On & Poppin’: Netherlands

• When a baby is born, they are celebrated by eating anise-flavored blue or pink colored sprinkles (called “muisjes” which means “little mouse” and they actually look a lot like mouse droppings!) on a cracker (beschuit) that is first smeared with butter (seen above)

• At 34 weeks most women stop working and their official maternity leave starts – expectant mothers take 6 weeks off while they are pregnant and then another 10 weeks once the baby is born (this is 100% fully paid leave). After a woman’s maternity leave is over, she can request a longer (unpaid) leave with her employer and it is very common for women to go back to work part-time.

• When a woman finds out she is pregnant and has a normal, low-risk pregnancy, she is seen by a midwife that is generally close to her home. Only women with high-risk pregnancies, previous caesareans or possible complications are generally seen by gynaecologists.

• If a baby is breech, the Netherlands has a very confident approach that these deliveries can be done naturally without the need for a caesarean. In general the rate of caesareans (14%) in the Netherlands is quite low in comparison to other industrialized countries

• Once a baby is born, a mother has a service unique to the Netherlands – a Maternity Nurse (kraamzorg) – this nurse visits the new mother and baby to check on them and their progress. This Maternity Nurse also assists the family with small chores around the house (even a trip to the supermarket is not unheard of), prepares simple meals and gives the mother support in breastfeeding her baby. When a woman is a first-time mother, this Maternity Nurse is a vital part of postpartum care and women generally use the full 8 days, 3-5 hours per day that is allotted to them (and paid for) by their insurance company

• It is very common for women in the Netherlands to give birth at home (about 30%). There is a common belief in the Netherlands that birth is a very natural process that can be done safely at home with highly skilled midwives who are very experienced in these types of births that give mothers a feeling of safety and security.

• Pain medication, or epidurals, are uncommon in the Netherlands as there is a belief that birth is a natural process that women’s bodies are meant to handle with very little intervention. It is possible to arrange for an epidural prior to a delivery, but anaesthesiologists work on a limited schedule so it is possible when you go into labor the anaesthesiologist may not be there to provide relief which is a surprise to many non-Dutch women in labor.