childbirth United Kingdom

Everything you need to know about giving birth in the UK

All the information you need to prepare for maternity in the UK. Given the high level of medical costs in the UK, we recommend that you choose an international insurance policy such as GoldExpat, which includes coverage for maternity costs with enhanced benefit options.


Pregnancy in the United Kingdom

Your first appointment will be scheduled around the 3rd month, at the end of the risk period for miscarriage. In the meantime, unless you have a serious health problem, if you have any questions or doubts, access to a sympathetic medical ear is almost impossible with the NHS. The English vision of medical care is relatively less global and much less medicalized than in other countries such as France.

The main purpose of this meeting is to have you fill out an administrative file and assess whether your pregnancy is “at risk”. If no risk is detected, follow-up will be reduced to a strict minimum, consisting of 3 medical examinations:

  • Down’s Test, which assesses the potential risk of trisomy 21. Rather strongly suggested in France, in the UK it’s only done if you ask for it.
  • an ultrasound scan at 12-14 weeks (Dating scan) to determine a delivery date
  • a second at 18-20 weeks (Abnomaly scan) to check the baby’s structural normality (head, brain structures, heart, lungs, bladder, kidneys, intestine).

They are not usually the same midwives during pregnancy, or even during or after childbirth. Unlike in France, procedures are very basic, and it’s up to you to turn to a private center if you want more in-depth analysis.

What is the Birth Plan?

The Birth Plan is a document issued by the authorities which allows you to specify your requests concerning the birth (place, desire to use a pain-relieving method, etc.). In this sense, the NHS gives you the opportunity to take part in guided tours of maternity units, as well as online access to the opinions of former patients, in order to make your choice. However, with the NHS, you have to give birth close to where you live, and where you have mainly done your maternity care.

There are also hospital courses at the end of pregnancy to prepare for childbirth and breastfeeding. In general, they advocate the most natural birth possible, and recommend avoiding epidurals (presented as an increased risk factor for instrumental birth).

Giving birth in England

Under the English health system and the NHS, you will be admitted to hospital once your cervix has dilated to at least 4 cm (the start of labor), even if your water has broken.

An induction is scheduled 24 hours after the water has broken if labor has not started naturally, to avoid the risk of infection for the fetus. An induction is also scheduled for one week after term, if labor has not yet started naturally.

Another surprise for young mothers: the nurses won’t offer you baby-sitting during the night so that you can rest. What’s more, in the UK, if you’re in good health, you can go home 3 hours after giving birth. The NHS offers new parents a visit from a midwife every 2 days for the first 10 days after giving birth. She will be available to answer your questions.

Maternity leave in the UK

As in France, around the 20th week, you will receive a form from the midwife to send to your employer: the MATB, which gives the expected date of delivery.

Maternity leave is a maximum of 52 weeks. In terms of benefits, the legal minimum pays for the first 6 weeks, then the following 20 weeks are paid at around £100 per week. The last 26 weeks are unpaid. Your employer can top up these benefits, but is under no legal obligation to do so.

Leave may begin no later than the Friday of the week preceding the birth. On the other hand, if you are off work in the month before your due date, your maternity leave will start in earnest. The advantage is greater flexibility, and parental leave follows maternity leave without any additional steps. Nor do you need to plan your return date before giving birth. You must notify your employer at least 8 weeks in advance when you have decided on your return date.

Many women stop working for a year because public childcare facilities are few and far between, while private facilities are extremely expensive. Groups have been set up to compensate for the lack of structures, and help mothers find support during these long periods of maternity leave.

Why take out international health insurance?

Although there are some good public hospitals in the UK, private medicine doesn’t impose constraints on you (such as only having access to hospitals close to where you live), so you can look forward to your birth with peace of mind.

International health insurance gives you access to a network of doctors and hospitals in both the public and private sectors, with the same guarantees. This will limit your maternity costs, which can range from £6,000 to £40,000 in London.

You’ll also be able to choose the practitioners who will follow you from the beginning to the end of your pregnancy, and provide follow-up care after the birth.

Finally, private hospitals guarantee greater comfort after childbirth. You’ll be able to stay at the maternity hospital to get back into shape, and learn a little more about motherhood from the various health professionals.

Take a look at our UK health insurance plans, which provide 100% cover for maternity and other medical expenses, and request an expat insurance quote online.

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