It is safe to assume everything is done differently in different countries. They all have their own cultures and ways of doing things. We often don’t realize how different the small things really are until they are put right in front of us. Having babies may be something we have in common with the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean the process is the same. We never really think of giving birth being done any differently than what we’re used to doing or hearing about.
In the United Kingdom, most everything about having babies is done differently than in the United States. One of the main differences is the fact that in the U.S., most women see an obstetrician for prenatal care, whereas, in the U.K., most women see midwives for their maternal healthcare. This is due to how differently the healthcare systems are in the two nations.
In the U.S., healthcare is run by several insurance companies and private providers. The U.K. has a system of medical care paid for by public funds given to all or specialized medicine. In simpler terms, what we pay for in the U.S., we would receive seemingly for free (although it is funded by taxpayers) in the U.K.
20 No Epidural Here
With more than 50% of women giving birth in the U.S. getting an epidural, one would think it was common all over the world. That isn’t the case. If we give birth to our baby in the U.K., it will be a very difficult process to get an epidural there. According to Baby Centre, the U.K. chooses to go a different route when coping with the pain of labor and delivery.
The most popular form of coping is laughing gas–a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen–to ease the basic pain of labor. They also use Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS unit), a small machine with electrodes. Many moms in the U.S. opt for these methods when managing birth pain more naturally, but nitrous can pose risks for those who have the MTHFR gene mutation.
19 Eat All The Things!
Anyone that has had a baby in the U.S. knows there is no eating during labor in a hospital. If we haven’t had dinner before labor starts, we better hope we have that baby quick and in a hurry or we will be starving by the time we are allowed to eat anything. This isn’t the case in the U.K., though.
According to Baby Centre, many women bring snacks and drinks with them to the hospital. They acknowledge the fact that giving birth takes a lot of energy and food and nutrition are required for women to have that stamina. So, don’t worry about going through a 36-hour labor in the U.K. with nothing to eat.
18 No Hospital Required
In the U.S., the majority of women give birth in a hospital. There really aren’t a lot of options when it comes to places to give birth. Sure, a few women give birth at home, and there are birthing centers in select areas of the U.S., but we will not find this available in every state.
According to HomeBirth.org, home births are encouraged and wildly more accepted in the U.K. With there being at least 25,000 full-time midwives in the nation, there are many more birthing centers available than in the U.S., although it has been increasing in popularity in the states over the years.
17 Numbers Are No Issue
Every time we go to a doctor’s appointment while pregnant in the U.S., we are put on a scale. The number of pounds that we have gained or lost is charted. We are given a recommended amount of weight that our doctor thinks we should gain during pregnancy. In the U.K., according to Made for Mums, we may never step on a scale during our pregnancy.
Weight isn’t something that is watched so closely across the pond. They aren’t concerned if a woman gains 60 pounds while pregnant there, but if she were to gain that in the U.S., she would be put through a number of medical tests and scans and may be labeled as high-risk or even have limitations placed on her birth choices.
16 No Worries Of Excessive C-Sections
All of these women scheduling their C-sections to accommodate their schedules or to make sure a certain family member can be there when the baby comes are becoming the norm in the United States; they likely wouldn’t enjoy delivering a baby in the U.K. C-section is not an option by choice there. If and only if a Cesarean is medically warranted, does a woman have one—not because she chooses to have one.
According to Belly Belly, the rate for C-sections is significantly higher in the U.S. Theory has it that doctors in the United States will do a Cesarean when it is not absolutely necessary out of fear of being sued in most cases or even to suit their own schedules in some cases.
15 Let’s Make This Appointment Thing A Little Simpler
Being pregnant in the U.S., we do a lot of running back and forth to see our doctor or midwife. In the beginning, we will have an appointment every month, but as we get closer to our due date, appointments will increase drastically. By the time we go into labor, we will be seeing our doctor once each week. In the U.K., according to What To Expect, their focus is more on actual birth than prenatal treatment.
They are not concerned with every little thing the mother-to-be experiences. Women will not be sent to appointment after appointment to keep their mind content, nor to satisfy profit margins or for the sake of believing everyone needs constant, preventative medicine. The U.K. recognizes pregnancy and birth as natural processes that have the best outcomes when they are left to proceed accordingly.
