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Last Updated: December 12, 2023

You think you might be pregnant and you’re not sure what to do first? You probably have a lot of thoughts and questions about navigating pregnancy while living in France. Let’s cover some of the basic first few steps to take!

Photo focuses on the mid section of a woman in early pregnancy. Two hands reach around from the back to hold her belly. Her hands are placed on top of theirs.
Photo by John Looy on Unsplash

Note: This blog post is written from the perspective of a desired pregnancy. If your pregnancy is not desired or you are unsure, consult with Le Planning familial and/or a health professional who offers interruption volontaire de grossesse (IVG) so that you can better understand your options for abortion in France

1. Take a Pregnancy Test

If you’ve missed your period and suspect you might be pregnant, taking an at-home pregnancy test can be a good place to start. Called un test de grossesse in French, you can walk into any pharmacy to get one of these kits.

There are a variety of options available including early detection tests (test de grossesse précoce), digital tests (test de grossesse digital), and tests with weeks indicator (test de grossesse avec estimation de l’âge de grossesse). You might recognize some well-known brands such as Clearblue on the shelf!

Price points vary and start at a few euros for a single test. A pharmacist can help guide you to choose the best one for your situation.

Larger grocery stores in France may carry pregnancy tests. However, this is not a guarantee, particularly in bigger cities, like Paris, where space is limited. Additionally, your options will often be limited compared to going to a pharmacy.

2. Confirm Your Pregnancy Through Blood Work

At-home pregnancy tests, which use urine samples, are not 100% accurate, so blood work is done to confirm a pregnancy.

You can get a prescription (ordonnance) for a pregnancy blood test through a regular primary care physician (médecin généraliste), a midwife (sage-femme), or a gynecologist (gynécologue). They might prescribe a number of tests to be conducted with your blood sample as needed, namely hormone levels of hCG which indicate pregnancy, blood count and iron levels, and screenings for diseases and infections such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis, and toxoplasmosis. If you don’t know your blood type, this is commonly determined at this stage as well.

It is not required to obtain a prescription for this kind of blood test. However, without a prescription, you will not be reimbursed through the French healthcare system.

Find a laboratory (laboratoire d’analyse) near you through GoogleMaps or on Doctolib. Being a standard blood test, most labs will accept you on a walk-in basis. Results are usually available within a day.

📌  Note: A dating ultrasound (échographie de datation), may be proposed to you when you see your doctor to get the blood work prescription. This scan is not among the three official ultrasounds. Therefore, it is generally optional, unless certain health risk factors are at play. The écho de datation is completed early in the first trimester and can determine the number of implanted embryos, the placement of the embryo(s), the estimated start date of the pregnancy, etc. For many new parents, this first ultrasound may offer peace of mind and you can ask for a prescription for this if desired!

Two hands reaching out and holding a black and white dating sonogram, the first ultrasound that is offered in France during the first trimester of pregnancy (échographie de datation)
Photo by Jonathan Sanchez on Unsplash

3. Schedule Your First Consultation de Grossesse

The first official pregnancy appointment marks the start of your prenatal care (suivi de grossesse). This consultation is usually scheduled before the end of the first trimester, but after the pregnancy has been confirmed so that you can bring along the results of your blood work. Aim for some time in the third month of pregnancy.

➡️  Pro Tip: You’re just at the beginning of what will turn out to be a massive stack of papers related to your pregnancy. France does not maintain a shareable electronic medical record database. So, each time you see someone new for your care, it’s like starting all over with them! To facilitate sharing information with anyone who monitors your pregnancy, you’ll want to pick up supplies (like a binder… no, I’m not kidding!) and organize a dossier de grossesse to keep all your records together.

One of the most important things you’ll go over during this consultation is your medical history. It would be ideal if your partner is able to accompany you for this appointment so that they can fill in their half of the story! Additionally, a lot of basics around what you can and can’t do while pregnant are covered. This is a great time to ask questions and ask for recommendations, especially regarding maternity hospitals.

Generally a lengthy appointment of at least half an hour (and up to an hour), the duration of the consultation really depends on the health professional. There isn’t a set rule about this. Personally, I probably wouldn’t go with someone who’s only doing 15-minute appointments since there is a lot of information to go over!

➡️  Pro Tip: Some health professionals specifically refer to this appointment as the première consultation de grossesse on Doctolib. This is often to differentiate it from the monthly consultation de suivi de grossesse which may be shorter in duration.

