This isn't my typical type of posting and I know it won't appeal to everyone, but I've gotten so many people asking me about the pre-natal care over here, I figure people must be somewhat interested. If this isn't your cup of tea (haha), regular travel blogging will resume shortly. :)
(I know the NHS has plenty of flaws, but I will maintain that their pre and post natal care is incredible. Going into this pregnancy I really wasn't sure what to expect, but now that I'm on the other side of it, I count myself very lucky to have had Georgie over here. I'm also sure I'm forgetting some things and since I've never had a baby in the USA, this probably isn't a comprehensive list. This is just what I know that is different to most regular USA births.)
First, midwives in the UK oversee all aspects of pre and post natal health, and the birth itself, making them the primary caregivers for pregnant women. If ones pregnancy is straightforward, she'll see only midwives throughout her pregnancy. Midwives are extremely professional, helpful, and caring and I found their bedside manners to be superb; it really takes a special kind of individual to be a midwife.
Additionally, the care is far more personalised. Just a little thing: I know in the states the ultrasound techs generally don't give out any information when doing the ultrasound, but here, the midwives always pointed her out and explained what I was seeing during the scan. Personally, I enjoyed not having to wait for a doctor to explain to me what I already saw. On the flip side, I didn't "choose" my midwife for the birth. It fell to whomever was available that night (and she was AMAZING!). I saw some of the same midwives throughout my pregnancy, but it was a bit of a draw to see who I was going to get at each appointment!
There are fewer tests and overall appointments to attend during a pregnancy (which was awesome because I walked up to every appointment and by 38 weeks, I was over that two mile walk...) For first babies, one will have around 10 appointments, for subsequent pregnancies that number is around 7. The booking appointment is around 8-12 weeks, and they move on from there. There were also two scheduled ultrasounds one at 12 weeks or so and one around 20 weeks (although I had 5 to ensure Georgie was growing as she should), a couple of shots, and lots and lots of checks for high blood pressure. Additionally, I was only weighed twice during the pregnancy (generally it's only once at your first appointment), which was kinda nice. ;)
Every visit was notated in my hand-held notes which I carried to every appointment. All my records were kept in my notes, rather than on a computer. While that system may seem quaint, I liked having my own records nearby for when I needed to google something, or even just to reassure myself that Georgie was growing as she should. Additionally, I wrote down my birth plan and during the process, the midwife put down her notes so that book was a total record of my pregnancy from start to finish!
Overall, I felt that I was responsible for my health and well-being and that the midwives were there to assist me and answer any questions I might have. They allowed the entire pregnancy to work naturally, with minimal interference. For instance, at 40 weeks my induction was scheduled for 42 weeks exactly, but thankfully our little slowpoke decided to speed that up by a few days. Unless there is a health concern, they view natural as best and I was more than willing to agree (although I was getting very impatient by the end!) Overall, the midwives were not pushy, but rather full of good advice and information.
Labor and Delivery:
There are several options for having a baby here: in a hospital, in a community midwife unit, or at home. I ended up in the large, local hospital (which also contains a community midwife unit or CMU) for health reasons, but there I did have the option to deliver on the labour ward or CMU. The CMU is made up solely of midwives and they oversee completely natural births, and use pain relief methods like water, gas and air, hypnobirthing, etc. The labour ward is made up of both doctors and midwives and is also the floor where the surgeries are done - at least in our hospital. I was on the labour ward as the CMU was completely full, but I only saw midwives (as best as I can remember although the doctor may have popped in at one point. It was a bit of a blur!). Even on the labour ward, we had a full bath (with a huge tub), an exercise ball, and a giant bean bag all for non-medicinal pain relief.
After Georgie was born, I was moved to another floor to recover in a large room with 3 other moms or moms to be. (One could pay to have a private room.) She was born at 4am and we were at home by 5pm that very day (traffic was bad and the unit was pretty busy so discharging took a bit longer than planned. Usually it takes around 6 hours to be discharged). Recovering at home was much, much, much better than recovering in a hospital... hello, hospital food? Ick. During my short time recovering, I had several visits from midwives, pediatricians, an expert on recovering from diastasis recti, a lady giving out free nappies and coupons, and the like. It was an overload of information during which I basically took the handouts, nodded and went back to gazing at our cute little baby.
Care after Baby:
The day after Georgie was born, we got our first midwife visit. She came in and gave Georgie an examination and chatted with me about everything. We had midwives visit daily or so for the first week and a half which was incredible. They answered any questions I might have, checked up on both of us, and reassured this first time Mum that she was feeding and sleeping just fine. Having that support directly in our own home was awesome. After that, we get 4 weekly or so visits from the home health nurse whose care is pretty similar, but she puts all Georgie's records in a little red book and will continue to oversee her care until Georgie starts school. Our first visit to a doctor's office will be for Georgie's shots at 8 weeks.
The antenatal and post-natal care was wonderful overall, and I'm so grateful to have the support and care while here. Definitely one of the different aspects to living overseas, and still such a positive one.