The healthcare system abroad differs from country to country, what’s more, many nations have a less advanced system than we have in the UK with the good old NHS, therefore the thought of having to have a baby anywhere other than ‘home’ is incredibly daunting for many pregnant expatriate women.
We don’t expect expat soon-to-be dads to have the first clue about any of this – after all, ‘a hospital’s a hospital, what’s the problem.’ But we do understand that for expectant mums, the additional concerns relating to having a baby abroad in a foreign hospital, under a foreign health service and through the medium of a foreign language can be really quite daunting.
The good news for those who have moved across the Channel is that having a baby when living in France can be a far more pleasant, reassuring and supported experience than you may have in the UK.
Having spoken to mums to be as well as those who have already had their baby in France and women who have had children in the UK and France we have developed a fairly well rounded idea about the entire process and experience and can safely say that in the majority of instances, the French experience was so superior in many ways to that which one has with the NHS.
The first thing to note is that the French are very family centric and this starts from almost before the word go! Pregnant women are respected in a way one should be allowed to expect – seats on buses and trains are given up, people will step off the pavement to let you pass, and once the news is out there that you are expecting you can expect an awful lot of well wishers wishing you well! For some women this is a little surprising, for others it can get to the point it borders on irritation when every second person you meet wants to know how you are, wants to touch the bump and impart a little nugget of advice! Don’t worry, just try and go with the flow. It’s your baby, your body and your pregnancy, therefore take the advice with a pinch of salt or let it go in one ear and out the other and move on!
When it comes to getting medical advice and support, the best thing is that there are a wealth of resources available to you from the get go. You will probably find you have far more appointments and checks, scans and tests than you would in the UK, and that the French are very conscientious when it comes to testing for any form of issue or abnormality as par for the course. You will not have to pay for extra scans like the nuchal translucency for example, and you will be seen by consultants rather than just midwives and GPs. In the UK the only time you see a consultant is if you pay or there is a suspected issue with the pregnancy! All this makes the entire experience far more reassuring and means that pregnant women are able to discuss any concerns they have more freely and more often. There is nothing worse than feeling that you have no one to talk to and nowhere to turn – and this feeling can be exacerbated when you’re living abroad. Pregnant women living in France be assured, there is a lot of support available for you, don’t be afraid to take it.
The birthing options are similar to those you have in the UK, the difference being that if you do opt for a hospital birth you will have private room following the birth in the vast majority of instances, and you will be encouraged to remain in hospital for at least 5 nights with full on full time midwife support. You will be given all the time, help and advice you need to get to grips with parenthood and as a result, this part of the experience was universally voted the very best by all the women we spoke to.
It seems that giving birth in France is not as frightening or daunting an experience as many expatriate women expect it to be. The level of professional support that there is in place for all women ensures that mums to be have both their physical and emotional well being cared for – and this makes all the difference.