Mike and I moved to the UK when I was around 25 weeks gestation. We debated for a bit whether to stay in Canada for the birth and then move over together, or for Mike to go ahead in October and then come back for the birth. But we didn’t want to be apart for so long and also didn’t want to delay the start of Mike’s job either. We realized that moving over in advance was the best option. It worked out well because it has taken me this long to get organized with moving into our flat, getting all the home wares we needed, setting up our utilities as well as getting our nursery and baby items.
Once we knew the postal code of the flat we were moving in to, I could arrange a GP appointment. From there I chose a hospital to be referred to and started under the care of a midwife. Midwives oversee all maternity care in the UK unless there are any issues and you need to be seen by an obstetrician.
I have been very impressed so far with the level of care provided. There are a number of classes offered in advance from regular pre-natal classes, to breastfeeding and physio workshops. Also, the amount of support after birth seems to be in abundance. I can expect 2-3 visits from a community midwife in the first few weeks after we are home and then a home visitor for a few weeks after that. In each borough there are drop in breastfeeding clinics where you go with any questions or issues as well as children’s centers you can visit with non-urgent issues if you don’t have a GP appointment. They also offer courses like baby massage and mom and baby coffee dates. I do realize that I don’t have anything to compare all of this to because I have never gone through the process before. I’d be curious to know if these same sorts of things are offered in Canada.
The hospital we chose has the usual Labour Ward where a midwife will deliver your baby, but the obstetricians are available if needed. Running alongside the regular Labour Ward is a new Birth Centre that just opened in February. At any point during labour you can be moved from the Birth Centre to the Labour Ward if needed. The Birth Centre is described as a spa-like facility with mood lighting, birth pools and aromatherapy. Mike and I took a tour of the facilities a few days ago and it was quite spectacular! Calming music drifted over the speakers, the room was large and modern with a number of labour aids including a huge spa like tub. You have your own private bathroom, and once you have your baby, a double bed pulls down from the wall and you can snuggle together with your new little family.
In addition to your midwife, you also have a doula available if you would like extra support. All of this sounds like a dream come true right? This is all part of the regular health system here, you just choose which environment you want to give birth in. The Labour Ward offers many of the same benefits such as doulas, labour aids and a birthing pool, however the calming environment does not compare. I was looking around in awe and thinking, “sign me up”, but then I remembered the small but critical caveat, which is that epidurals are only preformed in the Labour Ward. Our “birth plan” was to have no plan and be open to whatever happened. However most of the women in my life have had an epidural when giving birth and were happy with their choice and thankful for the relief. I’ve always imagined that I would have an epidural too. I didn’t expect to have so many options. It looks like we have some thinking to do over the next few weeks to decide what might be right for us.
By the way, if you think the Birth Centre is nice, you wouldn’t believe what the private “Kengsington Wing” looks like which costs £900/night and is outfitted like a 5 star hotel!