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Advice and reassurance for newly pregnant in France

(22 Posts)
flyingcloud Thu 04-Jun-09 11:10:29

I've just moved to France with my (French) husband, have just got married and have just found out I am about 3 weeks pg , which is utterly fantastic - although we weren't planning on it happening quite so soon, I think it was honeymoon excitement and we were just a bit spontaneous and uncontrolled after the stress of organising a wedding!

I went to see the doctor today and although I can get by in French, it's not perfect and I sort of struggled to ask a lot of the questions I wanted to ask, and she told me very little - just booked me in for a blood test next week and said that we would look at vitamins and folic acid if/when the blood test came back positive. (I went straight the pharmacy and bought them though).

I am desperate to discuss this with someone but am trying to keep it all a secret and want to know exactly what happens here in France and in what order but I will have to wait another ten+ days before I have the results of the test etc.

I guess this is all normal but I would love to hear from anyone who has done this before in France. I have been following the thread on things you wish you did/didn't know and it's been a help.

Thank you!

pebblebeach Thu 04-Jun-09 12:00:46

Hi Flyindcloud - congratulations on marriage and pg! and moving to France, you likie doing everything at once then wink.

I am on my second pg in France now (26wks!) so I can try to help, although I don't know if my experience is normal or not...

I had the same, the Dr won't do anything until a blood test confirms it, so I guess you'll have to be patient for a bit.... what I find is the 1st 12wks go by excruciatingly slowly then the rest flies by!

In terms of vit/folic acid - I got prescribed them first time round, but not second hmm but I went and got them myself from pharmacy anyway.

Am not really sure what else you want to know?? I think the basic structure is montly appts with care-giver (medicin generalist, sage femme or gyney), 3 scans at 12, 22 and 32 weeks, and you have to "declare" your pg to social security, with a form signed by the Dr, before end of the 15th week.

rosbif Thu 04-Jun-09 12:01:11

Congratulations, I hope everything goes well. I have had three children in France, twins first time and the second time just one baby! It depends a lot where you are located as I know there are lots of good support groups in Paris and big cities. I think the best advice I can give you is to perhaps prepare your questions before you go (I know exactly how you feel, I was struggling at first!).Perhaps your DH could come with you too maybe? Normally blood test results are back the same day so you shouldn't have to wait ten days to have it confirmed! I saw a gyno every month and had an internal (but you can refuse) and ultrasounds at about 9, 16, 22,30 and 36 weeks (maybe more with the twins) but I was in a high risk group so perhaps they were being extra vigilant. Hope this helps a little and feel free to post with any specific questions

flyingcloud Thu 04-Jun-09 12:48:07

Thanks Pebblebeach and thanks Rosbif - I have tons of questions so brace yourselves and these are very basic! Although I think you just confirmed that I have to just patiently wait until things are a bit more underway (everything crossed that it all goes ok as I know it's very early days).

In terms of the care-giver - what do you recommend? The doctor gave me the choice but does that mean I have to go and find a sage-femme or gyny myself or does the doctor help with that?

If I decide to stay with the doctor who does the scans - the doctor or the gyny? The doctor said there would be three, as per Pebblebeach so Rosbif unless I'm pregnant with twins I won't have as many as you!

How did you find the general attitude to pregnancy / motherhood over here compared to England (I'm not English but lived there a long time and had plenty of friends with babies so feel I know that a bit better)? Were you careful about what you ate or drank?

Anyway thanks so much for your help and Pebblebeach good luck with your pregnancy.

HaventSleptForAYear Thu 04-Jun-09 12:52:23

Hello and congratulations.

I would reccommend finding yourself a gynae - ask your doctor to reccommend someone or just go through the phone book.

Tell them you are pregnant when you phone because otherwise they'll give you an appt in 6 mths!

I found it all v. stressful until I got set up with my gynae, who then made all the appts for me and did the scans herself.

Ask away!

flyingcloud Thu 04-Jun-09 13:08:02

Thanks HaventSlept - doc said I would need to see a gynae for a smear test anyway as I'm a bit overdue so will hopefully find a good local one. I found the doc quite dismissive generally. I have been to another doctor a few weeks ago, not pg related and I found it bizarre how few questions they both asked and what little amount of advice they dispensed and generally the lack of feedback. Maybe I expect too much - what is a pretty extraordinary experiences for me is pretty ordinary and mundane to (and probably most other people who've been through it all!)

