giving birth in france

(14 Posts)
Nancy54 Fri 18-May-12 16:18:33

Hello there,

I'll be having my first in France in a few months. I'm 19 weeks at the mo so haven't had any in depth discussions with the midwife about actually giving birth yet.

People have however told me that epidural is more or less automatic here and that it is frowned upon if you don't want it (not sure if i do or not). can anyone confirm this?

Also, i was wondering if they offer gas and air.

Any other insights into your birth experiences in France very welcome!

OP’s posts: |
Weta Fri 18-May-12 22:31:19

I had DS2 in France though he is now 4 so it was a few years ago! Definitely no gas and air unfortunately, unless that's changed, as they think it could be harmful to the baby.

Epidurals are very standard but you can say no if you want to - the main problem I found with this was that they weren't really set up to deal with women in pain, eg I was strapped up to a monitor and then left by myself with DH for a long period while the midwife monitored four women by tv screen from another room. I did laugh when I was given the info about epidurals which said that one reason to have one was because it could be traumatic for the husband (!), and another reason was to make things easier for the medical staff.

Sorry, that probably sounds a bit negative!! my main advice is to investigate very carefully the different options you have in terms of where you can give birth and the different clinics available to you. Also, people generally see an obstetrician for checkups throughout pregnancy, but you can do this with a midwife - sounds like you may be doing that already? the independent midwives often seem to be very good, so do go ahead and have an in-depth chat about it all. And of course you need to work out for yourself how medicalised a birth you want and where you fit on that particular spectrum.

On the plus side, the private clinic (reimbursed by the state) where I gave birth was very pleasant and comfortable with fantastic after-birth care - private room for a small supplement with tv and phone and en-suite, choice of meals etc etc, and they expect you to stay in for about 4 nights.

Nancy54 Sat 19-May-12 08:04:53

hey Weta, thanks for your reply! God that is hysterical re the husband thing, not surprising though! I have felt like all my french friends look at my as if i am a total freak for even considering not having an epidural!

I've got a freelance midwife who is absolutely lovely but because i'm having twins, she can't follow the pregnancy anymore, it has to be done by a doc a the maternity hospital which is a bit unfortunate. She's gonna do my preparation à l'accouchement though so i'll be able to ask her lots of questions etc.

She has actually advised me to give birth at the maternity hospital because of the twins thing - they have the neonatal unit.

OP’s posts: |
Weta Sat 19-May-12 08:22:48

oh if you're having twins that changes things anyway and I think you would definitely need to be in the maternity hospital. But that's great if you have a nice midwife and can see her again beforehand to get a different perspective and someone sympathetic to talk things through with.

I don't think I realised from your Lorraine thread that you were having twins! do you live near your DH's family so they can help you out a bit? we had DS2 down in Montpellier and my ILs were a couple of hours away but they were really great - MIL knew I was freezing meals in advance for after the birth and turned up with FIFTEEN family meals for the freezer! plus they took DS1 for a couple of days when I was in hospital and were always happy to look after us all for a weekend if we needed it.

Greythorne Sat 19-May-12 08:36:26

Congratulations on having twins!

I am in France, too, and have had two babies here. I concur with what Weta says. Not only do the medical teams expect you to want an epidural (I wouldn't go so far as to say they pressure you to have one, but it is def expected) but also, there's no alternative pain relief. No gas and air, no TENS machines, no Pethidine (is that still available in the UK? No idea). Plus, they pretty much expect you to be hooked up to an IV as soon as tyu get to the maternity unit, so even movement is severely restricted.

Hence, most women do want an epidural here!

There are so few options in France that the "birth plan" does not even exist. Why would it? You are not (as a general rule) in charge of your choices. There aren't any....unless you choose your maternity unit very, very carefully.

However, if you already have une sagefemme libérale you will be very well advised by her. She will know the system and be able to guide you. Just don't expect to be writing a birth plan including birthing pools and meditation techniques smile

You will already have discovered that the whole process tends to be more medicalised than in the UK. You can't really escape this, especially if you are haing twins. So my best advice is: embrace it! Remember than thousands of French women have babies every year, they have very, very high standards of care and very, very good outcomes in terms of maternal / infant mortality. They have very different ways of achieveing those great results, but trying to buck against the system which is in place can be tiring and unproductive.

Be guided by your midwife and don't read any too many UK-based pregnancy manuals as you will be out of sync with pretty much everything in France, even scans take place at different times in France (22 weeks as opposed to 20 week).

Good luck.

