Having a baby in the UK

Having a baby in the UK

Edit 11/12/2021: Even though it wasn’t the kind of birth I had envisaged, I’ve always felt fully supported and listened to by health care staff. And especially after my positive second birth I’ve found my peace with how it all went.

It’s 4am in the morning on the 31st of May and I wake up to go for a wee. Still half asleep, I feel a popping sensation in my belly and I can’t seem to stop weeing. That must be it, my waters have broken!

I wake up Nis and call the hospital to tell them the good news. I’m not having contractions yet, so we have our last breakfast as a couple and drive to the hospital at around 5:00am. They run some tests, tell me about induction (if you don’t go into labour spontaneously within 24 hours after your waters have broken you will be induced) and ask me to come back when I have contractions every three minutes lasting for at least one minute. Packed with all these instructions, we return home, hoping that labour will start off on its own.

My pregnancy

I’ve had a pretty straight forward pregnancy and enjoyed being pregnant up until 8 months. At that point, the weight gain really took a physical toll on me. I felt exhausted easily and wasn’t able to cycle anymore, which is a huge bummer if you live in Cambridge. I was really hoping that my baby would arrive earlier than the predicted due date but he came at 40 weeks plus six days. He really kept us in suspense!

Care for pregnant women in the UK

The way it works in the UK is that as soon as you’ve told your GP you’re pregnant you will be registered with a team of community midwives who will see you about every four weeks (a bit more often the closer you get to your due date). During an appointment they will take a urine sample, measure your blood pressure and feel your baby’s position (from about 28 weeks onwards). Unfortunately it’s not always the same midwife you’re seeing. I think I met three different midwives during my antenatal check-ups. In addition to these appointments with the community midwife, there are two routine blood tests at 8 and 28 weeks and two ultrasound scans at 12 and 20 weeks at the hospital. The scan at 20 weeks is the exciting one when you can find out baby’s gender.

And so the birth story continues…

As soon as we get back home from the hospital I notice period-like cramps that become stronger and more frequent over the course of the morning. I try to breathe through these contractions and to find the most comfortable labouring position. For me, that is bending over and holding on to something, either standing or sitting. I had created these wonderful affirmation cards to read during my labour but all I can do in between contractions is to close my eyes and just rest. Nis tracks my contractions which become more and more frequent but not really regular. I try a hot bath but then start to panic because it seems that my contractions are really close together, so we decide to drive to the birth centre at around 10:30am.

The Rosie Birth Centre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is amazing because they have all the labouring props you can imagine. I opt for birthing pool with mood lighting and spend the whole afternoon floating in the water with just one midwife and Nis in the room. It was bliss, apart from the painful contractions obviously! Later in the afternoon my contractions get stronger and I start using gas and air (Entonox). People say all sorts of good things about this kind of pain relief, but to be honest, I think it helped me more to control my breathing rather than relieving the pain. I haven’t had a vaginal examination yet because it increases the risk of infection if your waters have broken early, so I have no idea how far dilated I am. I enter the pushing phase but contractions suddenly slow down and I am advised that I will get a hormone drip in the delivery unit if nothing happens within the next 15 minutes.

Finally, a midwife checks baby’s position internally and shares some rather surprising news with us: our baby boy is not head down, he’s breech! From this moment on, things get rather hectic and even more painful because they make me lie flat on my back to get me to the delivery ward where I am seen by several doctors (fully dilated, still on gas and air only). I am given the option to either continue labouring and give birth naturally or to have a Caesarean. At this point, I feel too tired and too afraid to give birth to a breech baby, so Nis and I decide to have a C-section, which is also less of a risk for the baby. I will never forget how relieved I felt after having been given the spinal anaesthetic because I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore! After not even 30 minutes in the theatre, our gorgeous baby boy Aaron Maximilian is born at 9:48pm, weighing 9lb 3oz (4175 g).

The use of birth plans…

According to my birth plan, which pregnant women normally make at 36 weeks, I should have given birth naturally without any intervention and only gas and air as pain relief. My birth story is the best example that births don’t normally go to plan. I had the biggest intervention possible, a C-section! Looking back, I find my birth experience rather traumatic but the most important thing is that Aaron and I are well. It’s so interesting how quickly you forget about the pain and the stress a birth causes. If there had been another ultrasound around the due date Aaron’s breech position would have been picked up and we could have worked on turning him. I do believe that he had always been in a breech position. He was just very clever at making the midwives believe that his bottom is his head when they were checking his position. However, in that case a planned Caesarean would have been more likely and I’m actually glad I went through normal labour, even though it was the most painful experience of my life.

So that’s my condensed birth story! If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or drop me a message at lena@homeishere.de

A lot of coffee was consumed whilst writing this blog post. You can support my work here:

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