Choosing a hospital

So you would like to give birth in hospital? Not sure yet? Read about homebirth here.

In Brussels and the surrounding areas of Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant, there are 17 hospitals where you can give birth. So how do you choose?

Photo by Samuel Scalzo on Unsplash

In this section, we look at:


While in Belgium you are free to choose your care provider / hospital (i.e. it is not dependent on where you live), the two are closely linked.

Where you can have your baby may depend on whether or not you have already chosen a care provider.

You have already chosen a care provider? 

  • If your gynaecologist attends hospital births, then he/she will already be affiliated with a certain hospital (or in some cases, more than one hospital), and can only deliver babies in that hospital/those hospitals.

  • If your gynaecologist DOES NOT attend hospital births (e.g. could be the case if you see a gynaecologist at a family planning centre), he/she may still be affiliated with a hospital, and you would be under the care of the on-duty gynaecologist for the birth.

    Alternatively, you might prefer to change care provider (see next section).

  • If your independent midwife attends hospital births (and can deliver your baby without the need for a gynaecologist), then she will already be affiliated with one of the five hospitals where this is possible (currently ErasmeSte-ElisabethCHU BrugmannEtterbeek-Ixelles and Clinique St-Jean).

  • If your independent midwife DOES NOT attend hospital births and you want to give birth in a hospital, you can change care provider (see next section).

Remember that in Belgium, for whatever reason, you are no longer happy with your choice, you can change care provider right until the moment you give birth – subject of course to agreement from your new care provider.

You haven’t chosen a care provider yet? 

If you haven’t chosen a care provider yet, then you are free to choose any hospital, irrespective of where you live.

Perhaps you would like to choose a hospital that:

In this case, you might find a gynaecologist or independent midwife by asking your chosen hospital for a list of care providers who deliver there, and/or by asking for recommendations from people you know.

Remember that in Belgium, for whatever reason, you are no longer happy with your choice, you can change care provider right until the moment you give birth – subject of course to agreement from your new care provider.


Which Belgian hospitals have the UNICEF BRFI (Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative) label?

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), launched in 1991, is an effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that all maternity hospitals become centres of breastfeeding support.

A maternity hospital can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.

In the table in the section below, you can see which hospitals have the BFHI label, and since when.

Rest assured that just because a hospital does not have the BFHI label does not mean that they do not actively support breastfeeding – it simply demonstrates their adherence to the UNICEF BFHI ‘contract’.


Difference between public, private and university hospitals

In Belgium, hospitals fall under the broad categories of ‘public’ and ‘private’, and some private hospitals are also university/teaching hospitals.

The standard of medical care is very high in Belgium, and the services, facilities and infrastructure are comparable whichever kind of hospital you choose. But the cost of care might not be the same. How do I know which category a hospital falls under?

Some hospitalisation insurance policies cover all costs related to giving birth, irrespective of where you give birth or what kind of room you choose, so price need not be a factor in your choice of hospital. 

However, if you do not have such comprehensive coverage (e.g. if you will not benefit from reimbursement from the mutuelle), it might be worth keeping in mind that:

  • private hospitals are generally more expensive than public hospitals;

  • private hospitals that are also university hospitals are more expensive than non-university hospitals. For women who are covered by a ‘mutuelle’ / ‘ziekenfonds’, this difference is more than compensated by the fact that mutuelle/ziekenfonds reimburse a larger proportion of the costs related to the hospital stay and medical care in university hospitals than in non-university hospitals.

All hospitals should be able to provide you with a fee schedule, so that you can see how the costs are broken down – you will probably have to explicitly ask for this. Some mutuelles also provide hospitalisation cost simulators (this one is in French), which lets you compare hospital costs, and can give you a general idea of the difference between hospitals.

Remember that the choice of single or shared room on the maternity ward is one of the factors that has a hige influence on the overall cost of giving birth.