Feeling better already.

flyingcloud Thu 04-Jun-09 13:08:38

Overdue for a smear test obviously!

Othersideofthechannel Thu 04-Jun-09 13:14:34

Hello and Congrats

If you choose to stay with your GP, your scans will be done at a 'cabinet d'imagerie medicale' where they do x-rays, ultrasounds, etc.

Sometimes it's the same place as the lab where you get your blood tests, urine tests done.

I think three scans is normal. I had an extra one because of a slight complication in one pregnancy.

In general pregnany/childbirth a lot more medicalised over here than in the UK. As to attitudes to motherhood/parenting, there are a few old threads in this section you might find of interest.

Which part of France are you in? Someone might be able to recommend a tried and tested gynae...

flyingcloud Thu 04-Jun-09 14:45:27

Thanks Otherside that's a huge help, I'll see how I get on next week with the blood test and take it from there.

BriocheDoree Thu 04-Jun-09 19:53:36

Hello Flyingcloud and congratulations!
I had my second pg here in France. The main things I remember were registering with the SECU at 14/15 weeks, as Pebblebeach says (but your GP will tell you that) and that they did quite a lot more blood tests (e.g. monthly test for toxoplasmosis if you don't already have antibodies). Otherwise, like some say, it can be fairly medicalised. Where are you in France? Like Otherside says, one of us might know a good clinic near you...

Weta Fri 05-Jun-09 03:33:57

Congratulations Flyingcloud!

I agree with the others that pregnancy and childbirth are much more medicalised in France, which may or may not suit you

I'd find a gynaecologist/obstetrician, but if you want a less medicalised approach you can see a midwife for most of the care. I did this, and just saw the gynaecologist a couple of times for certain checkups. I found the midwife far more caring and interested in my experience as a woman about to have a baby (ie including psychological aspects) rather than just in the physical health of my body and that of my baby.

The medicalised approach means a lot more testing during pregnancy and lots of internal examinations (neither of which bothered me particularly) and also a lot more intervention during the birth (which bothered me a lot).

You will also need to decide (not immediately) where to have the baby - generally the choices are public hospital (though where I live they try to keep that for higher-risk births), a private clinic (still largely funded by sécurité sociale but can have hidden extra fees so need to check) or a home birth (although these are frowned upon!). If you opt for a private clinic you may be able to choose the obstetrician you want for the birth and have your checkups with him or her (though I found that not many of them are on call for the birth itself - often you just get whoever is available - I chose one who would be on call). Attitudes do vary greatly (and some can be very patronising) so I would recommend asking around - and don't hesitate to change if you don't like the person you first see. Do tell us where you are...

I had my first child in NZ so just followed the eating/drinking guidelines I was given then. I don't think I was ever given any info in France about this, but personally I avoided alcohol (odd half glass on special occasions), washed lettuce carefully as hadn't had toxoplasmosis, avoided charcuterie (ham, saucisson etc - but this is debatable), soft mould-ripened cheeses (brie, camembert), blue cheese and any unpasteurised cheese (this severely limits your choices in France!). My French SIL did the same, except for the ham part. You could easily look up the UK guidelines and follow those if you wanted to.

You could also get a book about pregnancy and birth to help answer your general questions about pregnancy - do free delivery on books and you can get loads of English books through their site. Maybe ask on the pregnancy forum for recommendations.

flyingcloud Fri 05-Jun-09 06:27:49

Thank you all so much for your help and advice.

We're about an hour north of Paris, near CDG airport.

EachPeachPearMum Fri 05-Jun-09 06:47:57

congratulations fc!
re folic acid- in UK they recommend taking from when trying to conceive... so there's no need to wait for that test next week, you could start now.
My MIL had her dc in france, and it is v very different from pg/birth in UK, but I imagine practicalities have changed somewhat in the last 40 years!

frAKKINPannikin Fri 05-Jun-09 14:41:01

You should be eligible to join Message then - they're a group for English speaking parents in Paris and have tons of useful info.

Good luck!

flyingcloud Fri 05-Jun-09 16:01:03

Again - thank you all.

