Welcoming a new life into the world is an exciting journey, and doing so in Portugal offers a unique blend of modern healthcare, vibrant community support, and cultural richness. Whether you’re a first-time mom or expanding your family, navigating pregnancy and new motherhood in Portugal can be a smooth and rewarding experience with the right guidance. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know—from finding the right care to building your community.

Finding the Right Care

Public Healthcare System

Portugal’s public healthcare system, Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), is renowned for its comprehensive and affordable care. Here’s how to navigate it:

  1. Registering with SNS: To access public healthcare, you must register at your local health center (Centro de Saúde). Ensure you have your residence permit, social security number, and a utility bill as proof of address. Once registered, you’ll be assigned a family doctor (médico de família) who will be your primary point of contact throughout your pregnancy.
  2. Maternity Services: Public hospitals offer excellent maternity services, including prenatal check-ups, ultrasounds, and childbirth classes. You can expect high standards of care and professionalism. Notable public hospitals with maternity wards include Hospital de Santa Maria in Lisbon and Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Porto.
  3. Routine Appointments: Your family doctor will guide you through the pregnancy timeline, ensuring you receive regular check-ups and necessary screenings. These appointments are typically scheduled every four weeks until the 28th week, every two weeks until the 36th week, and weekly thereafter.

Private Healthcare System

If you prefer a more personalized experience, the private healthcare sector in Portugal is an excellent alternative. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Choosing a Private Clinic: Portugal boasts numerous private clinics and hospitals, offering tailored care and shorter waiting times. Some top-rated private hospitals include Hospital da Luz in Lisbon and Hospital CUF Porto. It’s advisable to research and visit a few to find one that suits your needs.
  2. Health Insurance: Consider getting private health insurance to cover the costs of private care. Companies like Médis and Multicare offer comprehensive maternity coverage. Ensure you review the policy details to understand the extent of coverage, including prenatal visits, delivery, and postnatal care.
  3. Specialized Care: Private hospitals often provide additional services such as prenatal yoga, nutrition counseling, and private birthing suites. These extras can significantly enhance your pregnancy experience.

    Home Births, Midwives, and Doulas in Portugal

    Home births are becoming an increasingly popular choice for expectant mothers in Portugal who desire a more personalized and intimate birthing experience. Here’s what you need to know about home births, midwives, the role of doulas, and the legal considerations involved.

    Home Births in Portugal

    Home births offer a natural and comfortable environment for labor and delivery, but it’s important to ensure that this option is safe and suitable for you and your baby.

    1. Legal Framework: Home births are legal in Portugal, but they must be attended by a certified healthcare professional, such as a midwife. The Directorate-General of Health (Direção-Geral da Saúde, DGS) provides guidelines to ensure the safety of home births. It’s essential to consult these guidelines and discuss your plans with your healthcare provider to ensure compliance with local regulations.
    2. Choosing a Midwife: Selecting a qualified midwife is crucial for a safe home birth. The Associação Portuguesa dos Enfermeiros Obstetras (APEO) is a valuable resource for finding certified midwives who are experienced in home births. Ensure your midwife is registered and has the appropriate training to handle any emergencies that may arise.
    3. Preparation: Preparing for a home birth involves creating a safe and comfortable environment in your home. Your midwife will guide you on how to set up your space, what supplies you need, and how to prepare for potential emergencies. It’s also advisable to have a backup plan to transfer to a hospital if necessary.

    If you’ve been thinking of a home birth, the documentary “The Business of Being Born” is a great primer that explores the benefits and challenges of home births.

    The Role of Midwives

    Midwives play a central role in supporting home births. They provide comprehensive care throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, ensuring both mother and baby are healthy.

    1. What is a Midwife?: A midwife is a healthcare professional specializing in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. They are trained to handle normal deliveries and recognize any complications that may require medical intervention.
    2. Benefits of Having a Midwife: Midwives offer personalized care and support, helping to create a calming and empowering birth experience. They provide prenatal care, assist during labor and delivery, and offer postpartum support, including breastfeeding guidance.
    3. Finding a Midwife: The Associação Portuguesa dos Enfermeiros Obstetras (APEO) can help you find a qualified midwife in your area. They maintain a directory of certified midwives who adhere to professional standards and regulations.

    The Role of Doulas

    Doulas provide emotional, physical, and informational support to expectant mothers before, during, and after childbirth. In Portugal, doulas are becoming more popular as part of the birthing team, especially for home births.

    1. What is a Doula?: A doula is a trained professional who offers continuous support to the mother during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Unlike midwives, doulas do not perform medical tasks but focus on the mother’s comfort and emotional well-being.
    2. Benefits of Having a Doula: Studies have shown that the presence of a doula can lead to shorter labor, reduced need for pain relief, lower rates of interventions, and a more positive birth experience. Doulas provide techniques for pain relief, relaxation, and help the mother to advocate for her birthing preferences.
    3. Finding a Doula: Doulas de Portugal is an excellent resource for finding trained and certified doulas. The organization ensures that all members adhere to professional standards and continuous education. You can search their directory to find a doula in your area who meets your specific needs.

