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Live in France and don't want to give birth here!

(24 Posts)
KatieTrancoso Fri 09-Nov-12 14:44:09

We've been living deep in the French countryside for 5 years, aren't entirely happy and want to move back to the UK where all of our friends and family are, but are unable to do so for the moment. I'm pregnant which is great, but the French maternity services seem so archaic! No birthing pools or birthing balls, no gas or air, episiotomies are standard especially for first time mums, as are epidurals, and you give birth in a gynaecological chair with your feet in stirrups - as a friend of mine said 'In France, birth is about the comfort of the doctor not the mother' . Very clinical with little comfort offered. I'm not saying I won't want an epidural but it would be nice for the choice to be discussed instead of 'this is what we do'! I honestly don't know what to do - I have private health cover and technically can give birth anywhere (private wards or hospitals don't really exist in France), eg The Portland, but that would mean moving back to the UK I imagine for around 2 months, one month before and a few weeks after, leaving all home comforts and our lovely dogs behind. Neither option sounds good tbh. I'm even considering having a cs so I can birth abroad but plan it a little. AND I'm v worried what DH's mother will say when she hears that we've come to the UK to birth at the Portland! She doesn't hold back at the best of times. Does anyone have any advice? Very worried.

javotte Fri 09-Nov-12 15:28:25

Where exactly do you live?
I live in rural France and at the hospital where I gave birth 2 weeks ago, the MW respected my wishes. I have 3 children and even though I did give birth on my back twice (because I was too shy to protest) I have never had an episiotomy. Private hospitals exist (they are called "cliniques").

monal Fri 09-Nov-12 15:28:51

Talk to a midwife at your local hospital first. It might not be as bad as you think. Legally, you still have rights and can choose to refuse things like a gynaecological chair with your feet in stirrups, you can write a birth plan and discuss it. So it might not be as bad as you think, even though it is true that largely it is more like you say than it is in the UK. But if you turn up with a birthing ball then they can't stop you bouncing on it. It might help to talk with staff and see if they treat you like a crazy person or if they find what you're saying quite normal.

If you want to, you could see if there is a sage-femme libérale on this list who would assist you in a home birth, but I gave up pretty quickly because of how complicated it all seemed.

javotte Fri 09-Nov-12 15:38:06

And don't be afraid to quote article L 1111-4 from the Code de la Santé Publique. It states that no medical act can be forced onto the patient. It does apply to epidurals, legs in stirrups, IVs, episiotomies...

monal Fri 09-Nov-12 15:44:24

I just wanted to add that I felt just like you a couple of weeks ago, I basically wanted to go back to the UK. Mostly in a fit of pique, because I'm otherwise very happy here. But I have found a clinic that are very supportive of natural birth and I'm now very very reassured.

KatieTrancoso Sat 10-Nov-12 15:43:32

Good to know you had all yours without episiotomy Javotte! I live 40 mins south of Bergerac. I can quote the code de la sp at them but it won't change the fact that a gynae chair with stirrups is all they have! I'm fluent in French so I'm not worried about the language problem, and I'm also used to dealing with difficult French people, the thing is I don't want to have to fight for what I want while giving birth! I'll talk with my OB at our next appointment, in the meantime I've been checking out other hospitals/clinics online over the past few weeks. Whereas there are private clinics, they're not private in the British sense of the word, they are just run privately instead of by the state. From their statistics they all seem much of a muchness around here. The more decent ones which have at least one water bath and alternative birthing options are in Bordeaux or Toulouse - 1.5 and 2 hours away respectively. I'm not sure 2 hours steaming down the motorway whilst in labour is the best option - I hear travel while in labour is quite painful! ALso that would mean a 3 or 4 hour round trip for all my appointments.

Monal I would love a home birth but I'm high risk so it's an OB at the hospital for everything. I've tried to get hold of a doula through the French association for some extra support but to no avail...where are you based?

I think I need to get more information about all the options and then decide...I'm worrying about it all far too much!

javotte Sat 10-Nov-12 17:01:01

If you are ready to move back to the UK 1 month before the birth, could you rent a meublé in Bordeaux a couple of weeks before your due date so that you are closer to a good hospital?

