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April 19, 2015

International Birth Story – Switzerland

Welcome back to the International Birth Stories series.  Last week’s post (Japan) by Melissa was so beautiful, wasn’t it?  If you’re just joining us, make sure you check out the other testimonies in the seriesEngland, Djibouti, Northern Ireland, Brazil. This week we have Ashley, with a birth story from Switzerland.

International Birth Stories

Ashley gave birth in a county/public hospital.

International Birth Story

Intro:  What brought you to Switzerland?

I’m married to an Austrian and after living in California for 8 years, we decided to make the move to Europe to be closer to his family. Switzerland, a German speaking country and neighbor to Austria, was the best option with my husband’s company. I found out I was pregnant with baby number 3 just weeks before we were set to move.

1) What surprised you about prenatal care in Switzerland?

Well, for starters, no one spoke English at my OBGYN practice. I lived very near the hospital and went to the closest doctor to my home. Everything was very top notch within the facilities. At every appointment, which was about every three to four weeks, I had a urine and blood {iron} test completed in office. There was an ultrasound done at each appointment, as well. The one thing that was quite different from my two previous births in California was that my doctor wouldn’t give me a vaginal exam near my due date. I kept asking if he would see if I was dilated or effaced, but he didn’t want to disrupt anything. He also wouldn’t schedule me for an induction even though I went past my due date. I was okay with this, but still was surprised that he wouldn’t even check me to see if I was even close to labor. He was very old fashioned in the sense that he wouldn’t check me, there was to be no induction before 14 days over, and there would be no c-section unless medically necessary.

 2) What surprised you about giving birth in Switzerland?

When I arrived at the hospital after laboring at home for nearly 26 hours, I was greeted by a young mid-wife who checked me into a spa-like room {soft purple lighting, expensive bottled water, a lounge to be examined on} and told me I was at 8 centimeters. She had me walk to the delivery room, which was the most beautiful delivery room I had ever seen. The delivery bed had no stirrups, there was soft pink lighting, a hot tub, modern bath with shower, and a sheet hanging over the bed for me to pull on if needed. The “normal” American hospital where I delivered my first two babies was very sterile, hospital-like and cold compared to what I experienced in Switzerland {the county/public hospital where all the babies are born}.  It was no match to the system and comfort I felt in Switzerland. I didn’t have one IV in me and there was no hospital gown provided. My doctor never even showed up! It was just two young 20-something mid-wives who delivered my son, a cool 30 minutes after I arrived.

International Birth Story

 3) What surprised you about post-natal care in Switzerland?

I was most surprised by the fact that it is customary for a new mother to stay in the hospital for at least four days after giving birth. That seemed a bit much to me since after my first two deliveries I was out after one night thanks to my insurance. I felt like I was staying in a hotel, complete with a balcony. The food was amazing, the staff was very helpful and because I delivered so early in the morning, I was able to have my own room. The level of care well exceeded my standards. I ended up leaving after one night though, to get home to my other two children.

 4) Overall impression of pregnancy/birth culture.

Giving birth in Switzerland was the best birthing experience I could have had. After having little issues here and there with my first two deliveries, I was really looking forward to having a peaceful, natural and quick birthing experience the third time around. I’d say that was accomplished. The best part about it was that the hospital staff treated me like a strong woman giving birth, not a sick person in need of drugs, IVs and control. I never would have expected this from a public, county hospital.

International Birth Story

  You can read more from Ashley at her blog, Simply Wright and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Stay tuned next week for another fascinating international birth story!

March 29, 2015

International Birth Stories – Djibouti

Welcome back to week three of the International Birth Stories series.  If you’re just joining us, check out the previous weeks’ testimonies from Brazil and Northern IrelandUp this week we have Rachel, with a birth story from Djibouti (a country in Africa)
International Birth Stories
Rachel Pieh Jones gave birth in a French military-run hospital Djibouti on September 11, 2005.
 International Birth Stories
Intro – What brought you to Djibouti?
My husband directs an international NGO (non-governmental organization) focused on education, small business development, and youth and sports. He taught at the University of Djibouti for years and just this year has transitioned into more management of various projects like the distribution of school supplies for kids in low income areas and an English club for local teachers, to improve their own English and teaching skills. I’m an ‘accompanying spouse’ I guess you could say. I taught English, founded a girls running club, did micro-enterprise, and write.  [And guys, she’s a brilliant writer!  You can read more of her story here.]
1.) What surprised you about prenatal care in Djibouti?

