Childbirth in Brussels, Belgium (for an Expat)

From my earlier post on Brussels Museums or if you've been following my other blog, Fashion Panache, you'd know that I recently became a mommy! I moved to Belgium, halfway through my pregnancy and gave birth to my Atyudarini here... The number of paperwork that we had to do was a bit overwhelming, being a new place and all! Also since French & Dutch are the national languages here, not knowing those was a severe handicap. Some works got lagged because we didn't know the exact list of things to do. So here's the step by step if you're planning to deliver your baby in Belgium.....
So, this is the point of view and experience of a married Indian couple in Belgium. This is applicable to most Asian expats in Belgium. Minor variations between different communes can be expected. 

Before & After Chilbirth

1. Get your residence cards asap. If you're in 1000 Brussels commune it would take at least about 3 months. You need the passports, work permit and rental agreement for it. Annexe 15 is given as a temporary id which can be renewed for €10 as it expires till the chip card arrives.
2. Mutuality/Mutuelle is the social security concept of Belgium. Everyone here is a part of some mutuality firm (partena, solidaris, christian etc). You pay a small amount (about €50 quarterly for a family) and mutuality takes care of most hospital expenses. Childbirth here costs about €2500-3000. Unless you're covered by some other insurance (or you're super rich) you may want to enrol yourself with some Mutuality.
3. Unlike India, where revealing the gender of the child is a punishable offence (due to preferential abortion in favour of a male child which was rampant about 3 decades back), here it isn't. So the doctors will tell you the gender. Decide on baby's name, coz you have to mention it in hospital soon after he/she's born. You'll not be discharged unless you name the child! So if you don't decide prior, you effectively have about 2-3 days to decide post-delivery. The child is tagged with the mother's name. Initially, in papers, they'll write her/his given name with mother's surname. (This may sound weird for many, but India is a culturally diverse nation and the surname of a child varies from dad's first name to family name to house name to caste name and so many more!).
4. Update 2020:  Apply for the child support cash allowance. To do that, first open a bank account (individual or joint) in the name of the mother of the child. Belgium has a one-time maternity benefit (about €1200 for the first child and about  €500 for the 2nd child) called Allocations de Naissance and a monthly child benefit (about €120) called Allocations Familiales. You can apply for it when you're pregnant or after your child is born. 
Since Jan 2020, these 2 are now open to all residents which means even if you're not a citizen, if you hold a residency permit (all types - 1 year, 3 years, permanent), you're eligible to apply for a maternity allowance & monthly child benefit. If you live in Brussels, check the website of Famiris or Kidslife to apply. It is handled by Groeipakket in Flanders & Aviq in Wallonia.
5. At the hospital, after delivery, a paper is provided for birth registration purposes specifying both parents full names & the baby's name (given name & mother's surname).
6. Go to Indian Embassy with that sheet (child need not be present) and get a letter saying that you'd like to name your baby so & so, mentioning the given name and surname. This letter is a necessity, no matter what you name your baby! This is because they have to make sure that the name is legally acceptable in India. You'll have to go twice to the Indian Embassy. Once in the morning (9:30 to 11:30) to request and once in the evening (4:00 to 4:45) to collect the letter. This is priced at €23.
7. Go to a sworn translator and get that letter translated to French. It need not be court attested, just a sworn translator's sign & stamp is enough. This cost me €55. Online translations will not be accepted. 
Update Jul 2020: Some communes do not ask for this letter from the embassy anymore, incl. Evere. So steps 6 & 7 may be skipped.  