    Legal Considerations

    1. Registration and Compliance: Ensure that both your midwife and doula are registered with their respective professional bodies and comply with Portuguese health regulations. The DGS provides comprehensive guidelines on home birth practices that your midwife should follow.
    2. Informed Consent: It’s important to have a detailed discussion with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of home birth. Make sure you sign an informed consent form that outlines your understanding and acceptance of these risks.
    3. Emergency Plan: Always have a well-defined emergency plan in place. This includes identifying the nearest hospital, arranging transportation, and having a hospital bag ready in case of an unexpected transfer.

    More Support

    Associação Portuguesa pelos Direitos da Mulher na Gravidez e Parto (APDMGP): This organization offers resources and support for women considering home births, including workshops and counseling. APDMGP

    Choosing a home birth and having a midwife and doula can provide a deeply personal and empowering birthing experience. By understanding the legal requirements and preparing thoroughly, you can ensure a safe and fulfilling journey into motherhood.

    Connecting with Fellow Moms

    Building a support network of fellow moms can provide invaluable emotional and practical support. Here are some ways to connect:

    Local Support Groups

    1. Mama Help: A well-known organization offering support groups, prenatal classes, and postnatal activities. They have locations in Lisbon and Porto, and their events are great for meeting other moms-to-be and new mothers.
    2. La Leche League Portugal: An international organization with a strong presence in Portugal, offering breastfeeding support and mother-to-mother encouragement. They hold regular meetings where you can share experiences and get advice.

    Online Communities

    1. Positive Pregnancy, Birth & Postpartum in Portugal: In conjunction with Pregnant in Portugal, this group is a safe community to discuss all things related to conception, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and babies in Portugal.
      The main focus is to support non-Portuguese residents, but Portuguese locals with these interests are more than welcome too.
    2. Holistic Pregnancy, Motherhood, & Birth in Portugal: A community coming together to support each other through these  beautiful transitions to make them smoother. Topics discussed are related to pre-conception, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, parenting, and motherhood.
    3. Families Moving to (and Living in) Portugal!: A private group for families moving to (and living in) Portugal. Especially useful for expat parents with kids, this group is focused on schools, and other parenting and child-centered issues. 

    Local Meetups and Activities

    1. Baby Rhyme Time: Many libraries across Portugal offer weekly baby rhyme time sessions. These are fantastic for bonding with your baby and meeting other parents.
    2. Gymboree Play & Music: With locations in Lisbon and Porto, Gymboree offers classes for babies and toddlers that promote development through play. It’s also a great way to meet other parents.

    Building Your Community

    Creating a supportive community around you is essential for a fulfilling motherhood experience. Here are some strategies:

    Join Parenting Classes

    1. Prenatal Classes: Many hospitals and clinics offer prenatal classes that cover everything from childbirth to newborn care. These classes not only prepare you for labor and delivery but also provide a platform to meet other expectant parents.
    2. Postnatal Classes: After your baby arrives, consider joining postnatal classes that focus on parenting skills, baby massage, and postpartum recovery. These classes often have a social component, allowing you to connect with other new moms.

    Utilize Local Resources

    1. Centro de Saúde: Your local health center can be a valuable resource for information on local mother and baby groups, vaccination schedules, and child health services.
    2. Local Libraries and Community Centers: Many offer baby-friendly activities and events. It’s worth checking their schedules for storytimes, playgroups, and parenting workshops.

    Embrace Portuguese Culture

    1. Participate in Local Festivities: Portugal is rich in traditions and festivals. Engaging in these cultural events can be a wonderful way to feel more connected to your community. Festivals like São João in Porto or the Feast of Saint Anthony in Lisbon are great family-friendly events.
    2. Learn the Language: While many Portuguese people speak English, learning Portuguese can help you integrate more deeply into your community. Consider taking language classes or using apps like Duolingo to get started.

    Support Organizations

    Several organizations in Portugal provide essential support to mothers. Here are some to consider:

    1. Associação Portuguesa pelos Direitos da Mulher na Gravidez e Parto (APDMGP): This organization advocates for women’s rights during pregnancy and childbirth. They offer resources, workshops, and a helpline for expectant mothers.
    2. Doulas Portugal: If you’re interested in having a doula, this organization can connect you with trained professionals who provide physical, emotional, and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
    3. Mothers’ Assistance Association (Associação de Apoio à Maternidade e Paternidade Consciente – AAMPC): They offer courses and counseling to support conscious parenting practices.

      Practical Tips for New Mothers

      Navigating new motherhood can be challenging, but these practical tips can help:

      1. Breastfeeding Support: If you choose to breastfeed, know that Portugal is very supportive of breastfeeding mothers. La Leche League and local health centers offer lactation consulting services. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you encounter any difficulties.
      2. Childcare Options: If you plan to return to work, exploring childcare options early is crucial. Portugal offers various options, including creches (daycares), nannies, and family members. Public creches are affordable but often have long waiting lists, so apply early.
      3. Work-Life Balance: Portugal’s labor laws are supportive of new parents. You are entitled to maternity leave (Licença de Maternidade) and paternity leave (Licença de Paternidade). Additionally, flexible working hours and telecommuting options are becoming more common.

      Embarking on the journey of pregnancy and motherhood in Portugal can be a fulfilling experience, enriched by the country’s excellent healthcare, vibrant communities, and supportive resources. Whether you opt for public, private healthcare or a home birth, engage with local and online communities, or immerse yourself in Portuguese culture, there is a wealth of support available to ensure you, your baby and your family thrive.


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