How America Can Adopt Netherlands’ Gracious Maternity Health Care
America doesn’t exactly have the best track record for postnatal healthcare. Most obviously seen through their outlook on maternity leave, it’s hard to believe that one of the richest countries in the world doesn’t give new mothers paid time off. And even more astonishingly, it’s the only country of its kind, developed and all, that chooses not to. Sure, Bill Clinton signed The Family and Medical Leave Act 25 years ago that gave eligible workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their child. But not getting paid will leave a woman with less money to care for their baby. The first few months of diapers, clothes, breastfeeding equipment (if you choose to do so), all add up over time.
What people often forget, is that new mothers also need to care for themselves, too. And if employed mothers are not being compensated for literally continuing the human race who in turn will be paying taxes one day (Mr. President I’m talking to you!), why on earth would the government deprive us of basic human needs? Should America finally decide to follow in the footsteps of other post-pregnancy healthcare trailblazers, they can look to the Netherlands as their model. The European country has gone where no other country has gone before in this regard. Mothers have three months of paid leave after giving birth and new dads have up to one week. See how they take new momhood very seriously (as one should!) and how we can learn from them, below.
Natural Prenatal Care is All the Rage
Interestingly, the old picturesque houses that adorn the country are filled with 25% home-births — the highest rate in the industrialized world. So as you could imagine, birth is treated naturally. And as such, pre-birth care is also treated naturally. “Childbirth is not a medical condition and pregnant women should not be treated as patients,” one expat writes about the Netherlands’ viewpoint on pregnancy. Because The Dutch believe in natural births, they also believe in natural methods of pain management. They highly encourage moms-to-be to incorporate prenatal yoga into their daily routine which can significantly ease pain in the delivery room. In America, women are used to seeing their gynecologist. In the Netherlands, it is recommended to register with a midwife between 8 and 10 weeks of pregnancy and schedule your first appointment between 9 and 12 weeks of pregnancy. They administer the tests, ultrasounds, and hold your hand through it all. The only time a gynecologist intervenes is if there are complications during your pregnancy.
An Encouraged Postnatal Rehabilitation Routine
The American government spits you right back into the world after giving birth, as if your vagina just took a stroll through the park. I’ve never given birth, but the way I imagine it is more like a marathon. Women need to equally acclimate their minds and their bodies to a new normal, which consists of rehabilitating their pelvic floor and caring for their mental well-being. Oh and *on top of that* they have to care for a newborn — a blob of cacophonous sounds that doesn’t know its left from its rights or its feet from its hands. There is so much to get used to during those first few months that even 12 weeks doesn’t seem like enough time off from work.
Nina Helms, sexual health educator and founder of SHE Intimate Fitness™, says that in the past (and even now) American women would brave through the side effects of giving birth and going through menopause. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “In the Netherlands when women have babies they are automatically put into a postpartum routine to rehabilitate their vaginas and their pelvic floors so that they could lead healthy normal lives. In America it doesn’t happen; it’s not talked about; it’s not offered. But it’s really important,” she explains. Yes, women need to re-educate their pelvises so they can prevent urinary accidents. Thankfully, Pre and postnatal pelvic physiotherapy is covered by most Dutch insurances.
The Kraamverzorgster (Maternity Nurse) Service
New moms can expect a special maternity nurse after giving birth called a kraamverzorgster that comes to their home for up to eight hours a day, for eight days. This incredible service covered by most health insurances teaches new moms how to care for their child and for themselves during this draining adjustment period. “She was always telling me to rest, taught me how to breastfeed properly, prepared delicious and healthy fruit salads for me, and soon knew which tea I liked best. She took my two older kids for walks and went shopping for me,” says Olga Mecking, a mother of three living in the Netherlands. Kraamverzorgster’s can also stay longer if you’re an expat or a single mother.
Women outside of the Netherlands could only dream of having a midwife that cares for them and their baby’s every need after birth. Hopefully, in our lifetime, we’ll see paid maternity leave and more progressive policies about childbirth take effect in America.