Babymoon in Brussels

8. With parents passports, residence cards, marriage certificate (all originals), hospital paper, original Embassy letter and sworn translation, go to commune within 15 days for birth declaration. Some hospitals (In Brussels its Brugmann Hospital, Saint-Jean Clinic or St. Pierre Hospital) provide the facility to declare birth in their own premises. You have to be accompanied by someone who knows French if you don't know the language. All the forms and papers are in French. To even check whether all details are correct, you'll need to know or have someone besides who knows French! If you're lucky they may not ask for the French translation of the Marriage Certificate, if you aren't.......
9. You'll get the birth certificate (Naissance - Copie d'Acte) then & there, which is in French. Request for the International birth certificate which will have English. That's also given immediately. Along with this 3 other papers are given - 1 for Mutuelle (if you have one), 1 for Vaccination (to be submitted to ONE or K&G (more details in point 13) and 1 for Allocations Familiale (as mentioned in point 4)
10. 3 weeks after this, the baby's ID card called 'Certificat d'identité' can be collected in the commune. This requires a Schengen specification photograph of the baby. Either of the parents' residence card has to be shown to collect this and the baby has to be present. This isn't a smart card but a small thick paper print with a photograph and an embossed seal. This doesn't have the nationality as of now!
11. In the meantime with the International birth certificate, parents' passport & residence cards you can apply for passport and birth registration cum citizenship at the Indian Embassy website (that's 2 different forms). An appointment can be fixed at the end of the application form submission. Indian passport size photo of the baby has to be taken. The baby needs to be present while submitting the documents and the baby's thumb impression is taken. For the application of a new passport for a newborn baby, both the parents' passports must have each other's names in the spouse field.  If there isn't, you'll have to apply for your passports renewal too at that time to add the spouse name. Parents' and the newborn's passport are processed simultaneously. It takes about a month for the passports to get ready, which has to be collected at the embassy and will not be sent to any address. (The child does not get Belgian citizenship through birth. It can be availed only if one of the parents is a Belgian citizen or have been residing in Belgium for at least 5 years in the 10 years prior to the child's birth).
12. Once you get the baby's passport to take it back to the commune and get the new ID card. This is exactly the same as the old ID card but has the nationality mentioned (till 12 yrs of age, the ID card is like this and not a chip or smart card).
13. Enroll the child with ONE (French) or Kind & Gazen (Dutch) - they will get in touch with you at the hospital soon after delivery. These 2 are childcare organizations in Belgium. If you know any of the 2 languages you can proceed with them, otherwise, for an outsider, there's no difference between the 2. I decided based on which is closer to my place and who can assist with an English speaking doctor in that office. These organizations are free of cost and take care of all vaccinations for the child. The vaccines list is almost similar to India except for BCG which is missing here.

Childbirth in Belgium for Indians

UPDATE Feb 2020: I'm often asked 2 more questions which I would like to add here...
14. Breastfeeding: Being breastfeeding friendly is an up & coming concept in Belgium. While several paediatricians and the general public are normally supportive, the importance of 'colostrum' and helping moms immediately after childbirth to breastfeed, is 'NOT' common! If you're particular about breastfeeding, do your research to find doctors/hospitals that support you by asking fellow moms in your locality - BCT Facebook group is a good place to begin.
15. Creche/Daycare/Babysitter: Creches in Belgium are of 2 types - private & public. It is a bit easier to get a place in private creches immediately. However, it is expensive - around €25 for half a day or €1400/month for 5 full days. 
Public creches in Belgium are excellent as well. They are controlled by ONE or K&G, so are subsidized. The price is pretty economical and depends on the family income. The maximum (if both parents are earning very high incomes) goes is up to €29 per day! For eg., for a monthly family income of €3500, daily-rate is priced at (42000*0.000385), €16.66 and for €5000, it is (60000*0.000380), €22.80. However, they have a very long waiting list! Mostly people inscribe in a creche when they're 5-6 months pregnant! You 'may' get a place if done so early, and/or if there's a special situation like you're attending language/integration course via BAPA or Actiris etc. The inscription can be done by actually visiting the creches nearby (the list can be found on the commune's website) or via the websites of ONE/K&G. 
Keep in mind: Definitely, you will not get a place in a public creche if you apply after the child is 2yrs old because schooling here starts at 2.5yrs!
A piece of special advice to stay-at-home Indian moms/dads: Kindly do not underestimate the need for creche! It is generally possible without a creche in India coz help is pretty much close-by, through your parents and maids etc. Taking care of a child 24x7, for 3 yrs, alone, can be very taxing and a bit lonely as well. 2-3 half-days per week from 1-1.5yrs is not too bad (though your family & friends back home may say otherwise!).....
Anyways if you do need on & off help with child-care, babysitters are a good option. They are generally students of the local universities who can take care of your baby for a few hours with an hourly payment (around €8-12 per hour). B-Sit app is a good place to look for one!


