Hospital birth - one size fits all?
If you decide to give birth in hospital, there are still some choices you may be able to make to tailor-make your experience, provided your pregnancy and labour progress as normal.
The choices essentially revolve around:
- who delivers your baby (gynaecologist or independent midwife)
how long you stay in hospital after the birth - this will depend on whether you had a vaginal or caesarean birth. In June 2015, the typical hospital stay after an uncomplicated vaginal birth went down from 5 to 4 days (and may possibly drop to 3.5 days in 2016). The typical hospital stay after a caesarean birth is 7 days.
Community midwife care is plentiful and well reimbursed by the mutuelles.
Read more below about your choices.
You can give birth in hospital with:
your gynaecologist, and stay in hospital for the normal, 4-day period
your gynaecologist, and leave hospital earlier than 4 days, with your postnatal care provided by an independent midwife
- an independent midwife (only possible in some hospitals) and leave hospital earlier than 4 days, with your postnatal care provided by an independent midwife
This is the most common option. When you arrive at the hospital in labour, the hospital midwives look after you, and call your gynaecologist when the birth is imminent. Your gynaecologist is then usually present for the birth.
After a normal, straightforward birth, the typical hospital stay is around 4 days. During this time, hospital midwives provide the postnatal care for you and your baby.
- Even if your antenatal care is (principally) with your gynaecologist, you can still arrange some visits with an independent midwife and ask that she come to your home to support you in the early stages of labour, and even support you during later labour and birth in hospital.
In this case she would not provide any medical care for you during labour and birth.
- Once home from hospital, you may still like to call on an independent midwife for extra postnatal care, e.g. for help with breastfeeding, general questions about looking after your baby
This is becoming more common. When you arrive at the hospital in labour, the hospital midwives look after you, and call your gynaecologist when the birth is imminent. Your gynaecologist is then usually present for the birth.
After the birth, provided you are recovering well and your baby is healthy, you may prefer to leave hospital early. This can be anything from a few hours after the birth, to 1 to 2 days later, depending on your situation. Hospital midwives provide postnatal care for you and your baby while you are still in hospital, but once you are at home, a home-visit hospital/independent midwife takes over the care.
It is important that this is organised in advance to ensure continuity of care. Some hospitals proactively suggest this option, in which case they would arrange the follow-up midwife visits. Even if your hospital does not seem to offer this service, you can arrange this with an independent midwife, who would then liaise with the hospital midwife upon your discharge.
- If you have an independent midwife, she may be able to come to your home to support you in the early stages of labour, and may even accompany you to the hospital. In this case she would not provide any medical care for you during labour, but is there in a supportive role for you.
Your independent midwife would typically come to your home during labour, and travel with you to hospital. In hospital, she continues to care for you during labour, and then delivers your baby (without the need for a gynaecologist to be present) - this is currently possible in five Brussels hospitals (Erasme, Ste-Elisabeth, CHU Brugmann, Ixelles-Etterbeek and Clinique St-Jean).
After the birth, provided you are recovering well and your baby is healthy, you may prefer to leave hospital within a few hours, or you may prefer to stay a little longer. Hospital midwives provide postnatal care for you and your baby while you are still in hospital, but once you are at home, your independent midwife once again takes over the care.
How do I find an independent midwife who performs hospital births?
You can find contact details on the following sites:
www.sage-femme.be/parents/trouver-une-sage-femme/ - website of the professional union of francophone Belgian midwives (page in French, but select the language you want from the drop-down, and then 'Accouchement à l'hôpital')
- Brussels-based teams of midwives: www.maisondelanaissance.be/naissance/l-accouchement-a-l-hopital.htm (in French, but click on the names of midwives to see which languages they speak)
See 'Find a midwife' for other sites that provide details of midwives.