a transatlantic mommy / mummy blog – my kids say "tomato" & "to-mah-to"

I’m Pregnant across the pond – and yep it’s different than in the US

So we’re officially expecting baby #3. I’m due in February and while we don’t know whether we’re expecting a girl or boy yet – my sons are pretty convinced it’s going to be a girl. In fact, that’s what they tell EVERYONE.  We’ll see in a few weeks.  (It’s soooo unfair that the gender scan is 16-18 wks in the US but 20 weeks here in the UK, it’s not like they grow faster in the US!!)

So, there are many differences I’ve found in being pregnant in the UK as compared to the US. Some good, some not so good.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I made an appointment with the GP. I went in and saw the GP and she signed me up with the midwives at the local hospital. Now in that visit she just talked to me, and took my word for it that I was pregnant. No urine test, no blood test, she didn’t even take my pulse or weight. I found it all rather odd. What if I was wrong – or what if I was just crazy? I thought it rather interesting that she took my word for it.

Being a working expat – I have a few more options, since I have health insurance from my employer that covers pregnancy and birth. So I could choose to go NHS or private. Given that this is my 3rd child, and my 2 previous pregnancies were high risk with extremely difficult c-sections (let’s just say the anesthetic didn’t work) I was interested in making sure that baby and I got the Dr’s who’d have the most experience with high risk pregnancies, and difficult deliveries. My friends here recommended a great high risk OBGYN who delivers at the hospital near my home and conveniently has a private Consultation office near my work.

He originally advised that I go NHS with the High Risk Unit at Chelsea & Westminster so I’d have him or his team and he thought this would give me good coverage of care if he wasn’t available. And I was OK with that – until that is , I learned more about what an NHS delivery would entail at that hospital – and how different that was from my expectations and experience.

I think the NHS is great – I love that so many people are helped, and the US system does fail a lot of people, but in this instance, for me, it’s not my first choice.

1. Room full of of Mums & Babies

When speaking with other Mums and with Chelsea & Westminster (and reading MumsNet) I found out that there would be no private rooms, I’d need to share a room with up to 6-8 other Mums and babies.  Ok not great, a little privacy would be appreciated and I’m not super keen on the babies waking eachother (and us) up but not a deal-breaker.

2. No baby nursery

When my first son was born after 3 days of labor, 4hrs of pushing and an emergency c-section with no anesthesia it’s fair to say I was in pretty rough shape. When the nurses offered to take him to the baby nursery so I could rest for an hour or two I felt like I’d be a bad Mother for sending him away and said “No.” By the time baby #2 came along I was ready for the opportunity to take a nap and recover from surgery. They brought him back when he was awake and we bonded and he nursed. Now if you’re reading this and in the UK – the baby nursery is exactly like you’ve seen it on TV. Americans reading this – from the previous sentence you’ll realize that baby nurseries don’t exist here in UK hospitals. Again, this is not a deal-breaker, but not ideal either.

3. No overnight guests 

And so we come to my total deal-breaker. Seeing as how you’re n a room full of other Mums and babies, that means no overnight “guests.” Seeing as how it’s my hub’s fault I’m in the hospital having the baby in the first place he better darn well be there to help me through it.  With my first 2, after having the c-section for the first day or two I couldn’t physically lift my babies out of their hospital bassinet. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom or take a shower unaided. The thought of my husband scampering off after dinner while I’m somehow left unable to care for myself or baby all night is terrifying to me. I know UK Mums magically do this everyday here, and I really think they are amazing superwomen. Given my previous experience I just don’t think I have it in me. This for me was the final straw and total deal-breaker.

So, I spoke to my OBGYN and have booked at the same hospital but in the private wing. This means, I’ll have my own room, they have a play-room where they can take the baby for a couple hrs to hold them (still not a baby nursery but better than nothing) and they have a cot for my husband to stay in my room.

After booking, I found out one of my oldest friends here is also expecting the same week and has booked the same place so it would be fun if we’re there at the same time :0)

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to make this choice. I know it’s not available to everyone as it can be quite a cost prohibitive option (especially if you don’t have private insurance to cover it). But funnily enough this expensive private option is still cheaper than having a baby in the US if you don’t have health insurance. For many friends in the US who are self employed they have to pay for this themselves. Our friends have shared that it costs between $30,000-$50,000 US and while some even had health insurance, because their husband transferred jobs while they were expecting – the delivery was not covered because the pregnancy was a “pre-existing condition”. They’ve advised me that it’s worth shopping around the hospitals in your area as they offer quite different rates and some offer discounts for pre-payment etc.

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8 years ago 6 Comments Short URL


  1. Suz Korb says:

    I had my first baby in the USA and my second here in the UK. The only thing I didn’t like about having a baby here was having to stay on a ward with other mum’s after my C-section. Other than that, I’ll always have my babies here! Too barbaric with the episiotomies and circumcisions in America.

    • Jackie says:

      I’m pretty sure they do episiotomies here too – I know someone’s who’s went very wrong here in London and will require reconstructive surgery. You’re on to something regarding the circumcisions, I had to explain repeatedly in the US that I did not want them to do that to my baby – since it’s an automatic procedure there the day after birth. I even had to fill out forms about it.

  2. Carrie says:

    It’s interesting to hear your perspective from the US and now the UK. I am in Australia and I guess we have options somewhere in between. For free (public) care it is simlilar to what you mentioned, a few mums to a room (usually not more than 3) with their bubs, though there is a nursery – especially if you have had a C-Section. I have private insurance (about $220/month for a family) which covers a multitude of things, one of them being birth and stay in a private hospital. You do pay a percentage of your doctors visits though. I expect it to cost me around $2500-$4000 depending on if I have a C-Section or not (a few more costs for anastesiologist etc). I look forward to following your journey and wish you the best of luck with – Im high risk and crossing my fingers it all works our right now, Im still early on! x
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    • Jackie says:

      Thanks Carrie – I love the 3rd country perspective. We just need a Canadian to add their experience now to really round this out.

      Is this your first baby? I’m high risk too and have been for each of mine. Even though you/we are high risk I find it comforting to know high risk pregnancies happen all the time and generally have successful outcomes for Mums and Babies.

      It’s great that you will have a nursery, like I said I felt too guilty to use it the first time, but now my older wiser (possibly more jaded by motherhood) self would definitely encourage you to take advantage of it if and when you can, especially if you have a rough birth. It will be even harder to rest once you’re home

  3. [...] 2 has really thrown me some curveballs. I’ve previously mentioned my surprise about the differences in maternity wards in the US and UK. I thought I’d figured out all of differences and either planned around them and or made [...]

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