Hospitals in Brussels, Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant by category

Below you can find a list of the different hospitals in Brussels, Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant where you can give birth, according to category of hospital:

BrusselsPublic hospitals

Etterbeek-Ixelles, Etterbeek >> Brochure in English - BFHI since 2006
CHU Brugmann, Laeken - BFHI since 2008
CHU St-Pierre, Brussels centre - BFHI since 2006


Private hospitals - non-university

Clinique Ste-Elisabeth, Uccle
Clinique St-Michel, Etterbeek
Clinique St-Jean, Brussels centre - BFHI since 2008
Delta Hospital, Auderghem - BFHI since 2015*
Clinique Sainte-Anne Saint Rémi, Anderlecht


Private hospitals - university

CHU St-Luc, Woluwe Saint Lambert
Erasme, Anderlecht - BFHI since 2008
UZ Brussel, Jette
Flemish BrabantPrivate hospitals - non-university

Sint-Maria, Halle
Heilig Hart, Leuven
Sint Maarten, Mechelen


Private hospitals - university

UZ Leuven, Leuven - BFHI since 2008
Walloon BrabantPrivate hospitals

Braine l'Alleud Waterloo
Clinique St-Pierre, Ottignies - BFHI since 2006

Impact of room type on final hospital bill

The one factor that can have the biggest impact on your final hospital bill – irrespective of the kind of hospital you choose – is the kind of room you choose on the maternity ward.

Most hospitals offer a choice between a single room and a ‘shared’ room, which usually only has 2 beds (sometimes 3).

Single rooms usually have their own bathroom and area to wash and change your baby. It is also usually possible for the partner to stay overnight. When you do a hospital tour, ask to see both kinds of rooms so you understand the difference.

If you choose a single room, not only do you pay a supplement for having a single room (this may be around €140 extra per day), but ALL the care that you receive during your time in hospital can be up to 200% to 300% more expensive

Many hospitalisation insurance policies cover all birth-related costs, irrespective of the room type you choose, but it’s worth checking this with your insurer before making a decision.

Note: if you are given a single room even though you did not request one, you will not have to pay a single-room supplement.

Average cost

The Union Nationale des Mutualités Libres (national union of liberal mutuelles – original source no longer online) published the below table showing the average cost of giving birth using data from 2010.

While costs have evolved, this still gives an idea of the differences between types of birth and types of room:

Type of birthType of roomTotal costReimbursed by mutuelleYou paySupplement **
Caesarean1-bed€5996.35€4143.83€59.62€1792.90
shared *€4297.26€57.79€21.29n/a
Vaginal1-bed€4248.11€2990.80€46.24€1211.07
shared€3005.81€40.68€9.080
Homebirthn/a€589.92€589.700€0.22

* In Belgium, ‘shared’ rooms typically only have two beds
** The supplement is payable by either you or your hospitalisation insurance if you have such coverage


Is it worth doing a hospital tour?

Definitely!

Irrespective of how you choose your hospital, it is a good idea to go on a hospital tour to find out more about their facilities and see if you like the atmosphere and philosophy of birth.

Some hospitals take you on a tour of the actual labour and maternity wards, while others simply show a slideshow and offer a question and answer session in a conference room. Either way, you should have a chance to ask any questions you have.

Most hospitals offers tours in English, but even if they don’t (or you can’t make to an English session), it may be worth joining a French/Dutch tour as most staff speak some English and should be able to answer your questions (or find someone who can). You usually have to register for a tour as places are often limited.

Some hospitals have websites where they give details of tours – otherwise you may have to phone the main reception for details.


Do I have to register in advance at the hospital?

Hospitals will typically require some kind of pre-admission, but the exact timing depends from one hospital to another.

For example, Delta hospital requires mothers to ‘reserve their room’ around the third month of pregnancy. For other hospitals, pre-admission can be done much closer to the birth.

Ask your hospital what their procedure is, and which documents you will need to complete and submit. It may also be worth checking with your hospitalisation insurance provider, as sometimes your insurer will first need to send confirmation of your insurance coverage to the hospital. 


What if I change my mind about my care provider or hospital?

One big advantage of the Belgian system is that, once you have chosen your care provider/hospital, you are not obliged to stick with that choice.

If, for whatever reason, you are no longer happy with your choice, you can change care provider right until the moment you give birth – subject of course to agreement from your new care provider.


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