Giving Birth in France(26 Posts)
I am 5 months pregnant with my first baby and trying to find my way round the French system. My local hospital is pushing me to sign up for an epidural but I would like to have a more natural birth does anyone have any experience of giving birth in France.
No experience I’m afraid, but if I were you I’d get an English-speaking Doula. You can find one at doulas.info/en/
I've given birth in France. It went really well. Basically you sign up for the epidural so that all the paper work is in place, in case you do actually need one. It just makes the birth go more smoothly. Even if you want a natural birth you need to imagine the worst case scenario: back to back position, very long, tiring delivery.
I was like you and was trying to have a British style natural birth. In the end I had an epidural for various reasons and it was great! An amazing pain free birth experience! Good luck
I've given birth in France twice.
Just because you go through the motions of an epidural (meeting anesthetist in advance etc) does not mean they'll force one on you. It only happens once you for it (and the person is available).
Be warned though, there are generally no other means of managing pain. No tens machines (though you can hire your own beforehand), No gas and air (1st hospital was equipped but the midwife told me I'd be lucky to find anyone who knew how to use it), No pethadine...
I really wanted a water birth - practically unheard of.
In the end I just went with the flow. First birth I had an epidural and it was great. 2 bd birth the epidural didn't have effect in time so I gave birth with no pain relief. I MUCH preferred the first birth!
Where are you? If in Paris, the American hospital in Neuilly might offer more options but it is very expensive.
To be honest, although I was against an epidural, I liked having one.
What I like less about the French system is having to stay in hospital so long after birth. Especially the first time when I shared a room (2nd time I went private and was guaranteed my own room).
So prepare yourself for the hospital stay. It has its positives and negatives. But both times I was chomping at the bit to leave asap (which surprised everyone - they thought it was great being there so long).
I think you will be fine. Maternity care is much better than in the UK.
My kids were born in France. You sign up for it all you can turn it down later if necessary but if you haven't done the paperwork and the Rdv with the anesthetics doctor it won't be an option.
My first péridurale didn't work due to œdèmes. Second did. Definitely better with than without. I don't remember any other pain options being available or discussed in my prenatal classes (which were pretty shot-you need to sign up well in advance for them though). It was 12/13 years ago though so things might have changed.
Also it's a 5-6 day stay in hospital too. You can then have a health visitor visit you at home but I never knew that and went without which was probably a mistake.
Ask for your own room as soon as you get into hospital. Make sure it's one of the options on your mutuelle (top up health insurance).
Asking for your own room doesn't guarantee it though (does depend on hospital).
I asked for my own room but didn't get one. Had a 2 bed room. But fortunately was by myself for the first 3 nights because there were no curtains so ZERO privacy when another woman
and her dozen visitors did come.
pm me if you're in Paris and I'll give you some names but yeah, what the others said. I took in a tens machine and they were more than happy for me to use it.
I had both my babies in France. Saw the anaesthetist just in case but negotiated a natural birth with my obstetrician. Discharged myself the next day with my second child.
It's possible but you need to be assertive.
Yes if Paris I can recommend Groupe Naissances. Fabulous people and incredible system. Other than that sign up for everything and refuse if you;want to later. The meeting for the epidural is to get your height and weight so your correct epidural dosages are planned in advance. Also in case of emergency c-section everything is in your files.
I had a room my DH could stay in too. He had a sofa bed. That was brilliant because he could be involved in the baby's care from the get go. That's definitely something I'd recommend if available and your insurance/finances stretch. I needed the five days and him staying there every night made a big difference.
I had my youngest in France (11 yrs ago) I had all my appointments with my OBS/Gyn . I never met an anethetist or signed up for an epidural (but I had already had 2 others without so maybe that's why).
I had both pethedine and gas and air at the hospital, and spent several hours in a birthing pool - although they didn't allow deliveries in the pool.
The biggest difference to the UK births was afterwards, for the UK births I spent very little time in hospital, overnight with the first and 6 hours with the second. In France I was in for a Week. There were some complications, but 5 days is normal even for a 2nd or 3rd Birth.
I had my 3rd in France 14 years ago - I had a meeting with the anaesthetist but as I had already had my first 2 children without any pain relief, he was happy just to chat and there was no pressure to sign up for an epidural which I didn't need. I was lucky to give birth at a hospital which was relatively progressive in terms of labour choices so I was in a bath to up until just before delivery. For me the biggest issue was they refused to allow me any food afterwards - not quite sure why - so I had to persuade my husband to go and raid a vending machine and smuggle me in something to eat as I was absolutely starving!
For me the biggest issue was they refused to allow me any food afterwards
Yes they warned us in advance no food during labour or for 2 hours afterwards but I'm racking my brains and can't remember why! During labour was linked to if a CS was needed I think, but the 2 hours after I can't remember.
I too was starving, especially as when we finally made it up to the room at midnight they provided a tray with meal (starter, main and pudding), none of which I liked! lol. DH ate it and I ate chocolate.
For DS2 I took sandwiches
I was told to eat a big plate of pasta when labour started to keep my strength up!
I was told I could eat before coming to the hospital but not once in the hospital.
I didn't eat anything - too busy being sick! 🤢 I could have though.
Take something to eat for afterwards though. I've heard of this in many countries. If you arrive on the ward late at night they may not have food left for you. You're starving after a long labour abc have to wait until the next morning for something. So I'd definitely recommend a box of cereal bars or something! And write on them they're for you, not DP if he feels peckish during labour!
Personally much prefer the care here, you have to be so assertive to get what you want in France. Everyone I know had an epidural. It's standard.
“you have to be so assertive to get what you want in France”
That’s why I suggested a Doula.
I guess it depends on the hospital and HCPs too. But generally I think they are more “old school” in France.
If you have a choice about where to give birth, it's worth researching the different options, as different clinics / hospitals cam have very different approaches. Le Monde published statistics recently about the rates of various interventions in hundreds of hospitals. Also, if you do your antenatal classes with a "sage-femme libérale" you could look for one who will coach you in techniques for an "accouchement physiologique".
It's also worth discussing episiotomies. They are standard. If you don't want one unless absolutely necessary then you need to discuss this clearly and have it written in bold on your birth plan AND prep your partner that you don't want it (as well as prep him/her to not play into the hierarchical medical system where the doctor is God).
There used to be a site that had stats for maternités which included episiotomy rates. Many were at 80% 7 years ago. I can't remember the site but you might find it. Worth talking about though. Don't have to be antagonistic about it either, but just clear about under which conditions you'd agree or not.
Both my babies were born in Paris and I was a bit like you with the first - very anti-epidural due to reading lots of British literature. In the end I decided to go with the flow - in any case any case an epidural was the only option for pain relief. The anaesthetist laughed when I mentioned gas and air (comme la reine Victoria!). I LOVED giving birth in France - the epidural was strong enough to kill the pain, but I could still feel to push. It was an entirely positive experience to the extent that I would not have wished to have had my second baby anywhere else. I also loved the long stay in hospital - it meant that when I got home both times I felt fit and rested and ready to cope with my newborns. It's not the British way, but it is a lovely way to give birth and has many advantages. My advice would be to go to the ante natal classes at the hospital where you will give birth, find out what you are in for and go with it. When in Rome and all that. I was dreading it, but I ended up loving it and wish I hadn't wasted all that time worrying. The French system has a lot to recommend it.
You can get a sage-femme liberale who will escort you and be your advocate as well. I had a home- birth (because previous precipitous labours) and it was all very simple.
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