My experience of having a baby in the UK

I originally thought I would try to compare the way your treatment is during your pregnancy in the US and here but when I contacted my friend, she said that it all varied based on your insurance and hospital. Also every pregnancy is different, so I thought I would just tell you the process I went through and my experience.

I live outside of Cambridge so I went to my local GP (which is in my village) once I was released from Bourn Hall as I got pregnant though IVF. You have an appointment with your GP and he gives what they call the "Bounty Pack". This is a pack that has a lot of information for you to read and a pink book which is like your medical records that you will take with you to every appointment. There was also a letter that said that you were to book a 'booking' appointment with the midwife which is an hour long appointment to go through all of the pink book up to the point in your pregnancy and fill in some forms to book in your 12-16 week scan. You are also told to book an appointment to get your blood drawn for tests.

In England, most of the appointments that you have are with the midwife. Generally they belong to a team so you might not always see the same one every time.  If you are having your first baby, you will see them at least 10 times. If it is not, you see them less. They tend to treat pregnancy as a part of life, not a disease.

At the booking appointment, I got to speak to the midwife and ask any questions. Ideally they want to see you around 10 weeks, They also go over your weight, what you can and can't eat. You also briefly go over you thoughts on how you want to give birth. During this appointment, they go over things you re risk factors for. So I was on aspirin for my IVF (it improves blood flow) but I was not at risk for clots so I no longer needed to take this when I reached 12 weeks.

I am very lucky to be where I am because I have access to one of the best hospitals in the country, the Rosie Hospital. You have two options, a consultant lead birth or a midwife lead birth. The Rosie is nice because one floor you have the midwife ward where you are in your own room which have birthing pools and your own bed. The midwives help you have an active birth/natural birth but are able to give you 'gas and air' or Pethidinea pain killer. The floor above the midwife ward is the consultant led delivery ward. You move up here if you decide to have an epidural or run into any complications.

I had regular appointments at 16, 25, 28, 31, 34, 36, 38, 40 and 41 weeks At these appointments, they always check your urine and blood pressure.
I had my next and last scan at 20 weeks. The NHS only provides more scans if there are any concerns with the growth of your baby.

At 28 weeks, I had to have a glucose test for gestation diabetes. This meant I had to drink Lucazade Original an hour before my blood was drawn and the midwife was able to see the results at the next day's appointment. They do not start measuring your belly until 28 weeks and do not weigh you regularly unless they are concerned about your weight gain. It was not until I hit 28 weeks that I was able to get the whooping cough vaccination. Had I had been pregnant in October, I would have also been given the flu vaccine. The NHS only vaccinates high risk people rather than the whole population like in the US. So only pregnant women, children, elderly and those with conditions that make them high risk such as those who have asthma etc. Other people can go to their local chemist to get the flu vaccine at their own cost.

You have check ups regularly at weeks 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 41 and 42 weeks. My 36 week check was at the Rosie Maternity Hospital.

One thing a friend of mine told me to look into is delayed umbilical cord clamping. It is common practice in the UK for them to wait until the cord stops pulsating.

There were free antenatal classes that were given by my midwives. Speaking to my friends here, what they offer depends on the midwife group you are in. Mine was divided into two classes. One which covered what happens during labour and natural birth. The other covered c-sections, and what to do wit the baby once its here. This is kind of nice because the other people are in your local area so a good way to make friends and you might see them at the hospital.

During your pregnancy and a year after you give birth, you are given free dental work and medications. You are given a form by the midwife to apply for a card that shows your entitlement. Otherwise it is £8.20 per item. Children's prescriptions are free.

My water broke on a Wednesday when I was 38 weeks and 1 day. I had gone to Quy Mill Hotel with my friend for a massage. I did not have contractions so I was asked to come in so that they could test me for the Group B Haemolytic Streptococcus.  If I had this, they would give me antibiotics to reduce passing it onto Bug. I was told to call them at a set time. Seventy percent of women will begin to have contractions in 24 hours and 90% will have them in 48 hours so that is why they often like to leave you to allow nature take its course.

