You may know that the Dutch have a reputation for being among the happiest people alive. According to the 2018 UN World Happiness Report, The Netherland is ranked as the 6th happiest country in the world.
After a recent visit to the Netherlands, I have some more understanding of their culture and what contributes to their positivity. Everyone I met was so incredibly friendly.
In particular, I was most interested in their support network in maternity care. The Dutch have a unique approach towards care during birth and postpartum. For a start, the Dutch have the highest homebirth rate in the world!
The Birth centre in Amsterdam
I was privileged to visit a beautiful birth centre in Amsterdam (Het Geboortecentrum) and to also see the postpartum hotel. I met with a friendly midwife, Rachel, who showed me the homely birth rooms with big birthing tubs and comfy beds. At the birth/postpartum hotel, there is a midwife available at all times so that new parents can have help with their new baby at any time of the day or night.
Many women choose to birth at home or the birth centre and the local hospital also has nice birthing rooms if women prefer to birth there.
Having a baby is significant
We are starting to understand how significant the transition from pregnancy to birth and postpartum is, and why it’s important to have the right support during this life-changing experience. New mothers need all the support they can get, especially in the early days postpartum.
There should be more of a reverence and respect for the postpartum time. We need to acknowledge that the time after birth is a time of recuperation and regeneration. Postpartum is a huge transition for the mother and her family. Having guidance and support helps everyone to feel calmer and happier.
In the Netherlands, they recognise how profound this time is and they have a system in place to support families. The best bit? This special postnatal service is available to everyone as part of their standard health care. It is the norm to have extra care after you have a baby. On a societal level, there is an acknowledgment that the birth of a baby is a significant event.
Everyone gets special postpartum support
In Dutch ‘Kraamzorg’ refers to the postpartum time. In the Netherlands a postpartum service allows families dedicated support during the first eight days after they have their baby. A Kraamverzorgster is a maternity nurse that visits the new family in their home and helps with caring for the mother and baby, doing checks, providing breastfeeding support, cleaning and meal preparation. She typically visits the family every day for 3-8 hours a day. This makes the transition during the first week so much more gentle.
This extra support allows the mother more time for rest and recovery and also gives her time to adjust to her new role. This in-home support also helps the family to feel more knowledgeable and empowered to parent the way they feel is best. It seems that the Dutch are adjusting to parenthood better than many.
Honouring the journey that the mother is on goes a long way to helping create healthier societies. When lovingly supported, this transformation is a positive experience which effects not only the children, but the society as a whole.