Welovecouscous Sat 10-Nov-12 18:25:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

discrete Sat 10-Nov-12 18:37:16

I have had 2 home water births in France, and both times had as backup maternity units where water births were available.

If you have to be in hospital, you may be able to give birth 'sous plateforme technique', which is where the sage femme liberale of your choice accompanies you to hospital and is responsible for your care. Even if you end up with a c-section that would only be at her instigation.

That could also mean that you could have one of the further hospitals for the birth but your appointments at home/the mw's cabinet.

The default is awful in France, but you can find acceptable alternatives usually, they are just not served to you on a platter.

femmeaufoyer Sat 10-Nov-12 20:16:46

I can understand how you feel, however I'm also about to give birth in France (I'm 35 weeks) and I'm feeling exactly the opposite. My first DC was born in the UK, I wanted an epidural but was given the old "it's too late" story so I spent my labour high on gas and air and pethedine and can't remember most of the birth. I'm actually looking forward to an epidural, and being in control and aware of what's going on. I was left alone (with DH ofcourse) for long periods of time because they were short-staffed for midwives and they sent me home 3 hours after the birth because of the infection-risk in the hospital! I'm looking forward to a lovely 4 day stay in the clinique bonding with my new baby and having my meals made for me. However I'm not fluent in French so I'm a little worried about communication problems!!! I wish you the best for your birth and I hope you get what you want.

ChicaT Sun 11-Nov-12 15:18:56

Discrete thanks for the advice, I'll look in to a sage-femme liberale, it sounds like it would be a good option if I choose to give birth here. In the meantime I'm going to spend this week checking out the better clinics in Bordeaux and the week after I'm heading to London so can check out the options there. It's good to know there are alternatives here, I'm just not particularly in the mood to be pushing for them when I can have them easily in the UK, and be surrounded by friends and family too. Femme au foyer I hope you have a better experience this time! Infection rates are certainly lower in FR hospitals, though I can't necessarily vouch for the hospital food!

LeBFG Sun 11-Nov-12 17:51:21

Well, we are quite similar. I had been terribly frightened off French hospitals - I was sure I'd get a c-section for example. But in fact, I had a great birthing experience although it all did go down the epidural and legs-in-air approach. I couldn't complain too much as I was delivering early and was frightened to anything that would jeopardise my baby in any way. No other assitance was needed or performed. Food was great! Care was fantastic, hygiene spotless - can't complain about anything in fact.

You're rural like me and same distance from Toulouse. In my little corner, no sf lib will visit me at home (!!!) so the sf from the PMI is picking up some of my appointments. I've been told that no sf outside the hospital will be able to accompany me at the birth in any case. No doulas in my dept or willing to travel as far as me. Wrt homebirhts, my neighbour had all four at home. But she had to get a sf from the Ariège to visit her (must have had to pay a lot, about 3 hours round-trip)! The sf need special insurance and this scares them off doing homebirths. This time round though, I'm largely seeing the gynae at the hospital (80 min round trip) so even having explored all alternatives I'm back to the default...

discrete Sun 11-Nov-12 19:45:29

I have to say that if I had had my parents back in London with sufficient room to accommodate me I might have been tempted to go there too, but in the end I had a better experience here.

I effectively got what you would have from an independent mw in the UK, but whereas there it would have cost a few grand, here it was almost totally covered by the secu!

Nicky1306 Tue 13-Nov-12 18:24:00

Hi, I had a similar experience when I was pregnant with DD, we were living in the TRNC (turkish republic of northern cyprus) the pre-natal care there is second to none ( although i went private it was cheap as chips) I was scanned fortnightly and the tests they do on you are second to none they even measure how effective your placenta is and how much blood flow the cord has....... Any way I digress, i had come around to the idea that I would be given a C section ( its the done thing there- the men prefer it as it keeps their wifes nice and "tight" I shit you not! angry ) I considered arguing it but came to the conclusion that I wouldn't ask for a c section of they only did natural births so why ask for a natural birth when a c section is the norm? But when we were shown the operating theatre on a Monday covered in bloody swabs from a emergency section on the Saturday!!! I ran for the hills!! ( and booked a flight back to blighty pronto!!) for me it was a case of better the devil you know, I felt more comfortable being on home ground. You need to do what is best for you , and whatever will make you feel at ease when it comes to giving birth, coming home for me was the best decision, I hope find something you are comfortable with OP x x

fraktion Tue 13-Nov-12 18:35:33

If you fight you can get mostly what you want.

