This is the first of a three part series of article about being Pregnant in France
If you’ve just found out your are pregnant or thinking about having a baby in the near future, we’ve compiled for you some practical info on the different steps to follow in France. It can be overwhelming at first so in order to have a peaceful pregnancy, it is best to take one step at a time!
What should I do after I take a pregnancy test and it is positive?
First of all, congratulations! It is the beginning of a beautiful and intense journey! The first thing to do is to go and see a doctor in order to confirm the pregnancy with a blood test. My personal preference is an appointment with a mid-wife (sage-femme) rather than a regular doctor as she can perform an échographie de datation (dating ultrasound) so you can hear the very first heartbeat if you are at least 5 or 6 weeks pregnant. I was about 7 to 8 weeks pregnant when I saw a mid-wife for the first time and was so pleasantly surprised than even though the embryo was obviously tiny, you could already hear a heatbeat. The mid-wife will also give you all the appropriate blood tests and will start giving you folic acid tablets in order to prevent neural tube defects.
The doctor is talking about SA and SG – what is it?
When you know nothing about being pregnant in France, the vocabulary can be a little bit daunting especially if you are not French!
SA = Semaines d’Aménorrhée (amount of weeks since last menstrual period)
SG = Semaines de Grossesse (weeks of actual pregnancy)
Most of your pregnancy, doctors will talk in SA as it is the most accurate way for them to date the pregnancy. It is harder to know the exact date of fertilization.
Note that in France a complete pregnancy is 41 SA (39 SG) whereas in other countries such as the UK or the US it is only 40 SA! It does not mean babies come quicker in those countries 🙂 If a baby is late in those countries then they can easily wait 8 or 10 days before inducing whereas in France it will happen quicker.
Once my pregnancy is confirmed, what should I do in terms of paperwork?
When pregnant in France there is nothing to do until your first ultrasound (not the dating one but the actual one at the end of your first trimester around 11 to 13 SA). Once they check everything is OK on the first scan, your doctor will give you a document to send to la CPAM (Assurance Maladie) and one to send to la CAF (Caisse d’Assurance Familiale). Your doctor will explain everything. Be careful though as it is best to send the documents before 14 weeks otherwise it might delay payments.
La CPAM will take care of all costs regarding your doctor appointments, birth preparation classes, maternity leave etc. Everything is taken care of! You will need a mutuelle (private health insurance) for some extra things such as a bed for your partner during your stay at the maternity hospital but otherwise you will have nothing to pay. They will send you a pregnancy guide booklet and dates for medical examinations and maternity leave.
La CAF will deal with a possible ‘prime de naissance’ (birth grant) depending on your income and will help towards the cost of a nursery or a nanny. They will also pay for your ‘congé parental’ (parental leave) that you can take at the end of your maternity leave.
When should I inform my employer?
The law only indicates you have to inform your employer before your maternity leave but obviously it is a little bit nicer to inform your employer when the pregnancy is confirmed so they can get organised as well! You can either send a letter or just inform them face to face. The doctor will also give you a document that you can forward to your employer.
When pregnant in France when should I register at the maternity?
As soon as possible! Once the pregnancy is confirmed and you have chosen where you want to deliver your baby, it is best to pre-register online very quickly. Of course, if for some reasons you did not have time to register, no hospital can refuse you on the day but it is best to register to get to know the place, the staff and have some appointments there so you feel comfortable when you deliver your baby. It is also practical as they will have all your medical file.
How long is maternity leave?
It is usually 16 weeks. Six weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and 10 weeks after. If you have issues when pregnant (risks of early delivery, extra tiredness etc), you can also have a ‘Congé Pathologique’ (prenatal leave for sickness) that lasts 14 days and must be taken before your maternity leave.
How long is the paternity leave ?
In France, fathers are allowed 11 days paid leave (18 days in case of multiple births.) There is currently a great debate on whether or not to lengthen paternity leave. In Spain, the paternity leave has been extended from 5 weeks to 8 weeks in 2019 and now to 12 weeks!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment on the article so we can help!