I got a call from the doctor today (young female locum) who said (rather sheepishly) that in hindsight she thought I should be taking folic acid so she gave me a prescription for it - another silly question should I ditch the over-the-counter vitamins with folic acid I bought yesterday or can I continue to take both?

The reason I asked about food is I wasn't given any advice either but I asked the doctor (as above) and she said carry on as normal apart from alcohol/cigarettes/drugs and certain medications (none of which are food). I have looked up and read lots online about what to eat and what not to eat and it seems to vary so much, apart from the obvious that I just wondered if there was a general motherhood consensus. My big worry was coffee as I immediately got withdrawal headaches (pathetic I know) when I stopped two days ago and the doctor here said it was fine to drink, but I have cut down to one small cup a day. I've also spent the last two days on the road for work and have been eating service station ham sandwiches which I also found out was a no-no... I am trying to be sensible but have seen friends who have been utterly puritanicalthroughout pregnancy (how I admire them) and those who have seemed to resolutely refuse to listen to any medical advice re what to and what not to do and have carried on consuming alcohol as though it positively helped the baby...

So much uncertainty! Thank you all again and apologies for the very basic questions and worries!

pebblebeach Mon 08-Jun-09 12:38:35

Afternoon - lol at sheepish dr.

Re: folic acid, the NHS recommended amount is 0.4mg a day so I would check how much is in the vitamins, if they are special vits for pg ladies I would imagine it's okay to stick, otherwise consider changing to the prescription.

As for food, I'd check both UK and French government health dept advice as the "best" but in general this is what I do: wash all fruit and veg (to get rid of nasties from the soil), eat only thoroughly cooked meat, avoid cold meats, liver, pate and shellfish, and avoid mouldy/unpasteurised cheeses.... although with "cold" meats and cheese I work on the principle that if I have cooked it (pizza toppings or cheese sauces/soups), it is okay wink.


tigerbump Tue 09-Jun-09 12:56:24

i speak very little french but have managed to muddle through, the birth is what worries me but you have a french speaking husband so should help you greatly!

now into my 3rd trimester here is my experience..

blood test at 4 weeks to confirm pregnancy, then call to hospital to book appointment with GYNE. I had my first appointment at 12 weeks (just after the first scan) and every month an appointment was booked for me up to the birth date. (note i called the hospitla direct as on private insurance but in normal circumstances you go back to the Dr who talks you through your hospital/clinic options). Scans were 12,22 and 34 weeks (my 34 week scan was at 32 but they changed it)

france will set your due date as 41 weeks, where as the UK is 40 weeks.

i took pregnacare (from boots in the uk) throughout (still takeing it) i told the GYNE about it and he was fine.

be prepared for internal exams though, i could not opt out of it but then again my french isnt great so maybe I did not try hard enough. i dont care about them now.

good luck, i can highly recommend getting a UK pregnancy book as it does help you become a bit more informed. my gyne was nor forthcoming with tips like the UK experience my sister had.

you will get blood & urine tests every month

castille Tue 09-Jun-09 13:16:08

I've had 3 babies in France. Lots of helpful stuff here already.

Re internals, I really wouldn't refuse them. Brits are notoriously squeamish about them but really you get used to it and French docs do consider them very necessary.

Ham isn't banned, but the usual advice here is to eat packaged ham, not the (nicer) freshly sliced kind from the butcher/delicatessen, to avoid cross-contamination.

I found the antenatal classes here brilliant for managing labour. Ironic, since the vast majority of French women have epidurals! Note that no other pain relief is usually on off - the French don't do gas & air or pethidine - so mastering breathing and relaxation exercises is extremely useful. My midwife thought I was insane for refusing an epidural during DC3's induction and I became oddly famous for it at the clinicsmile

BriocheDoree Tue 09-Jun-09 13:18:07

Tigerbump, I've managed to dig out a list of French/English pregnancy terms. It's about 10 pages long!
If you want a copy, email me brioche90 at gmail dot com and I'll send it to you.

BriocheDoree Tue 09-Jun-09 13:18:47

Oh yes, and Flyingcloud too, obviously!

tigerbump Tue 09-Jun-09 14:38:59

just sent you an email BriocheDoree xxxx

flyingcloud Tue 09-Jun-09 16:07:30

Me too, just emailed, thank you!

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