Women's healthcare in the Netherlands
Discover the women’s healthcare resources available for international newcomers and residents. We will guide you through the gynaecology, pregnancy and birth support systems in place. Read on to find out you what national preventive health checks you can expect.
Seeing a gynaecologist in the Netherlands
To see a gynaecologist in the Netherlands, you need to have health insurance (zorgverzekering) and be registered with a GP (huisarts) who will refer you for an appointment. There are very few private practices for gynaecologists, so if you have private insurance, you can change your gynaecologist after your family doctor makes a referral.
At the Public Health Service of Amsterdam's Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Outpatient Clinic (SOA Polikliniek) you can receive a free examination and, if necessary, a free treatment for STIs. You do not need a family doctor's referral and health insurance is not required.
If you have a previous history with a gynaecological condition (e.g. an ovarian cyst), it’s recommended that you pass your medical records on to your family doctor (GP) for a full assessment. Routine check-ups are not the norm in the Netherlands. Women get an invitation letter for a pap smear every five years and those over 50 get a mammography every two years. There are no regular screenings for different types of cancer.
For specialist treatment or tests, you will need a referral note from your GP. Always be clear about your symptoms, your level of discomfort etc, as you cannot approach a specialist directly. GPs generally opt for a non-invasive approach to healthcare, and they only issue referrals in cases they cannot treat themselves. Also note that waiting times for specialist appointments vary greatly between types of surgery and treatments.
You may also be invited for a voluntary free of charge national preventive health check for one of the following:
- Cervical cancer (once every five years for women aged 30-60)
- Breast cancer (every two years for women aged 50-75)
- Influenza puncture (for the elderly)
- Hereditary high cholesterol level
- Heel puncture or hearing test (for babies).
Birth control and abortion in the Netherlands
All forms of contraception from the pill to IUDs are available by prescription from your family doctor. Abortions are legal here and are performed as outpatient surgery at licensed clinics and hospitals until approximately 24 weeks into pregnancy – though abortions are rarely performed after 22 weeks. Your GP will refer you to a specialist for which your health insurance company will cover you. This being the case, you may be required to answer a series of questions per policy protocol.
Pregnancy and birth
Get to know the systems and support available for having a baby in the Netherlands through these series of steps for the newly expecting mom:
- Once you know you are pregnant, schedule your first visit to the midwife or obstetrician. It is best to register with your midwife before week six and up to week ten. Your standard insurance policy covers the costs associated with a midwife.
- You can expect regular check-ups during pregnancy. This is the case whether you choose a midwife or gynaecologist as your primary caregiver. Usually, during the first half of the pregnancy a check-up will occur every four weeks. The frequency then increases to weekly appointments as the due date approaches.
- As time goes on you will have to decide decide between home or hospital birth:Nearly one third of births in the Netherlands are home births. Your midwife will attend during the labour and delivery. She will also help with preparations to ensure the safety and comfort of you and your child. In the event of complications, she will assist you or recommend you go to hospital to see a doctor. If you have a health insurance policy that covers additional care, you are entitled to receive a kraampakket – a home birth hamper bulging with all the necessary essentials for delivery. There will be bits and bobs you never knew you needed in such quantities. Home deliveries will also require metal bed raisers or klossen to help raise the bed to health and safety standards.For hospital births it is not necessary to register at your preferred hospital. Inform your midwife of your choice and they will call to make arrangements at the time. During the birthing process, your midwife or gynaecologist will be on hand to assist you. A hospital stay will vary from 24 hours to 10 days, depending on possible interventions during birth and/or necessary post-natal care. In the case of a Caesarean section, you will need to stay in hospital a few days longer. If the birth is problem-free, you can return home quite quickly – you are considered an outpatient (poliklinisch) if the stay is less than 24 hours. Contact your insurance provider to check what you are covered for as policies vary.
- Don’t forget to discuss pain relief options: there is a strong trend towards home births and natural childbirth in the Netherlands and therefore epidural use is low. But if you prefer, pain relief is available. It is essential you discuss your needs and state your preference with your doctor and/or midwife from the outset to ensure your chances of having some when you need it most. Considering pain medication for home births, for example, note that midwives are restricted to over-the-counter anaesthetics.
It is a service unique to the Netherlands where a medical professional will come to your home and assist you in providing care for your newborn. A good portion, if not all costs, will also be covered by your health insurance.
Often the kraamverzorger will spend a week doing your groceries for you, help prepare your meals, and even collect your other kids from school. Some nurses may even find time to prepare the traditional Dutch biscuit, beschuit met muisjes, for visiting family members or friends.