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I've delivered 6 babies between France and the US. Here are the differences in birthing in the 2 countries.


I've delivered 6 babies between France and the US. Here are the differences in birthing in the 2 countries.
  • The lack of fanfare around my pregnancy in France was initially disorienting.
  • Doctors in France actually cared about my continence, giving me free sessions of vaginal PT.
  • If I could choose again, I would give birth in France every single time.

My French partner and I have moved between the US and France six times in the past two decades. We've delivered six children, three in each country.

We experienced some marked differences in terms of the general medical protocol in France: rarely having privacy when disrobing, having X-rays and sonograms performed in an external lab, payment discussions coming at the end of interactions, distinguishing between the public hôpital and the private clinique (where you can get a private room with a minifridge and where partners are allowed to sleep over).

That said, overall, our prenatal visits, scans, and tests were comparable in timing and number in both countries.

We noticed superficial things that made pregnancy in France mildly disorienting for me as an American: a lack of fanfare (no pregnancy announcements or baby showers), the fact that a baby born in France is not immediately French unless one parent has citizenship, the look of confusion from my French obstetrician when I asked about prenatal vitamins, folic acid, and fish-oil gels (not a thing French pregnant people tend to do).

The biggest and most obvious differences, however, were in the care I received after birth.

The French hospital was not in a hurry to send me home

Even with mediocre health insurance in the US, I spent my pregnancy forming a relationship of trust so that the face I saw in visits would, in theory, be the one I'd see while I was pushing.

In France, I saw an obstetrician only for the first six months. They tracked my progress, prescribed my labs and sonograms, and called me out for overindulging my cravings. But the person who actually delivered my child was one of a team of midwives (male and female) at the hospital where I'd registered to deliver. They were someone I met the day I delivered.

While US hospitals had me home 24 hours after the delivery without complications, the French kept me for three days. I'd have needed the permission of my obstetrician and pediatrician to leave the hospital earlier. They monitored my and my infant's health but also supervised how I cared for my newborn, making sure I knew what I was doing before I left.

France paid us for having children

In France, if you fulfill several conditions - including declaring your pregnancy by the first trimester, going to all mandatory checkups, and not earning an exorbitant salary - the government gives you a lump-sum prime of about $1,000 to cover the initial costs of bringing your baby home. This is also available to adoptive parents.

This explains the lack of prenatal baby showers. After parents have recovered from the homecoming, many families hold a gathering where loved ones come bearing gifts to toast the new arrival.

France cared about my continence

After my French delivery, I was entitled to 10 sessions of rééducation périnéale, or vaginal physical therapy to ward off prolapse of the bladder.

Some go to a kinesthesiologist specialized in neurodynamics who manually stimulates the pelvic-floor muscles with contractive exercises. Most choose another method that starts six to eight weeks postpartum where a midwife supervises a combination of biofeedback and electronic stimulation of the perineal muscles - I literally played a video game with my vagina in between periods of tiny painless electrical shocks.

While I missed having a cloth gown during doctor visits and how quickly my hair and nails grew while on prenatal vitamins, the long-term wellness benefits of delivering a child in France largely outweighed the cultural malaise of my American ego.

joj grew up an American nomad on welfare. They now reside, write, and parent their children in southern France.


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