Choosing a Health Professional to Monitor Your Pregnancy

Most women choose to be followed by a sage-femme or a gynécologue. Less commonly, prenatal care can be provided by a médecin généraliste if they offer this service. If your pregnancy is considered high-risk, you will likely need to be monitored by a gynécologue obstétricienne. As another option, you can often be seen for the entirety of your pregnancy by the maternity hospital where you choose to give birth if you feel ready to make that decision.

Just because you complete a première consultation de grossesse with a health professional doesn’t mean that you are stuck with them. If something comes up and you want to switch to a different healthcare provider, you can do that!

4. Consider Where You Want to Give Birth

In France, women can give birth in public maternity hospitals (maternités publiques) or private maternity hospitals (maternités privées / cliniques). Homebirths are not common.

There are several factors to consider when making your decision such as the location, pricing, available services, and your medical circumstances.

Maternity hospitals in France are categorized into three different levels. Level 1 is for straightforward pregnancies and deliveries while level 2 and level 3 handle higher-risk pregnancies and multiples. Level 3 in particular is the most suited for premature birth, offering intensive care for newborns. Your doctor or midwife will help you determine which facility will best meet your needs.

Private maternity hospitals most often only provide level 1 services. If something goes wrong during childbirth, they would likely send you to the nearest public maternity ward for further care.

It’s important to begin researching nearby facilities right away to see which ones best fit your wants and needs. In France, you have to register for a maternity hospital well in advance to secure a spot. Particularly in Paris, the recommendation is to fill in enrollment forms by the end of the first trimester. It’s not a big application process; they just want basic information about you and your pregnancy so that they can check if they have room and can meet your needs. You can apply for spots in multiple facilities and make your decision later when you hear back.   

5. Start Building a Community for Support and Advice

In the early stages, you might not be ready to announce your pregnancy yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the wealth of knowledge found in parent communities. Even if this is not your first child and you’re not a new parent, there’s a lot to navigate regarding pregnancy when you’re in a foreign country. Take advantage of learning from those who have already been through it!

Joining local parent communities gives you a safe space to get tips and advice as questions arise while you navigate motherhood in France. You can ask for doctor and hospital recommendations (particularly if you prefer English-speaking practitioners), gather information about childcare options, wrap your head around maternity leave, learn about government financial support, etc. It’s likely that you’ll discover insider information that you didn’t even know you needed!

There are, of course, parent groups for French families, but as an expat, you might find it more beneficial to join groups that cater to immigrants and the unique challenges that we face. Here are a couple of places where you can connect with other Anglophone moms and parents-to-be in France:

Facebook groups: English-Speaking Mums/Moms living in Paris and MUMS SPACE FRANCE Group

Message Paris: Supportive group for English-speaking families (mothers AND fathers) in and around Paris offering social meetups, informative classes & workshops, and tons of resources.

When you are ready to announce your pregnancy, you’ll already have some friendly groups where you can find other parents with whom you can grab a coffee or schedule playdates for the kids!

Pregnant in France: What to Do First
Pregnant in France: What to Do FirstPregnant in France: What to Do First
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6 thoughts on “Pregnant in France: What to Do First

  • December 8, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    Congratulations Ellen and Jonathan! So exciting! How interesting that France does not keep electronic medical records. I’m looking forward to learning more about your baby binder, lol. Also fascinating that you apply for a hospital and then choose. Quite different from my understanding of how it works in the US!

    • December 12, 2023 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks so much, Brittany 😊
      Glad you mentioned the point about the electronic medical records because I made this quite misleading in the post. Each health professional maintains their own electronic records, but while in the U.S., I might ask for a health professional to forward my file to another doctor, this is not really done here in France. When talking to some friends in the U.S., it seems their prenatal care was coordinated by just a couple of health practitioners in one or two facilities whereas during my care, I’ve seen at least 5 distinct practitioners, so they didn’t have any common records to look at. A number of them told me to create a binder! Oh, and one did hand draw a chart in front of us with a ruler and pen which was a cultural experience in and of itself, so maybe my comment about the lack of electronic records wasn’t so far off! (Yes, this chart is in the binder 😅)

      • January 16, 2024 at 4:08 am

        Wow! Congratulations!! Great post and great news as well.

        • January 21, 2024 at 9:55 am

          Thank you, Maayan 😊😊😊

  • December 11, 2023 at 9:50 am

    Great way to announce you are expecting!!! Very happy for you both, Ellen and Jonathan!

    • December 12, 2023 at 1:37 pm

      Merci beaucoup Éric !!


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