Birth in the Netherlands

Birth practices in the Netherlands show us how what people accept as “normal” differs around the world.

Most expectant moms in Holland see midwives rather than obstetricians during their pregnancy and many deliver at home. All expectant mothers in Holland are required to pick up a “kraampakket” that includes all of the medical supplies necessary for a home birth, and even if you choose a hospital delivery, your midwife will make a house call to check on the progress of your labor and help you decide when it’s time to go.

Doctors only intervene in high-risk cases or if complications arise during delivery. Fewer epidurals are given, and mothers without complications are released from the hospital within hours. 

But you don’t return home alone: Dutch insurance covers a home nurse for the first week after your birth, who provides medical care as well as support with cooking and cleaning while teaching you basic parenting skills. The nurse also manages visitors, and makes the traditional snack to celebrate a birth: “beschuit met muisjes,” which literally translates as "biscuits with mice." The "mice" are actually miniature licorice bits with blue-and-white coating for boys, pink-and-white for girls. As we move toward recognizing gender fluidity, I wonder if we can get those licorice bits in rainbow shades?