I was just washing the last of the clothes I was going to pack and Mr B had not even installed the car seat yet. They told me to bring my stuff with me just in case. All through my pregnancy I said that I would have my baby early and it would be little- I was right! I had only just began my maternity leave that Monday and was expecting to have two weeks of waiting! Bug thought differently!

When I called at the appointed time the next day, I had requested to be induce in 24 hours so that should there be any issues, there was time to deal with them, the delivery unit was full. It appears everyone else was having a baby at the same time. They asked me to call back in 6 hours to see if the situation changed. 

When I called back, they were still full. I asked about going to a different local hospital like the one in Bury St Edmunds but they said the closest delivery unit that had space was in Ipswich. That was way farther than I was willing to go but instead they let me come in and stay the night. I thought that this would be best because then I would be monitored. I was in a room with 4 other women, all that needed to be induced for various reasons, 42 weeks (overdue), gestational diabetes and other reasons. But because my waters had broken already I was at the head of the queue as it were.

Mr B could not stay with me that night but returned the next morning. I was then told that I was to move to the delivery unit. Initially I was upset because I wanted to give birth in the birthing centre and have a water birth and all of that. Also I was very scared because those induced are more likely to have forceps and a c-section. 

Throughout my pregnancy I was dreading giving birth and because I am afraid of epidurals, I knew that I could not cope with getting one of them. I looked in coping methods for birth and I got Maggie Howell's hypnobirthing CD. I listened to this throughout my pregnancy and my labour. I found it very helpful.

I was monitored for 30 minutes before they gave me Prostaglandin and then monitored 30 minutes afterwards to see how Bug and I were coping with it. I was sent to go to the food court to get something to eat. My contractions were coming so I had to stop at each wall. We got some food and headed back to the room. I turned on the MP3 player because I could hear the lady next to me and it was not helping me cope with my fears.
The room I gave birth in

I started listening to my hypnobirthing which helped for a while. Then I remembered that a friend had given me a TENS machine. The TENS machine provides shocks and then you press a button to turn up the frequency when a contraction happens. This worked well for a while. When the that seemed to plateau, I asked the midwife if I could have some gas and air. She suggest I take paracetamol first. I agreed since I was going to be there for a while.

As the contractions came, I annoyed Mr B by asking him to time the contractions and the time between them as they felt like they were coming quickly. I was asking him to open the window and help with my socks etc. He was really annoyed because he was playing his PSP and thought that we were going to be there for hours.

The midwives were changing over and the new one came in to see how I was doing  and to tell me she was about to go into theatre to deliver a baby. I told her that I felt that I needed to go to the bathroom. She asked if she could check my progress as they cannot check you regularly as in my case because the risk of infection. It turned out I was 9.5 cm and so we were ready to deliver Bug. She also said that I could have gas and air for the pushing portion.

In all my labour was 5 hours long which was not too bad. They didn't realize how far along I was because I was not as loud as the lady next door but that may be down to the hypnobirthing and TENS machine.

Bug and I had to stay in the hospital for 12 hours because of my waters breaking without contractions. We stayed in a ward with 4 other ladies who had their babies that night. It was nice because the midwives were there to help when we needed it but your baby stayed in a bed next to your bed.

The next morning, the midwives came around and did their checks and gave a red book which will be Bug's health records for her development.

The midwives come to your house for up to two weeks to monitor your and your baby's conditions. They are great because you have someone to ask your concerns to and you don't have to leave the house! Then they release you in to the care of the healthcare visitor and your GP.

You get a 6 week check with the GP to see how you are doing following your delivery and how the baby is doing. After this, the only time you see the GP for your child is when they are sick.

Throughout the development of the baby, you are visited at your home by the Healthcare Visitors at certain milestones. They are always available for advice, which I found very helpful with Bug's reflux and feeding issues. The Health Care Visitors that come to visit you the first couple of weeks to see how you are getting on. They weigh the baby, ensure that they thriving and also can spot things like jaundice. They have regular weigh-ins in my village which you can attend to check on their progress and ask any questions. Also another way to meet other parents in the area.

I had a really good experience with the birth of Bug and the help I received afterwards.

 All the Best!

American to Britain