Labour and Delivery
What to expect from labour and delivery, your hospital stay, and how to register your baby.
Labour and Delivery
The following information is based on a typical hospital birth in France.
If you have arranged a planned C-section, you will have a pre-arranged date and time to arrive at the hospital for your surgery and the birth of your baby.
If you opt for a vaginal birth and you plan to go into labour spontaneously, you will discuss with your midwife or doctor in advance at what stage of labour you should head to the hospital, normally when contractions are becoming more intense and regular. This will vary depending on your pregnancy, your proximity to the hospital etc. If you experience the onset of labour and are not sure what to do, call your hospital for advice.
On arrival at the hospital you will be examined to determine how far along your labour has progressed. Again, please note that it is your right to refuse vaginal examinations if you are not comfortable with them. Depending on how far along you are you may be admitted to the hospital or straight to the labour and delivery suite. If your contractions are irregular or losing strength, you may be given synthetic oxytocin. This must be with your informed consent and you have the right to decline.
Depending on which hospital you are giving birth at, there may or may not be labour aids available including, but not limited to; birthing balls, a bath/birthing pool, dimmed lighting and relaxing music. You will most likely be attached to an external foetal monitor to monitor the baby's heart rate. This can restrict your movement and positioning. If this is something you do not wish to have, it is your right to refuse.
Epidurals are very commonly used in France; rates are up to 80% in some hospitals. Gas and air is often not available, which will come as a surprise to those who have given birth in the UK. Discuss pain relief options in advance with your midwife or doctor to gain a better understanding of the options available at your particular hospital.
If the pregnancy and labour has been complication free, then it is likely that the midwife will be the one to facilitate delivery. However if there are some issues, a gynaecologist or obstetrician-gynaecologist will be present. Forceps or a vacuum extractor (ventouse) may be prescribed to aid the delivery. It is also possible that an episiotomy (an incision in the birthing person's perineum) will be carried out. Again, these interventions should only take place with your full understanding and consent.
When the baby is born, should you wish, the birthing partner is usually able to cut the umbilical cord (a pause is encouraged to allow transfer of the blood remaining in the cord to the baby). The midwives will assist you during the birth of the placenta. Depending on the birth and whether or not you had surgery, your baby will typically remain with you for skin-to-skin time, and will not be separated from you unless medically necessary. Skin-to-skin with the birthing partner will be encouraged if the birthing person has to be taken to recovery.
Staying in Hospital
It is standard practice for you and your baby to remain in the hospital for 4 days after giving birth. You will receive a record book for recording when the baby feeds, pees and poops. It is important to keep this updated so that the doctors can confirm that the baby is healthy and that there are no issues. Within 24 hours of the birth the baby will also receive a comprehensive physical review from a paediatrician. Another appointment with the paediatrician is also required within the first 8 days.
It may be possible for your partner to stay overnight with you in the hospital. Mutual health insurance plans will often reimburse you for the price of a 'cot' for your partner to sleep on. In many hospitals there will be an option for the baby to be taken to the nursery and looked after overnight by midwives while the parents sleep. This may not be ideal for everyone, particularly if you are trying to establish breastfeeding, and of course it is your right to refuse the offer.
Depending on the hospital, you should receive support during your stay with breastfeeding if you wish. Some hospitals provide better support in this respect than others. Breastfeeding rates in France are among the lowest in Europe. There are also many supportive services and resources that you can source independently from home, which are covered in the Postnatal Resources section.
Registering your Baby
The hospital will often provide the necessary paperwork for declaring the birth (déclaration de naissance) and submit it on your behalf to the local Mairie (mayor's office). It's compulsory to declare the birth within 3 working days. Registration is free.
The registrar will complete a birth certificate for your baby (extract d'act de naissance). You can request a copy of this through the French Public Service website. Non-French citizens should also register their baby’s birth at their home consulate after giving birth in France.
Any child born to at least one parent who is a French national has automatic French nationality (whether born in France or not). A child born in France where neither parent is French may request French nationality when they are 18 if they are resident in France.