Giving birth the not so French way

March 20, 2008

For our “having babies” theme week, we decided to each write a post about what it is like to give birth in our own countries.

I have never had a baby in France (my daughter was born in London), but I am shortly about to. However, I have actually decided to bow out of the normal French system and give birth in what is considered a very unusual way in this country.

The main reason being that I have an issue with the way doctors regard and treat patients in France. I believe it has to do with the very French obsession with health and traditional medicine. You just have to look around any street in Paris or any other French city to realize that the amount of Pharmacies you can see everywhere is out of proportion with the demand. The French are infatuated with their medicines and their doctors, therefore giving doctors an almost god-like status, and most doctors actually seem to think that they deserve this adoration. I have been insulted and told off by doctors for asking too many questions, as has my husband and many of my friends.
When I found out that I was pregnant here in Paris I caught up with a lot of my girlfriends (French and non French) who had had a baby in Paris to see what their experiences where. The majority had their babies in a birth clinic or hospital and it was a very clinical procedure. Often, if their water had not broken by the time they got to the hospital, it would be broken for them to speed up the delivery. Many of these women had been given a good dose of oxytocin to speed up the labour and an epidural, which is seen as power for the course. You mostly don’t see your consulting doctor throughout the labour, he/she just turns up when the baby is about to pop out and stays for a couple of minutes, (cynics might say they stay just long enough to be able to justify their fee).
I don’t want to forge a false image of myself; with my first delivery I was very happy to have had an epidural, and I am very thankful to live in a society where all the medical knowledge means that my baby and I will very likely be ok, no matter the complications. BUT I do consider myself an intelligent enough person to know that my concerns and opinions on how our baby comes into this world should not be brushed aside as irrelevant.

So we found a private midwife and doctor team, whose approach towards birth was refreshingly different to the status quo. They believe in a softer approach, i.e. giving the body an opportunity to naturally get to the stage of being ready to give birth, instead of hurrying it along. (Linked to this is the Haptonomy approach, which I wrote about a couple of months ago). What I also like about it is that, while you can have a homebirth with some of the midwives, most of the births they conduct are within a hospital environment.
They work with a team of specialists so that, in case of an emergency, you are seconds away from the right person who can help. For example, if you want an epidural you can have it: in most cases the anaesthesiologist comes in and sets up the epidural but then leaves, so you don’t have 5 people standing around you after it has been inserted, and the midwife takes care of the top-ups.
This for me feels like the most comfortable way for me to have a child. Naturally the most important thing is for the baby to come out healthily and so my comfort takes second place, but I do think that if you are relaxed and feel well taken care of during delivery it has a real influence on how you feel for the next few weeks and how relaxed you feel about your new baby.

Now please bear in mind that my delivery is imminent and that I have not actually tested this system. I will report back in the next few weeks to let you know if it went ok!
Another thing I want to add is that the private midwife is not covered by the basic social security but is covered by most French Mutuels. (In France you have a basic social security cover and then most people have a top-up cover called a Mutuel to cover additional treatments).

– Emilie


Comments (4)

March 20, 2008

I’m so excited for you… you’re due SO SOON!!
Despite the rigid (and impersonal) birthing methods in France, it seems you have chosen a great option. I can’t wait to hear about how it goes!

March 20, 2008

I lived in Brussels, Belgium when I was pregnant with my first baby and before I moved to London (where she was born) – and the system there is very similar to what you describe.
Also, I had 4 Pharmacies within a 2 minute walking radius from my apartment!
I think you made the right choice, and I too am anxious to find out how it went!!!

March 20, 2008

I say good for you for seeking out what you want for you and your baby. Good luck with everything and I hope you have a beautiful delivery.

March 21, 2008

Hi there,
I too wanted a different approach to birth in France. To my surprise, my birth plan was received with very open minds at the hospital.
I did haptonomy from my 5th month and gave birth last september. Haptonomy was VERY helpful during the birth, as much as during the pregnancy.
It’s great that you’re getting your own midwife. Which place are you signed up to give birth in?
I live in Paris too, perhaps we could meet some time?

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