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France - Birth
This document is very important as you need to use it to inform certain agencies that you are pregnant. Part of the document is sent to the CAM (health insurance fund) and part to the CAF (family allowances fund). CAM will give you the dates for your medical examinations and provide you with information on permitted maternity leave, as well as giving you further information on how to care for yourself and your unborn child.
You will need to have a maternity record book (carnet de santé maternité) which will document all the medical details of your pregnancy and will provide essential information on administrative procedures. This must be taken with you every time you go for a medical check-up. With this document you are able to claim back certain expenses from the state.
Expectant mothers can attend antenatal classes which are subsided by the government’s health department. The office of the CAF will give you a pass which allows you to go to the front of the queue in certain public places or ask that people on public transport give up their seat for you.
During pregnancy a woman is obliged to have seven antenatal examinations, for which they can claim a full refund. The first must occur before the 12th week of pregnancy and the rest will take place on a monthly basis.
Most women will opt for a hospital birth and are usually attended by a midwife (sage femme). Hospital places should be reserved as far in advance as possible. If you choose to have your baby in a private hospital you may not be entitled to a full refund of the cost by the state’s system of health insurance. You can insist on a gynaecologist delivering the baby but this will limit where you are able to give birth. Most women will be in hospital for around 3 days and pain relief such as an epidural is very common.
It is not common for a woman to give birth at home, although it is possible. There are a number of administrative procedures and other considerations which mean arranging this can be time consuming and costly. If anything goes wrong in a home birth then those delivering the baby are more at risk of legal action, so this is generally not recommended by medical staff. The cost of a home birth can be refunded by the social security department but you would not normally receive the full amount.
A birth must be registered in France and this is known as the declaration de naissance. This must be done within three working days of the birth and does not incur any fee. The registration will take place at the local Mairie and is completed by an officer of the state. Anyone who was in attendance at the birth can register the new baby but they must have with them the birth certificate and their own proof of residence in the country. A request for a birth certificate can be done online and must include the details of the parents and all the details on the time and place of the birth.
A woman is able to seek a termination of her pregnancy up until the 12th week. There has to be a period of one week between making the request and having the procedure, in order to allow for those who might change their minds. Those who are under the age of 18 or who are single must also undergo counselling. A doctor does not have to agree to the termination but is legally obliged to send you to a doctor who can help you. Part of the fee can be covered by the social security system and some private insurers may help with costs.
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