Sign me up for a Kraamverzorgster!
The midwives of the Netherlands are proud to have the highest rate of home births in the world, being that 30 percent of all births happen at home. The rest of births are mostly at birthing centers with only a small portion occurring in hospitals. The out-of-hospital birth is generally the default option for pregnant people in the Netherlands, but if pregnancies are deemed to be high-risk, then a birth person might be referred to a gynecologist. Once assessed by the gynecologist, they may often still suggest a homebirth, assuming that after a few check-ins and careful monitoring, their risks remain low. In any case, a midwife would be responsible for checkups until labor and will lead the birth in or out of the hospital.
The viewpoint in the Netherlands, shared by Midwifery Care NYC, is that childbirth is not a medical condition. Pregnant people are not to be treated as patients, but instead, clients. They also typically steer away from medical pain-relief and instead offer many prenatal courses and put an emphasis on more natural pain-relief methods such as yoga.
Unique to the Netherlands is the help of a Kraamverzorgster. This is a professional, similar to a midwife or doula, who is involved in all phases of the birth process. Their role is to help set up the home for the homebirth, be present during the birth to support the midwife, and to come to the home of the birth person for 8-10 days (this range can be doubled for having given birth to multiples) to help with things around the house and make sure that everything is going smoothly with life adjusting to having a newborn. The Kraamverzorgster will even have constant communication with the midwife during this postpartum period. This service is included in most standard health care packages in the Netherlands.
It is evident that the overall dedication to the agency of the birth person is very much present in the Netherlands. Their overall maternal death rate is half that of the U.S., so they are an example to follow!
Written by Gabrielle Cappelletti, the intern.