1. Choose where you want to deliver
This is the most important step as you need to register in the first two months if you want to get the place you want. If you want to deliver in a public hospital, RUN to the closest one. (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.) A maternity hospital, clinic or ward is called la maternité. Spots in public hospitals are rare and private rooms are not always an option—this is because the labor and delivery are almost entirely FREE. You need to register as soon as you get the + sign on your pee stick. Don’t even bother calling the father, just get signed up at the nearest hospital. You’ll tell the dad over dinner when you know where you’ll pop this baby out. Once you’ve secured your birthing spot in the public hospital, you can consider private options.
The selection should be based on 3 things:
- The level (1, 2 or 3): The hospital’s ability to assess a risky pregnancy, a shitty delivery, a complication at birth. Level 3 is the most qualified.
- The mother’s wishes: One is very keen on c-sections; the other is pushy about natural delivery (even if the baby is going for a triple lutz and has 3 inches of cord wrapped around her ankle). One is all about the epidurals; the other not at all. For this information, it’s best to ask friends who’ve delivered for their opinions.
- The price: Private hospital costs can run up to the thousands, but the social security system will pay for part of it. Your mutuelle (additional private insurance) will likely cover the rest, but call and make sure.
Private clinics/hospitals: Sainte Isabelle in Neuilly, Sainte Felicité Paris 15, La Muette Paris 16, the American Hospital
Make an appointment (again, try for the hospital closest to home) and bring these documents with you to register:
- ID card
- Proof of address (e.g. EDF bill)
- Date of last period
- Securité sociale or CMU attestation. Ask for this at your CPAM center or via your CPAM account on ameli.fr
- Insurance/mutuelle card
- All lab results you may have, including ultrasound summaries
The difference between public hospitals and private clinics:
2. Find an obstetrician
In a public hospital, the midwife will deliver the baby unless there’s a problem, when the on-call doctor will step in. In some cases, you can hire the head of the maternity to be your private doctor. You will be charged his fees for each visit and for the delivery, but you will still have the baby in the public hospital. In a private hospital or clinic, you get a monthly appointment with the head of the department who will be at the delivery.
In a clinic, you need to ask for their list of doctors. Most gynecologists do not do deliveries so you need to ask your clinic which ob-gyns have credentials with them.
These doctors are the very best in Paris, according to my girlfriends and me. They cover the center, west and east of Paris. Otherwise, trust your instincts and make sure you feel comfortable. This doctor will be all up in your business (see below).
Dr Olivier Kadoch (super handsome, very caring and speaks English)
Dr Gilbert Sarrot
Dr Pierre-Henri Solal
Dr Francois Olivennes
In France, doctors examine you internally at every appointment. I don’t know how it goes in the US, but in the UK, your obstetrician only sees the inside of your panties on Delivery Day. Here, you get touched and palpated every month. Also, not every doctor offers a gown so don’t go to your appointments in jeans and tank top. Better to wear a dress so when you drop your underwear, you only have to lift up your skirt.
3. If you go private, find a lab (for blood work and ultrasounds) near your home
You never know when morning sickness, intense fatigue or simple laziness will strike so choose proximity to the nest. You need to have blood work done every month.
At the public hospital, you have an appointment with both the midwife and obgyn every month at the hospital. They take the urine and blood tests and do weigh-ins.
4. Go to the CPAM (securité sociale) or connect on the ameli.fr website and declare your pregnancy
You need to do this in order to have your pregnancy costs (doctor’s visits, blood work, ultrasounds, etc) covered by social security.
5. Visit the 4 crèches closest to your house
Before the sixth month of your pregnancy, go to the Mairie and get an appointment to pre-register at the RIF (Relais Informations Famille). There you tell them which crèche you would prefer. The director of the crèche must give you a tour, but only once you’ve registered. If you want to check out the premises beforehand, you’re going to have to find another, unofficial way in (e.g. ask a neighbor whose kid might be there).
6. Only if you’re unmarried
You must go to the Mairie of your arrondissement and fill out a déclaration anticipée de paternité. It basically means your partner recognizes the baby-to-be as his. Marrieds don’t need this as the husband is presumed to be the father. Doing the déclaration anticipée creates the filiation between father and child. It’s a security for the child to officially have a father and a mother—in case the couple separates during the pregnancy or, worse, if the father dies before the birth.
7. Declare the birth
You have 5 days after delivery to declare the baby’s birth at the Mairie of the arrondissement where s/he was born. You also need to declare the birth to the Securité Sociale, again on ameli.fr. Go to “Mes Démarches” then “Déclarer la naissance de mon enfant.”
- If you breastfeed, rent a pump at the nearest pharmacy with a prescription from your doctor. Social security will cover the cost for an entire year.
- My favorite brand of formula is Babybio and my favorite bottles are MAM, which are BPS- and BPA-free, and have an anti-colic version.
- Pregnant Parisiennes all head to Sauvel Natal in the 15th for the best prices on cots, strollers, high chairs and changing tables. And they’re now online!
- The stroller I wish I’d had as a traveling fashionista mum: Definitely the YOYO.
Special thanks to my amazing midwife friend, Bénédicte Zuber, who helped enormously with this information!