14 No Supplies Here
When we give birth in a hospital in the U.S., any and all supplies we need for the new baby are available. The hospital provides diapers, wipes, bottles, and formula if we cannot breastfeed. In the U.K., however, new mothers aren’t so lucky. According to UK Healthcare, most hospitals and birthing centers provide very little of the supplies needed.
Most mothers bring supplies for their new babies from home. Everything from pillows to their own pain medications—they bring anything they think may be needed with them when they come to the hospital. There are several websites which sell a variety of birthing supplies for moms-to-be.
13 The In-Home Checkup
If we have a baby in the U.S., after we are sent home, we are basically on our own. Sure, family and friends may stop by to check on us or help us out with anything we may be having issues with, but other than that, it is up to us from the day you leave the hospital. According to Baby and Bump, a midwife visits the new mother’s home every other day for the first ten days after going home with their new baby in the U.K. She will make sure the mother is recovering as she should and that the baby is eating and gaining weight properly.
12 We’re Outta Here!
When giving birth in the U.S., it is a given that we will be admitted to the hospital and staying at least 24 hours after delivery is complete. Some moms may even have a two- or three-day stay in the hospital for a delivery with colonized GBS infections or a C-section.
In the U.K., according to The Guardian, women may stay for only a few hours after delivery. Although some women do choose to stay longer—as they are permitted to—others prefer to readjust at home. For those who choose to stay at the hospital, because of subsidized medicine, the facility stay is free–unlike in the U.S. where the longer we stay, the more we pay.
11 No Visitors Allowed
When we give birth in the U.S., we are taken to a private delivery room where we can have the people of our choosing to be with us to witness the birth of our baby. We can have visitors all day long, and the baby’s father typically stays in the hospital with us overnight.
In the U.K., this doesn’t happen. If delivering in a hospital, we may birth our baby in a room with several other women birthing their own. According to Mums Net, U.K. moms are only allowed visitors during two 1-hour periods during the day. There are no overnight visitors—regardless of the relation.
10 The Non-Existant Test
While pregnant in the U.S., we are subjected to several different medical tests. It seems that during every doctor visit, there is another screening being performed. Generally, we’re told they’re all mandatory. The truth is, none of them are. They range from infectious disease testing to hemoglobin levels to Rh factor to genetic disorder testing, but all are pushed hard in the United States.
All pregnant women are encouraged by doctors to have the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) to determine if a mother has gestational diabetes. According to Women’s Health, this test is only done in the U.K. if there are prior symptoms of gestational diabetes developing. It is not seen as a necessary test for all pregnant women.
9 Keep It Moving!
In the U.S., once we go into labor, we are often confined to a hospital bed. Our doctor will want to have monitors on us to monitor the baby at all times—though we can refuse this practice and the potential risks that come with it—and we will be encouraged to accept IV fluids, though that isn’t medically necessary for most either.
Sometimes, we will not be able to get up and move around if we feel the need to. According to Evidently Cochrane, in the U.K., the midwife will allow her client to walk around or get into any position she feels comfortable laboring in. An electronic monitor is only suggested if there are complications or the mom-to-be chooses to have an epidural. She can ask to be hooked up to electronic monitors, though this isn’t necessary.
8 It’s Not A Crystal Ball
During labor in the U.S., a doctor will regularly come in to check the expectant mother’s progress and see how much she has dilated. This is a routine thing with every delivery. It determines how much the cervix has opened up and how far into labor the woman is. In the U.K., however, according to Baby Centre, a midwife will offer these examinations, but the woman is not required to have them.
When the midwife offers these, she will discuss her reasons for the exams, but it is up to the client whether she accepts them or not. Why doesn’t the U.K. consider this necessary? Because cervical checks don’t actually gauge when labor will happen. Some women will sit at 5cm for weeks while others go into labor tightly closed and have a baby an hour later. It means nothing. The cervix is not a crystal ball.
7 Let Gravity Assist
When giving birth in the U.S., we are told they must be lying in a hospital bed, usually with their feet in stirrups. They are told they do not have an option as to what position they should be in. However, this isn’t true. The hospital cannot force a laboring mom to lie down and birth on her back—arguably the worst position for labor. In fact, this practice only became the norm when birth became medicalized.
