Postnatal Care in The Netherlands
This is part three in a series of three posts detailing my practical observations of giving birth in The Netherlands. This is not a post about my personal birthing experience…as in the OTT actual stuff that happened…for that you can read Knocked Up Abroad Again where I contrast my birthing experiences in Turkey and South Africa.
Let me say from the outset that this was my third baby. I gave birth naturally, in a hospital, attended by a kick-ass midwife. I cannot speak about c-sections, VBACS or birth with pain relief in The Netherlands. This does not mean that I am biased towards natural birth. Every mother should be able to choose for herself and have that decision be honoured.
Ready? Here we go with Part 3…
The Ultimate Postnatal Care: Kraamzorg
Aah, Kraamzorg. Imagine you arrive home from the hospital or birthing clinic, and there is a smiling, knowledgeable and welcoming woman waiting for you. She ushers you in, fluffs up the cushions on your couch, settles your brand new baby, then brings you tea and makes the evening meal…for the whole family. If you give birth in The Netherlands this is exactly what you can expect within hours of getting home with your new baby. Every new mother benefits from the service of a kraamzorg. Depending on your insurance, it could be for a few days, a week, or longer if you have had twins.
Kraamzorg literally means maternity care. Your kraamzorg’s job is to run your household while you recover from the birth. She will document your baby’s first week of life, detailing weight, temperature, wet nappies etc. Many kraamzorgs are also lactation consultants so will help establish breastfeeding and be there to guide you through those first painful days. She will also examine you daily, take your blood pressure and temperature, check your stitches and insist (strongly) that you rest. She will also monitor how you are feeling emotionally, and keep an eye out for early signs of postnatal depression.
But that’s not all! During the week your kraamzorg will clean your house, do your laundry, go to the shops, collect your kids from school, walk the dog and cook meals (if you ask her to).
It is your responsibility to book your kraamzorg. Google kraamzorg in your area, there will be many options. Overwhelmed by choice, I posted in a local Facebook group asking for recommendations, and received many encouraging replies. I ended up going with kraamzorg1op1.nl. Register online, request a specific name if you have been given a personal recommendation, and a kraamzorg will contact you for a preliminary consultation which will take place in your home.
Advice: your kraamzorg is trained to monitor your recovery, and she will be insistent that you rest, stay off your feet and not jump straight back into your daily life. If you have other children who need your attention and, like me, you feel you want to be more in control of when you rest, don’t be afraid to speak up. The kraamzorg week is designed to help you, not make you feel frustrated.
Midwife follow up.
The midwife who delivered your baby will visit you around day three. She will consult with your kraamzorg to check on your recovery and your baby’s progress. You will also have an opportunity to discuss the birth and go over any aspects of the experience you feel are important. This is a wonderful opportunity for healing and closure. If you had stitches the midwife will return once more to remove them, usually on day four or five.
Six week check.
You will see a midwife one final time when your baby is six weeks old. It is not compulsory to attend, and entirely up to you.
Within the first two or three weeks you will receive a visit from the consultatiebureau in your area. A nurse will come to your home and register you and your baby. She asks a lot of questions about the birth, previous births, your state of mind, family medical histories, and even how you’d describe your childhood! She may examine your baby briefly, check that the umbilical wound has healed etc.
You will receive an appointment for baby’s first check up and going forward all development related check ups will be done at your consultatiebureau. This includes vaccinations, advice on weaning (starts at four months). Again, do not be afraid to share your views if they differ from the advice you are being given. If your baby is feeding more frequently than the recommended four hour intervals or you do not want to start solids at four months, speak up. All babies are different, and you know yours best.
Having a baby in The Netherlands has been a pleasure. There are some cultural differences to overcome, but on the whole their approach to pregnancy and childbirth is relaxed with the focus on trusting your body. Whilst you will have to fight for pain relief, many midwives and hospitals are becoming more aware of foreigners needs. Postnatal care is extremely thorough…too thorough sometimes…especially if you have other children and just want to get on with it!
Read Part One Pregnancy in The Netherlands.
Read Part Two Giving Birth in The Netherlands.