I know a lot of my last posts have been baby or food related. Those are just the top two items on my mind these days :-)
I'm terribly sorry if they're boring, but you get another one of them today
The whole birthing experience is quite different in the UK, compared to the US. I've decided that the best way to describe it is that in the UK, because of the NHS (National Healthcare System), the hospitals/doctors/government are all concerned mostly about cost. In the US, because of private healthcare, they can be more concerned about comfort.
First, the good:
- During the actual labor (from what I've heard), the midwives push you to do as much as you can without any drugs, especially without the epidural. Depending on your point of view, this can be a good or bad thing as you can have a more "natural" birth experience with a birthing tub or ball. (which are much cheaper than drugs and more medical doctors). And if you decide you want drugs, they may not be available as there are limited doctors at the hospital who can give you these drugs.
- They are very unlikely to induce labor here unless there is a major problem. They won't talk about it until you're at 41 weeks.
- The rate of c-sections is fairly low, compared to the US. This can be attributed to the low induction rate and probably also the lower rate of epidurals.
- The midwife visits you at home several times in the week following the birth. This is also a cost-cutting measure as new moms are less likely to run to the hospitals with questions or call the doctors office in the days following the birth.
- Hands-off mindset: I really think this comes down to cost-cutting. It is cheaper to have midwives verses OBs. Also, it is better for the government to provide fewer ultrasounds and tests (such as the Glucose test for gestational diabetes and the Group B Strep test towards the end of the pregnancy). In the US, they do everything they can to prevent something from happening. In the UK, they wait to see if there is a problem and then they will treat it if one arises.
- The lack of testing worries me a bit. I did not get tested for GBS (or Group B Strep). Its a infection that can come and go in women and can be passed on to the baby during delivery. This can cause higher rates of meningitis in babies (and then possibly death). They do not test for that here, although you can order tests online and do it yourself and send it in for the results.
- I have heard multiple stories of women who's waters break (some even early - around 32 weeks!) who go to the hospital only to be sent home because they are not in active labor. In the States this is unheard of because they are worried about infection.
- I've heard that some of the hospitals are rather "dirty" or old by American standards (The doctor at my local clinic told me this!)
- Husbands do not spend the night at hospitals. Even if you're in early stages of labor, they will send the husband home with a promise to call if you make progress. Also, after the baby is born they will send the husband home an hour or two after the baby arrives. Also, you can be discharged up to two hours after giving birth if you are able to go home.
- You rarely see the same doctor twice. This is a pain because you have to explain who you are and why you're there. The doctors do not talk to each other - so the person examining me at the hospital will not know the person who did the ultrasound or the doctor in my local clinic. I carry my own medical notes around, and they look at that when they need information.
I do have more thoughts on the NHS as a whole (not just relating to births) but I will save that for another time.