Save. Spend. Splurge.

Being pregnant in France versus North America

Now that my sister-in-law is pregnant again, it has brought back memories of how the French deal with pregnancy that I found amusing and interesting but not all of them were good.

Yep, a rare photo of the Baby Bun bump at six months I think…. and it got BIGGER.


I am in no way saying that people in line DO NOT give priority to pregnant women in North America but there were some special checkout lanes with symbols specifically meant for them in France which I found unusual.

If you’re pregnant you can go into the express line meant for pregnant women and old people.

My partner and I were standing in the line once at a grocery store in La Défense, while I happened to be 5 weeks pregnant but not quite showing yet.

A woman who was a little farther along, came up, tapped my partner on the shoulder and gestured to the sign that it was only for pregnant women (she thought we were tourists who didn’t know better), and tried to say in broken English that we weren’t allowed there.

He said back to her in perfect Parisian French that “Oui”, he knew, and he pointed to my belly.

She turned pink and became so flustered that they went to stand in another line.

You also get seats on the train like in North America, which is nice.


The only bad part about being pregnant there is if you have to constantly pee, you’re going to have to stick close to shopping places or know where you can go for free or end up having to fork over a Euro or two each time just to use a bathroom (you can buy an espresso and gain access).

My partner drank A LOT of espressos that trip, I’ll tell you what.

Even in stores where WE KNEW they had employee bathrooms, they wouldn’t let me go and pee in there while pregnant unlike in North America because they are French and didn’t want to set a precedent to allow everyone to think they were public restrooms. *eyeroll*

They just lied to us and said: “Non, il n’y en a pas.”

Grrrrr. In North America they are far more accommodating and kind about the plight of a little munchkin inside of you, dancing on your bladder, or a large toddler doing the potty dance with tears and a desperate look on his face.


Scarily so.

Every single French relative, without exception repeated to me that it was not worth it to eat like a whale and have to work at getting the pounds off.

They said it wasn’t for two, but just you and a little bit more. Ça suffit! (Translation: that’s enough!)

They all had slim, flat bellies and were as skinny as toothpicks after having two or three kids each.

Heck, I felt fat standing next to them and I’m a US 4!!!

It doesn’t help your self-esteem, living in France, depending on your family members….

My own pregnant sister-in-law snapped photos of herself SIX WEEKS AFTER BIRTH, wearing a bikini poolside, as if nothing had ever happened or changed and she didn’t carry a new life for 9 months into the world.

I still looked like Shamu the Killer Whale even 7 months after birth, so .. yeah.. that was not cool.

Of course not ALL Frenchwomen are stick thin after kids, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t the majority in my family.


The magic number for maximum government benefits? 3.

Most French families aim for and have 3 kids each to get the most out of the government.

My partner snorts when he says that having kids is a source of income for many families but he isn’t really joking.

Many families have multiple kids to eke out a living, although I’m not sure it is worth the stress of so many crumb crunchers.

Why at least 3?

Because it replaces you, your spouse and adds one more to the population instead of having to rely on immigrants to help boost population numbers to keep a critical mass of tax-paying citizens going and growing to support an aging population and pay for all the services.


They drink alcohol (“my doctor said only one glass of red wine a day”), drink coffee, and they eat raw fish.

They don’t really have many restrictions on what pregnant women can eat and drink which is in direct contrast against how North Americans tend to view pregnancy — as a special, fragile, 100% baby-centric purpose where you play Mozart on headphones and put them around your belly to give your child a start in math in utero.

Generally speaking, those are some differences I remember noting while pregnant in France.

Aside from that, once the kid is out, the daycare is free and very good, with the food being provided to children being on the level of a very good restaurant with real plates, cutlery, glasses, napkins and a 3-course affair.



  • Mia

    I live in the U.S. in an area with a lot of young families and they have special parking spots (there are parking spots at my CVS drugstore next to the handicapped spots marked JUST for pregnant women), seats for pregnant women on the local bus and train, etc.

  • M

    I thought the French were supposed to be ahead of the curve in terms of child rearing but 16-26 weeks is short for maternity leave. I feel lucky here in Canada with 12 months!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I haven’t asked, but I think the 26 weeks is fully paid.. I don’t know what the plans are here in Canada as I’ve always freelanced but I think you have to pay after 6 months if your company doesn’t top it up to your full salary.

      That said, 26 weeks and they get a fully paid for amazing daycare for their kids when they go back.

  • Mrs. Adventure Rich

    Wow, how interesting. I see the commenter mentioned 16-26 weeks of maternity leave… I know I was lucky to have 12 weeks in America, but hearing 16-26 sounds amazing!

  • Eva

    I live in France and have 3 children and would like to correct some of what you wrote.
    The priority lines are not for pregnant women only, you just have to let a pregnant lady go first, unless you are also pregnant, in which case the bigger belly wins 😀
    Raw fish and alcohol are very much forbidden and coffee is frowned upon.

    Daycare IS NOT FREE!! Either you get a spot at a daycare (crèche) and depending on its status ( private, privately operated, city operated or your employer’s daycare) and your family
    Income, you pay between 150-750 euros. Spots at daycare are not that many, so many people use nannies, to the tune of 400-1200 euros. Definitely not free and even really expensive for the lower and middle middle class!
    It is kind of offensive to say that the French have 3 children because of the benefits: it amounts to roughly 1900 euros in benefits paid to the family and a maximum of 3000 euros that you dont have to pay in income tax ( if you pay less, there is no refund). I can assure you that the less than 5000 per year doesn’t even begin to cover the additionnal expenses one encounter for a child, even a third one where you probably don’t need that much in baby specific gear. Maternity leave is longer for a third child: 26 weeks vs. 16 for the first 2, but it is very much necessary in my opinion (just 2 weeks left for me 🙁). And most families nowadays have 2 children, closely followed by 3 and 1.

    It is true that the weight you put on is watched closely and many women return to their pre-pregnancy weight and size pretty quickly.

    Hope all goes well for your sister in law!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you for the corrections!

      As for the raw fish and alcohol, that was not my experience. The Francophones I was with, were drinking coffee and eating raw fish with abandon.

      Has the daycare cost changed in recent years? Perhaps it has been years since my partner was even in that whole business.

      As for the 3rd child, they ALL have 3 kids.. maybe it was better with the francs, but even to this day, I joke with Francophones that they all stop after 3. It wasn’t meant to be offensive.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’ll never understand the restroom restriction thing for pregnant women – have a heart!

    And I often wonder who gives small children real cutlery and dinnerware, especially the one or two times we ate at a nice restaurant with JB and the waiters seemed not to know that a grabby infant shouldn’t be indulged with zir own tableware 😁 They were just trying to be kind, but it was funny.

    I never knew three was the Magic kids number there! I know French expats who all have 2 siblings but it never occurred to me there was any reason for it. I did hear about the amazing PAID educational system though. Sounds like a dream to an American. Still, is it worth it? That’s a hell of a lot of work.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      LOL!… Well, Baby Bun gets real cutlery and dinnerware. We’re one of those people…. he doesn’t have anything plastic and has learned to behave with it.

      Ask every Francophone how many kids they have! It’s hilarious, it’s always 3.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *