, we have lost touch with the act of birthing. We do not see other women in the process of birth, and we are too often exposed to the skewed and, above all, negative portraying of birthing. Thus, I invite you to undertake the journey of preparing for pregnancy, birth and beyond thoroughly and consistently so that you will birth in your way in the Netherlands. Prepare yourself by gaining the knowledge on pregnancy, birth and beyond. Prepare your body physically, psychologically and spiritually. Do not stop visualising your dream birth; you might be surprised experiencing just that on the birthing day of your child.
Born in Slovenia, Dr. Nina Bogerd lived and worked in Switzerland before moving to the Netherlands. She now lives in the Delft area with her sons, Neo and Njal, and her husband Niels. Nina has a curious mind and a compassionate heart. She is an outdoor enthusiast and philanthropist. Nina’s scientific research background is in physiotherapy, physiology and human movement science. She is the owner of Birth Your Way where she provides doula and birth education for expats. Visit her webpage to gain more information on how she can support you and your partner through pregnancy, birth and beyond in the Netherlands.
FROM DMM BLOG COORDINATOR:
This post is from a series of articles about birthing that Dr. Nina Bogerd is writing to Delft MaMa! If you are interested, please check it: Should I give birth at home or in a hospital? Unlike most countries, you have a choice in the Netherlands and Nina Bogerd: The remarking of my professional career and life in the Netherlands.