Traditionally, women gave birth in more upright positions as this lets gravity help to birth the baby while also reducing the risk of tearing and decreasing push time for Mom. In the U.K., according to UK Healthcare, women can give birth in any position she feels comfortable in. It doesn’t matter if she is standing, squatting, sitting on a toilet or birth stool, or even on her hands and knees. Women in the U.K. are encouraged to listen to their body and follow what feels right.
6 That Pesky Afterbirth
In the U.K., according to Baby Centre, there are two different options for removing the placenta after birth–active management and physiological management. There is only one option most are given in the U.S. Once the baby is delivered and the umbilical cord is cut, the doctor will push on mom’s stomach to help the placenta come out. This is called physiological management. Active management is when the midwife pulls on the umbilical cord until the placenta comes out.
Unfortunately, both processes pose more risk to mom for hemorrhage or excessive bleeding, as well as retained placenta. Cord traction is something most women in the U.S. are now telling their providers not to do—preferring to allow for more time to birth the placenta naturally. Hey, at least both cultures are keen on placenta prints.
5 Food For Thought
After having a baby in the U.S., if we cannot breastfeed, we are given formula samples to take home with us. Thus, we are not required to go straight out and buy formula to feed the baby. We are usually given several pre-mixed bottles of baby formula that our baby has been fed since birth.
According to NiDirect, in the U.K., there are laws against promoting formula for babies less than six months of age, because the nutritional benefits don’t compare to breastfeeding. So, no formula samples there—not for the newborn baby. It is illegal to advertise for baby formula, offer formula coupons or even have formula on display in the U.K.
4 Applied Breathing Techniques
In the U.S., if we haven’t taken childbirth classes, we figure out the breathing techniques that work for us during labor. Usually, our doctor doesn’t inform us of these childbirth classes; we are required to ask questions, call around and find them yourself. In the U.K. however, according to Gov.UK, a midwife will teach her clients natural childbirth techniques that are similar to Lamaze techniques. With the midwife teaching women these techniques anyway, they will not need a class or have to figure out such practices on their own. Every woman going into labor will know these techniques as if they were second nature. Actually, they kind of are.
3 Ultrasounds Galore
In the U.S., women may have as many ultrasounds as a doctor calls for during a normal pregnancy. She may even opt for additional ones “just because” since ultrasounds aren’t regulated in the states. And when the pregnancy is complicated or high risk, she may get even more. During these scans, she can see what her baby looks like. This scan is also done when they determine the sex of your baby while screening for anatomical abnormalities.
In the U.K., according to Pregnancy UK, there will only be two of these ultrasound scans done, if that. One will be done between eight and 14 weeks if the woman is unsure of when she conceived, and the other between 18 and 21 weeks for anatomy purposes. Women in both nations can and do opt out of all of these scans since research has linked them to multiple risk factors including cavitation, developmental disorders, and delayed growth.
2 Vitamin K Conundrums
In the U.K., according to Evidence Based Birth, women will be offered a vitamin K injection for their baby. Vitamin K injections are said to help prevent hemorrhagic disease—a rare bleeding disorder—of the newborn. While this happens in the U.K., it does not in the U.S. This injection is also offered in the United States.
However, many more women in the U.K. are made aware that they can opt out of it than in the U.S. In the states, most women are led to believe it is mandatory, while it is only mandated by law in a few states. Vitamin K does come with risks and a black box warning. It contains aluminum that can be neurotoxic to the fetal brain. It’s a tough choice for parents on both sides of the pond, but moms in the U.S. tend to be far less aware that it is a choice at all.
Although the U.K. does have socialized medicine and healthcare is basically free, there is a cost that goes along with giving birth anywhere we are. The difference in the cost between the U.S. and the U.K. is tremendous. According to The Bump, a regular natural birth in the U.S. is said to cost around $30,000, while the same birth in the U.K. would only cost an average of $2,300—close to what a home birth may cost in the states. One would think the country that requires their citizens to pay for everything would make sure to have a lower birthing cost than the country that has virtually free healthcare. Think again.
References: Baby Centre, Baby Centre, HomeBirth.org, Made for Mums, Belly Belly, What to Expect, UK Healthcare, Baby And Bump, The Guardian, Mums Net, Women’s Health, Evidently Cochrane.net, Baby Centre, UK Healthcare, Baby Centre, NiDirect.gov, Gov.UK, Pregnancy.UK, Evidence Based Birth, The Bump