If you are going to give birth in a medical facility in France, choosing one can be overwhelming at first, and depend on your health insurance or even your obstetrician. Once you decide, you should get to know your facility so you know what to expect and what to bring. Public vs. private hospitals for example, can vary a lot in what is provided. Additionally, if this is not your first birth but first in France, you still need to know what to expect, as the facility might be different than your previous country's. For instance, in France, it is common to keep birth mothers a few days after birth for recovery.
Here are some questions to get you familiar with maternity facilities:
Payment and cost
• Is the facility fully or partially reimbursed by social security?
• How much will a routine delivery and stay cost?
• What are the charges for extras, private room, and television?
• Do they expect any payments in advance?
• What type of medical insurance does the facility accept? (If you have private insurance in another country, be sure to discuss the coverage in detail with your insurer and find out exactly what documentation they will require from the hospital, doctor and other medical professionals before they will pay. Then discuss your insurance requirements
with the hospital to make sure that the necessary documents will be supplied.)
Services and Facilities Available
• What category is the facility?
• Do they have English-speaking doctors, midwives, nursery
nurses (puéricultrices) or pediatricians?
• Is there a premature baby or neonatal unit on-site; if not, where would the baby be cared for and can you be transferred too (if necessary)?
• Do they have equipment to help you pump breastmilk for a premature baby?
• What are the hospital security measures for authorized people?
• How long can you expect to stay in the hospital after the birth?
• Do they offer instruction on how to care for the baby (changing diapers, bathing and
umbilical cord care)?
• Does the hospital provide diapers, sanitary towels, breast pads, etc?
• How does one set up physiotherapy after birth?
• Can partners stay overnight in your room and have meals provided?
• Do they offer any prenatal classes (in evenings?) and do these include a tour of the facilities?
• Who are the visiting hours for: partners; siblings (can siblings under 14 years old visit at all?); family members or friends?
• Are the washing and toilet facilities private or shared?
• Are there bedside telephones, televisions, or wifi?
• Are you allowed to have flowers in your room?
As the idea of a “birth plan” does not strictly exist in France, you may wish to probe the facility in depth about its policies and medical procedures.
• Are women permitted to give birth in the labour room (salle de travail) or must all births take place in the delivery room (salle d’accouchement)? Or do labour and delivery take place in the same room?
• Is giving birth without medication encouraged?
• Are women allowed to be out of bed during labour?
• Can you choose your own position for birth?
• Do midwives deliver the baby?
• Are partners permitted to be with the woman throughout labour and delivery? If they are away, can a friend be present?
• In the case of a cesarean, planned or emergency, can the partner be present during the
• What routines and tests are there for the baby directly after the birth?
• Is your own private pediatrician permitted to examine the baby?
• Can the baby stay in your room day and night?
• If you are tired, can the baby stay in the nursery?
• If breastfeeding, are there staff trained to help you get started? How soon after the birth can you start, can you feed on demand, can you insist the baby is fed only breastmilk day and night?
• Where can one rent a hospital-grade breast pump?
• What methods of pain relief are available during labour?
• What laboring equipment is offered? Are birthing pools available?
• Do they routinely give women an intravenous solution?
• Do they use electronic fetal monitoring? If so, is it used for the entire labour or only periodically?
• How frequently are episiotomies done?
• What is the percentage of cesarean births in the hospital/clinic?
Did we miss anything? Tell us below, or let us know what questions you are glad you asked before delivering a baby in France! This article was originally published in 'The ABC's of Parenting in Paris' -curated by our members, and filled with insiders' tips and practical information. As part of our drive towards greater sustainable practices, the book is no longer available in print form. This article was updated for 2023 by Annie Kamp.
Message cannot be held responsible for any information contained in or omitted from this article.