Nancy54 Sat 19-May-12 08:40:00

yeah luckily his parents live nearby and are really nice. they both work full time though (they had him when they were really young, he's 30 now) so they won't be able to give much hands on help during the week but i'm sure his mother will be dropping off meals constantly which will be a godsend!! she is a great cook too!

OP’s posts: |
NatureAbhorsAHoover Sat 19-May-12 12:13:28

nancy you might like to read "French Children Don't Throw Food" - purely for the insight into why giving birth in france is set up the way it is, the author explains the mindset very well and I think it would be helpful if you are having to do it through the french system (NB not trying to kick off any controversy about the child-raising attitudes in said book!). She had twins and a singleton in France, and the book is pretty new so I think her experiences reflect current practices.

Agree with Greythorne - best to just embrace it and don't try and fight it. French have better neonatal outcomes than we do, so they can't be completely wrong about it all.


Nancy54 Sat 19-May-12 17:51:01

hey guys, thanks for sharing your experiences. yes, i think that you're right and it's best just to embrace it, just takes a bit of getting your head around i suppose! the most important thing is that they arrive safely!

OP’s posts: |
Fraktal Sat 19-May-12 19:28:06

I had gas!!!! That was, however, in a DOM but only last year.

I also had a 45min bullying session with an anaesthetist who told me I would definitely need an epidural. I have a severe phobia of needles so that didn't help one bit.

I didn't have CTG until I was in delivery and I was left pretty much to my own devices which is the way I wanted it.

I really recommend 'attendre bébé autrement' for a guide to what you can expect to get away with and what really is obligatory. Plus one thing I wanted to do but couldn't was go on a hypnobirthing course. I definitely plan to with the (not yet conceived) next one because that should help with the being left alone.

ExpatInCannes Tue 22-May-12 13:07:28

Glad i found this thread... Im in early stages of pregnancy and have no idea what to do next!!! Ive had an intial appt with my gyno and have another appt next week so am hoping that he will give me more infornation... He just gave me tablets to ease the sickness and an internal scan... No checking the bloid pressure (which is always lower than it should be), no dont eat this or dont eat that....

Any advice would be appreciated, its my first pregnancy and although i can speak ok French the medical stuff goes over my head!!


Pasanna Wed 27-Jun-12 15:49:58

I've had 2 babies here in France. The clinic I used was private because my obs. was attached to it. Midwife consulted at 4 months, both times they gave details of preparation d'accouchment including hypnobirthing. There was a choice of sage famme liberal according to the sort of birth you wanted. I found there was much more discussion with the midwife for the birth plans than my doctor.
The clinic had a natural birth suite birthing balls and gas and air which you were only allowed to use on the bed! Each time I was asked straight away if I wanted an epidural and each time I said I would see how it went. DS1 was b to b and I had an epidural. DS2 just gas. The staff were very supportive of both decisions and encouraged me with ds2 not to have an epi.
Skin to skin both times after birth and a breast feeding specialist came first thing in the morning/ after birth. She also came by twice a day, every day I was there to check babies latch, show breast massage and answer any questions.
HTH congratulations and bonne chance!

usuallydormant Wed 27-Jun-12 19:43:49

I had an experience like Pasana, but in a public hospital. Had an epidural with the first, but totally my choice and the midwife let me go as long as possible without any pressure.

On the second, I was totally supported in not having one: had a birthing ball, herbal bath and gave birth in all foursgrin not all French hospitals are the same - there is a website with the rates of epidurals and CS in all hospitals - the Clinique near me had high rates of both, the midwife led public hospital was much lower. Great bf support too.

Good luck with the pregnancy, I will say they are incredibly keen on lots of tests heregrin

frenchfancy Wed 27-Jun-12 20:43:32

I had a birthing pool up to the delivery, but they wouldn't allow me to give birth in it (even though DD2 had been born in a pool in UK).

During labour I had pethidine, and once out of the pool I had gas and air. No epidural and no pressure at all to have one. This was 5 years ago in a ruralish hospital.

discrete Wed 27-Jun-12 20:55:16

I had two wonderful, home water births with an independent midwife in France.

And it was all reimbursable!

The key is to find the right midwife. They can also do a delivery at the maternite, but with the midwife in charge (I think some are qualified to do twin suivis as well, and deliveries, I think mine was, but not sure as I had singletons).

If nothing else, a chat with your local home birth midwife might direct you towards the most sensible obs at your local hospital - and let you know which ones to avoid. They do have to work with the obs on a regular basis, as many of their mothers end up transferring, and will know better than anyone else which docs are respectful of the mothers and which are not.

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