Pregnant mother with her son

A guide to pregnancy and giving birth in Italy

PUBLISHED: 27 April 2022 | LAST UPDATED: 16 May 2022

In this guide, we look at prenatal care and birth options in Italy, as well as some local traditions and ways of life when it comes to pregnancy.

First things first, there are a few phrases you should know when having a baby in Italy:

  • SSN (national healthcare service) – Servizio Sanitario Nazionale
  • Prenatal care – assistenza prenatale 
  • Family planning centres – consultori famili0ari1
  • Midwife – ostetrica
  • Postnatal care - assistenza postnatale
  • Maternity leave - congedo di maternità2
  • Paternity leave - congedo di paternità2

Private vs public 

By now you’ll probably know that pregnancy is all about choices, and no matter how many books you read or websites you trawl, it still comes down to you – and your little one. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

One of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether to use public or private healthcare in Italy. What are the pros and cons, and what can you expect from each option?

Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (national healthcare service) 

If you’re a working mother in Italy (i.e. employed and contributing to tax) then you’re entitled to use the national healthcare service. The SSN provides essential services relating to pregnancy, all the way through to postnatal care. These services have no charge:

  • Routine medical visits to the obstetrician and gynaecologist
  • Any tests or checks needed to monitor you, your pregnancy, or your baby
  • Prenatal diagnostics, e.g. screening for Down Syndrome
  • Treatment of any health risks for you and your baby
  • Postnatal treatments and visits to the paediatrician.3

In public hospitals, you’ll be fully supported with childbirth at no extra cost. But what about private care?

Private healthcare options 

If you have private medical insurance, including maternity cover, you’ll likely be covered for the cost of childbirth in a private hospital– if you choose a private facility. Make sure you check the details of your cover. This way you’ll know what is and isn’t covered and avoid any surprises.4

If you don’t have private healthcare insurance, giving birth in a private clinic can cost between €3,000 and €3,750.1 If there are any complications though, not all private clinics have the vital equipment needed. It’s a good idea to check what’s available beforehand and ask for a list of potential fees in advance so you’re prepared if there’s an emergency.

Whether you use the national healthcare services or you prefer to make use of private healthcare insurance, you’ll need to bring all your essentials to the hospital. Some of this should include:

  • car seat
  • clothes for you
  • clothes for baby
  • towels
  • diapers/nappies
  • nursing pads
  • toiletries
  • hygiene wipes
  • snacks and water.

You might also want to bring:

  • phone and charger
  • pillow
  • slippers
  • headband or elastic hair tie.5

Prenatal care 

The good news is that prenatal care is free through the public healthcare system in Italy – this includes prenatal classes. 

Prenatal classes are a great place to make friends and develop a support network. While it might seem like people attending have been friends for ages, they’re likely to have just met. 

There is something uniquely welcoming and familial at the core of how Italians integrate different people into their circle.

You might also find that Italians go out of their way for expectant mothers or parents with children. From giving up their seats on public transport to accommodating you when eating out. 

Your midwife 

In the first few weeks, once your pregnancy is confirmed by a local doctor and you’ve seen a gynaecologist for initial tests, the next step is to see a midwife. 

The first appointment with the midwife is mostly gathering information and getting to know each other. 

Giving birth in Italy: Delivery day 

Most deliveries in Italy happen at a hospital. In fact, only 0.4% of the population6 chooses home delivery compared to the rest of Europe (roughly 2%). 

Hospitals in Italy have a one-person rule to limit infection. That means only one other person of your choice is allowed in the room with you. Once your baby is born, your little one will be taken away quite soon after to be bathed and swaddled, and brought back to you a few hours later. 

New mothers generally stay for three days after giving birth. Fortunately, maternity and paternity leave is granted to anyone working in Italy. Maternity leave normally begins two months before delivery and can continue to three months after giving birth. Paternity leave is four mandatory days and one optional day, for the birth.3

Pregnancy and parenthood – cultural quirks in Italy 

Being a mum isn’t the same everywhere. In Italy, you’ll probably be offered a glass of wine with dinner during pregnancy, which can seem odd if you’re from the Western world. Drinking espresso is also considered okay.7 

One thing’s for certain – you won’t go hungry. When it comes to food, there’s a superstition around cravings. If a mother doesn’t experience any cravings, she must take a bite from every bit of food they see to ensure that all cravings are fulfilled.8

Having a baby in Italy is a whole family affair. While a baby shower before the birth isn’t common practice, gifts are lavished upon the mother at her hospital bedside. Italians never miss an opportunity to celebrate! Especially when another family member is being welcomed into the world.

Finding the support you need 

If you’re new to parenting and to the neighbourhood, it can be overwhelming if you don’t have your support network around. There are a number of mums’ groups that you can join where you’ll be able to connect with other new parents – as both locals and expats. You’ll be able to find out more about these groups and how to join them by asking your doctor or midwife, and by doing some online research. 

Our World of Wellbeing hub contains lots of useful tips and information about being a parent abroad. Whether you’re about to have your first baby, or you’re moving your whole family to a new country, there’s plenty of advice about how to help things go smoothly. 

As an AXA member if you’re ever unsure of anything we’ll always do our best to put you at ease. There’s a team of midwives on hand through our health information helpline who’ll be able to answer any questions you might have about your pregnancy. Just call +44 (0)1892 556 753 between 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, until 4pm on Saturday and until 12pm on Sunday (UK time).

If you have any questions about making a claim with us or what your policy covers, you can call us anytime, day or night on +44 (0)1892 503 856. 

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.

1. https://www.expatsinitaly.com/articles/oldsite/childbirth.html 
2. https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1116&langId=en&intPageId=4618 
3. https://www.expat.com/en/guide/europe/italy/34213-having-a-baby-in-italy.html 
4. https://www.expatfocus.com/italy/health/how-good-are-antenatal-and-postnatal-care-in-italy-5416/ 
5. https://www.naty.com/gb/en/what-to-pack-in-the-hospital-bag.html 
6. https://www.informanascita.com/home/english-version/home-delivery/ 
7. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14653/7-things-ive-learned-from-being-pregnant-in-4-countries.html 
8. https://hfebooks.com/italian-superstitions-by-mirella-sichirollo-patzer/