I had a natural gas and air, no episiotomy, no stirrups with birthing ball delivery with good breast-feeding support. You need to be loud about it and quote legislation but it's doable.

LeBFG Wed 14-Nov-12 08:09:27

What legislation are you referring to fraktion?

fraktion Wed 14-Nov-12 08:47:51

Mostly L 1111-4 from the Code de la Santé Publique that javotte mentioned but 'attendre bébé autrement' had some other useful ones too, which I can't find right now but will repost when I do. Some doctors and MWs are receptive to WHO recommendations or other country's guidelines. Some have extraordinary ideas like English people being completely physiologically different to French people, notably re:BF.

LeBFG Wed 14-Nov-12 09:00:03

I am so laughing at that last bit fraktion. Reminds me of so many conversations where french have disregarded something or other because the english had done the research/compiled the info.

At hospital last time, I wanted to ask the anaesthetist about the relationship of interventions with epidurals. SHe laughed in my face and said her goal was 'to make sure I gave birth with a smile on my face' hmm.

I'm coming up against a lot of resistance at the moment wrt my care and feel the gynae is bullying me (not so up to it now I'm preggers, I feel quite vulnerable). I'm worrying more about the birth this time - I want to do it my way. I'll check out the relevant info - thanks a lot (didn't see javotte's post).

mirai Wed 14-Nov-12 09:10:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

winnybella Wed 14-Nov-12 09:24:35

I gave birth in France and tbh I thought it was great. Having said that, I laboured at home for hours and so was very happy when they proposed epidural on my arrival. I actually declined at first but then the pain got really bad and I had it within 15 minutes of asking. Re:stirrups, no, no one will force you to use them, I found that they are very useful as you can push against them, but you can also just hold your legs or ask a midwife to do so. Tbh if you decided for example to crouch down on the bed, they won't stop you, you know.And yes, 4 days stay at hospital was brilliant.

So I see lots of pluses in French approach to birth, epidural on demand (as opposed to it not being always available when you need it in the UK hospitals, this is absolutely incomrehensible to me), few days to recuperate (I've never understood being told to go home few hours after birth thing that's standard in the UK), good BF support (contrary to the popular perception of how the French are about BF)...

winnybella Wed 14-Nov-12 09:26:19

Oh, and don't forget reeducation perinale (forgive lack of accents, not sure how you do them on my comp) wink offered for free after birth.

I like how in France there is a focus on mother's wellbeing and comfort as well, what's wrong with that?

LeBFG Wed 14-Nov-12 09:30:47

These aspects were great ime too winnybella. I agree a lot with your postings. However, I would like a little more dialogue with the HP. I very much want to avoid a c-section for example - I feel if I avoid an epidural and am free to move around this will help my chances. Last time I felt fighting fit after a day of rest. THis time (if all goes well) I definately do not want to be in hospital 4 days...

winnybella Wed 14-Nov-12 14:21:37

But does having epidural when labour is well established is really connected with much higher chance of having CS? Agree about moving around, I was strapped to monitors so had to lay there and tbh if I was able to move freely, maybe I would have dealt with pain better...having said that, I loved having had epidural both times I gave birth.

In any case, they can't force you to do anything. I remember with DD, scans showed that she was a large baby so they proposed a sweep at 37 and a bit weeks. I said that I didn't want it and they were fine with it. As it were, she was born few days later. I remember they were relatively relaxed about due dates and CS, as well, no automatic CS if you went over your EDD by a week or two.

Generally speaking, I was happy with my birth, but then I don't mind the medical approach (as long as my wishes are respected).

LeBFG Wed 14-Nov-12 14:52:31

I was skeptical about the link, which is why I asked the anaesthetist. I've since read a really good Australian study which bowled me over. They looked at 750, 000 low-risk women and found most women who gave bith without epi or induction went on to have no other intervention (forceps etc). For women that had epidurals, over 30% then went on to have c-sections! A third. I couldn't believe it. Because they excluded all risky pregnancies, you would have expected the c-section rates to be much less and not so apparently linked with having an epi. Here's the paper (check fig 3), I did read the full text but for some reason it's not available anymore.

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