Having a baby in the Netherlands means a minimal level of scans, tests and interference. But is this a good or a bad thing?
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Oxford Dictionary: Re|assur¦ance [MASS NOUN] The action of removing someone’s doubts or fears
I imagine first-time parents are the most anxious of them all. This assumption is based on precisely no scientific data. But my instinct is, the second time round (if there’s a second), the familiarity of it all will make my husband and I more relaxed.
Expectant parents seek ongoing positive reassurance about the health of their baby. During my latest childbirth preparation class, we were divided into small groups and encouraged to share our concerns for our pregnancy / birth. In my group, with most women around the 30 week mark, the lengthy gap between the 20 week scan and the birth itself was raised. The consensus was that we’d like to see our babies on a screen just one more time to feel confident in their wellbeing.
Countries vary in their proclivity for testing. The Netherlands sits at the hands-off end of the scale. Healthy Mums-to-be are given:
- 1 or 2x scans around 12 weeks to confirm the baby’s existence and to test for certain congenital conditions (if requested)
- 1x scan at 20 weeks for a full anatomy check
- Midwife appointments every four weeks, reducing to three then two in the third trimester. Checks include blood pressure and baby’s heartbeat, then measuring your bump with a tape measure from 30 weeks to estimate size and growth rate
- An initial blood analysis, including iron levels. A repeat of the iron test at 30 weeks
Tests you don’t get, whose existence I’m reliably informed of by friends from other countries, include scans between 12-20 weeks, scans after 20 weeks, or gestational diabetes. In the interests of fair representation, if the midwives think something is unusual they will arrange extra checks.
Typically in the Netherlands, every pregnancy complaint is considered “fine” or “to be expected”. Last midwife visit I mentioned my extreme tiredness and excessive growth compared to the previous 30 weeks. The response was the standard confirmation – “that’s very normal”.
For many of my course mates, hailing from every corner of the world, the relaxed Dutch approach is viewed as positive and even comforting in its lack of drama, but falling just short of their ideal input. Consequently, many have paid for extra scans, or even sneaked some extra tests during trips to their home country.
It’s great not to treat pregnant women a medical concern. But just a little more information could go a long way. Yes, everyone likes to know that their little niggles are nothing more. But I’d have liked to know what normal / abnormal growth looks like. Maybe stick me on some weighing scales and throw some stats at it. I think this small step further is all the Dutch need for their approach to be spot on.
What’s everyone else’s experience of pregnancy checks and tests? Did you feel like you had too much, too little or just right? And what was a typical response to your questions or concerns?