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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

pregnant in france

Little Miss's Room minutes before heading to the Hospital!
As promised here is my post about being Pregnant in France and the differences compared to the US.

Pregnancy Tests are not available everywhere.  You have to buy it from the pharmacy.  So NOT at the grocery store, convenience store, Target, Walmart etc...Also the pharmacies are also NOT like Walgreens or CVS.  They are not large with lots of aisles to browse through only healthcare products and pharmaceuticals.  The test is NOT over the counter meaning you have to ask in French (some speak English) for it (AND yes you have to ask for condoms also haha!).

Finding an English speaking OB/GYN and a reputable hospital was difficult.  I was not prepared...even though we planned this pregnancy.   After finding out I was pregnant I was in a scramble to find a doctor who could speak English and was at a hospital I wanted to deliver at.  Great planning I know!  I finally found an English speaking GYN via the US Embassy's recommendations.  She was not an OB and therefore would not deliver the baby but could get me started. 

She explained that in France they calculate the due date as the 41st week, I would need some initial lab work done to check everything, I would also need to have monthly lab work done to check for Toxoplasmosis, I had some official paperwork to fill out for the French Government and would need to perform my 12 week ultrasound.  Pretty much standard except for the monthly blood work.

Toxoplasmosis is prevalent here and they take it very seriously.  In the US it is mentioned but not a huge concern unless you have a cat in the household (and then you are not allowed to touch the kitty liter).  Here the raw fruits and veggies have traces of the parasite.  And therefore pregnant woman are told not to eat any fruits or veggies that they themselves did not wash (i.e. at restaurants!).

During this time with my GYN I had been researching hospitals and doctors.  But to no avail due to the language barrier as well as the lack of knowledge on how the French System worked.  Here the doctors can not advertise nor are there any recommendations available online.  I decided to join an English Mothers Group who had a very active Forum where I could ask these questions and find a proper doctor who could deliver our baby.

After a few weeks on their forum I realized that I should have been searching for the hospital and doctor way before conceiving.  ALL of the top hospitals have waiting lists a mile long!  I narrowed down my list for hospitals and had my husband start calling to see if they had a spot open for my approximate delivery date.  Out of the 5 hospitals we called 0 had spots open and only 2 put me on the list.  While on the bus one day my husband overheard a pregnant lady explain that you have to call the hospital and book your pregnancy before you even get a positive pregnancy test!  And to correct the date later saying the ultrasound read the baby smaller blah blah blah.  CRAZY huh?!?

After getting basically 5 rejections...I decided to go another route and find the doctor first.  I found the private practice of an OB/GYN that practiced at a hospital that was one of my top 3 favorites.  I called his private practice and asked for a new patient pregnancy appointment.  He got me in the same week.  After meeting with him I felt calm and knew I was in good hands.  He followed my care until the big day and so glad I found a great doctor and practice as his.

Visits with your doctor are monthly.  At week 37 he said he would see me in 2 weeks (39th week) and then I was induced 1 week after that (40th week).  I found that very strange because in the US you go monthly until week 28 then every other week until week 36 then weekly!

There were 3 ultrasounds that were paid for by the French System (week 12, around week 23 and around week 34) .  But my doctor had a small machine in the office so every visit I could see my baby!  I loved this ;-)

Everyone here gets a "Sage Femme'' aka Midwife who acts more like the obstetrical nurse would in the US.  BUT she can deliver you if you do not have a doctor...a doctor is not needed unless you want one.  I had a OB/GYN only because I have gestational diabetes when I am pregnant and had to be induced with my previous childs birth.  But even though I had a doctor I also got a midwife as well.  I could have been automatically assigned one via the hospital but I did not want to risk getting a non English speaking midwife.  So I opted to sign up with one in my doctors group practice.  She was excellent as well.  

Other than that it was pretty much the same for the pregnancy and tests.   Next post I will discuss delivering in France! 


  1. I've been excited about this post (just behind in my reading and commenting)...
    The World Health Organization has France listed as one of the best places for women to live in the world, and one of the main reasons was having to do with prenatal care and delivery.
    I think it's great that they date it 41 weeks... just read an article about how the US is having so many inductions right at 39/40 weeks which was resulting in more C sections and more babies with breathing issues because they were pre term.
    Interesting :)

  2. Hi! Thanks for your great post. Super informative. I'm an America who has been living just outside of Paris for a year and I'm 8 wks pregnant. I'd love to find an English speaking doctor in my area so my French hubby doesn't have to tag along to every appointment. Would you mind sharing the name of your doctor(s) and/or hospital? Merci beaucoup!

  3. Nancy message me at and i will send it to you. He is in Paris center.