P.S: 
Pic 1a - Outfit details, Location: Leuven Beguinage
Pic 1b - Outfit details
Pic 2 - Outfit details, Location: Mini Europe with Atomium in the background
Pic 3 - Outfit details, Location: Cinquantenaire Museum

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

22 comments:

  1. Belated congratulations. What a lovely surprise I got. I have been away from blogging for a few weeks so it was nice to see your photos.

    My goodness it does seem an almighty palaver sorting all that out. As if you didn't have enough to do when you've had a baby!

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    1. Thank you so much Winifred! Your comments always bring a smile to me!!! :)

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  2. Congratulations on your new little one!! I find this all fascinating--in the USA things are done differently than either India or Belgium, so this is a double whammy of interesting cultural takeaways for me lol. I imagine it was a stressful experience to go through prenatal care & labor/delivery somewhere that you don't speak the language--but what a story to tell your little one in the future!

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  3. Many congratulations to you dear. I can imagine how arduous it would have been giving birth to a child in a different country where you dont evwn know the language. I am glad you gave through. You look beautiful in the pictures. And thats quite an extensive guide for to be mommys in Belgium. Wish you good luck

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  4. Congrats on your new journey, Atyudarini is a beautiful name. We had no idea that giving birth in Belgium is such a hassle for expats. These tips are definitely gonna help someone moving to Belgium for their delivery, it must have been really a tough time for you.

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  5. Congratulations 💐!
    Very useful information. Thanks a lot.

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  6. Awesome news dear. Congratulations on becoming a mommyyy.. But it is even more commendable that you started travelling with the kiddo already. My brother and siblings live in Brussels are will give the posts reference to them.

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  7. Congratulations for entering into the new world of motherhood. I loved your little one's name. The hassles you have faced in Belgium to get registered your baby and making a new passport looks tough but you have described it in detail. This post will ease other people's life to know the whole legal procedure after giving birth in Belgium. Very soon we will be seeing you and your little one enjoying traveling around the world.

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  8. This was so informative! My fiance is from another country, so we've debated living abroad and possibly moving while pregnant, so I could really relate to your struggles. I love how you incorporated India's practices as well as Belgium's for a fuller review and insight on how the process really works. Congrats on your new babe!

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  9. Congrats on ur new born.. This is such an informative and nice post... Happy parenting!

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  10. Oh wow I didn't realise how much there was to sort out prior to having a baby in another country. This is really informative for other people. Congratulations on your lovely little one :)

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  11. Oh wow I didn't know that there's such thing as punishing offense when stating the gender of the child in India. That's so interesting! Thanks also for sharing all your tips here. I may not be able to use them since I won't be in the same case but I may encounter some who will.

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  12. Superb! Congratulations. Lots of love to your kiddo. This is such an informative post. I am sure there were lot of things that you had to research and experience for yourself but you have made it easier for other Indian couples who will become parents in Belgium.

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  13. Sounds like you had a great experience giving birth! That is super detailed and helpful to know! I had no idea gender revealing was punishable in India. Things are so different for every country.

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  14. Congrats on your little one. It's nice to see that expats have good benefits too. This processes really help you on your pregnancy.

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  15. Congrats on the baby! And a minor correction: being member of a mutuality (thus having social security) is actually obligatory in Belgium.

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    1. Well, its obligatory only if you're in a Belgian pay roll (or own a business registered in Belgium). If you're only a resident here and pay taxes somewhere else, it isn't obligatory!

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  16. I did wonder how you planned and managed your delivery in a new country which speaks a language that you did not know. Hats off to you and Venket for pulling it off

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  17. Hi there! Thank you for posting this! I am an expat in Belgium, due next year. Your post was so informative! Quick question for you - did you sign up for a mutuelle or did you have private insurance? I’m trying to figure out the cost of the birth and such and am at the beginning of what seems like a long road of research.

    Thank you and congrats!

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    1. Hi Krista! Congratulations... I had a private insurance and was not enrolled in mutuelle. The cost is about €3500 at the very max (normally €2500-€3000) as informed to me by the hospital staff where I delivered!

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  18. Oh I realy love the way u sound it,am here in Belgium just gave birth.I come from Kenya....and I realy need to know you more.coz I realy need someone who can stand by me.

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  19. Thank you very much for the detailed listing. My daughter was born in Brussels last week and I followed literally each and every step of yours to get the birth certificate. Much appreciated!!!

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