It was a highly exciting time for me and my husband when I became pregnant in 2017.
Like any new experience, there was a whole host of things to think about and plan.
Coming from the U.K, my experience was limited to that of my close friends who had experienced giving birth under the NHS.
I had heard that there were many differences when giving birth in the Netherlands. For example, home births were still very common, with an average of 25% of women opting to have their baby at home. Also in the Netherlands, all women have a kraamzorg , which is a medical service where postnatal care is provided to a new mother and her baby in the initial 8 to 10 days immediately after birth. This is a fantastic service which is covered by individual health insurance.
The first thing that I had to do was to look for a local midwife practice. A friend of mine from the U.K had mentioned that she was really happy with the care and support that she received from the Verloskundigen Praktijk Oostelijke Eilanden which is based in the east of Amsterdam.
I gave the practice a call when I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant, and I was booked in for my first appointment around the 10th week of my pregnancy (which is typical in the Netherlands).
The 5-week wait for the first appointment felt like an eternity! Knowing that I was pregnant but feeling concerned that something could go wrong at such an early stage was nerve-racking. So when my appointment came around on my 10th week of pregnancy I was very happy to be met by genuinely warm and enthusiastic staff at the practice.
The first appointment involved one of the midwives asking questions about my general health and wellbeing, my blood pressure was taken and I was given lots of information about how to have a healthy pregnancy.
My biggest concerns about giving birth in a foreign country were the unfamiliar processes and practices, and not being able to communicate with the staff in English.
Whilst I do have some understanding of Dutch, I am not comfortable when it comes to medical terms. I was therefore relieved that all the employees at the practice felt comfortable to speak in English. The staff also explained about how the practice worked and went into more detail about the process in the Netherlands.
During the first visit, they also discuss with you whether or not a prenatal examination is recommended (NIPT, combination test, 20 week ultrasound, or invasive diagnostics, if you are eligible), and about making your first (term) ultrasound.
The checkups at the practice are scheduled to take place at week 14, 20, 24, 28, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40 and, if necessary, in week 41.
Admittedly, I was a bit nervous during my first trimester of pregnancy, firstly because my belly was really very small – I didn’t visibly show until I was about 5 months pregnant. Initially, I had thought about buying a doppler to listen to the heartbeats at home, but the midwife assured me that from week 12- 22 I could also attend their walk-in heart monitoring sessions on any Tuesday between 4:30 – 5:00pm. Heatbeat Tuesdays I started to call them!
As a first time mum in her mid-30s, I was a bit apprehensive about a few unusual symptoms that I was presented with. There were a few occasions where I debated about calling the midwife practice – I was reassured each time that I could call them (also on their emergency number) if I was concerned. This was a big relief for me, just to feel that I wasn’t being a nuisance and that they genuinely cared.
Also, if and where more appointments were needed, its possible to call up to book this – often within a short time frame.
I can’t say enough good things about the practice at Oostelijke Eilanden. As an expat mum with lots of questions and concerns, I felt reassured at every appointment, and it was a big relief to know that I could make contact with them 24/7 on their mobile number.
As I approach the end of my pregnancy at week 35, I feel confident and happy that one of these wonderful midwives will be there during the most important and significant time of my life.
In the words of the VPOL:
Our mission: To guide you through your pregnancy from a place of trust, and help you give birth in the manner you prefer. Reliable, down-to-earth, involved and progressive: this is who we are.
For more information, you can view their website; http://vpoe.nl