There were no instructions, class, no special tests, no discussion of emotional issues or questions. Just checking on the basics like weight and baby’s heartbeat. The biggest surprise came when I had to sign a release form that I understood the risks of giving birth in Djibouti, that there was almost zero neonatal care, almost zero chance of pain medications, that if anything went wrong it would be an absolute disaster, that I had been told to leave and chose to stay, and that I wouldn’t sue anyone.

2.) What surprised you about giving birth in Djibouti? 

There was one delivery room at my hospital. If there happened to be more than one woman ready to push at the same time, the others would be on the examining table or the floor. Thankfully, I was the only one in labor on September 11.

 3.)What surprised you about postnatal care in Djibouti? 

I loved the postnatal care in Djibouti, which was minimal. Only five visitors were allowed total, including my husband and two other children so the two days in the hospital were relaxing. A nurse brought food from the cafeteria, another nurse asked how I felt. That was it. My baby and I were alone to bond and sleep.

 4.) Overall impression of the  pregnancy and birth culture in Djibouti.

As a westerner, I know I had a different experience than many Djiboutian women giving birth. My husband was with me, I wasn’t pinched, insulted, or shouted at. I had a private delivery room. At the same time, I was isolated. Djiboutian relatives surround a laboring and post-partum mother and I was far from my family community. While the physical aspects of giving birth in Djibouti are challenging and higher risk than in the US, the social aspects are rich and filled with community.

 To read more about Rachel’s experience giving birth in Djibouti, check out her amazing New York Times article (yes folks, NY Times – I told you she’s a brilliant writer). Rachel blogs at Djibouti Jones. You can join her Facebook community or follow along on Twitter.

Stay tuned next week for another international birth story!

March 22, 2015

International Birth Stories – Northern Ireland

Welcome to the International Birth Stories series!  If you haven’t already, check out last week’s testimony from Brazil.  This week, I’m featuring Tiffany, who gave birth in a public hospital in Northern Ireland.
 International Birth Stories
Intro – What brought you to Northern Ireland?
We were living and teaching in Central Illinois and decided that we wanted an adventure, a break from the track we were on, and for our children to experience the world (at that time we only had two).  So we quit our jobs and found this amazing opportunity volunteering at a peace and reconciliation center in Northern Ireland where we could live and work on the northern coast – on a cliff overlooking the sea.  We were mentors to the international volunteer team for two years – it was challenging and amazing.
International Birth Story
1.) What surprised you about prenatal care in Northern Ireland? 
They never weighed me!  It was so amazing and wonderful and lovely.  They totally trusted me to tell them if I felt bloated or miserable.  I have absolutely no idea in the world how much weight I gained during that pregnancy, and for some reason I felt better and more healthy than I did with any of my other pregnancies. 
Also – my urine samples.  At the beginning they gave me a bunch of urine cups and told me to bring one in every time.  Nothing says “I’m pregnant!”  like a sample of your pee sitting next to your lipstick in your purse.  And the biggest thing was that I was in charge of my own “file”.  Every pregnant woman is issued a giant green binder at her first neonatal appointment.  This folder is way too big to fit in a purse, and I felt like I was  carrying around a giant sign that says “Baby on board!”  At first I was completely intimidated by it, but when I was bored I’d read over the details of my pregnancy, and eventually my labor – it was so interesting.  Unfortunately they took it from me at my first post-natal appointment.  It was a very sad parting – like losing an extra limb you had grown accustomed to caring for. 
2.) What surprised you about giving birth in Northern Ireland? 
They really prefer for the mother to avoid an epidural unless absolutely necessary.  They seem to have a more holistic approach to birthing, and the midwives do all of the work while the doctors stand by in case of emergency.  (I realize that there are many practices that are going this way in the United States as well.) After the fact, I was put in a room and all but forgotten about after my son was born.  It was glorious.  No one was asking me if I had fed him exactly 15 minutes every two hours.  They trusted my instinct and checked on us every once in awhile to make sure we were well. They also let me go home the same day he was born. (He as born at 5:00 in the a.m. and we left the hospital at 6:00 pm.) I didn’t pay a dime for his birth.  Of course taxes are higher there, but everyone is given the same care because none of it is based on insurance or money.  I realize that this may have its disadvantages, but in my case – a healthy pregnancy and birth – it was ideal.
3.)What surprised you about postnatal care in Northern Ireland? 
EVERYTHING!  This is absolutely the most amazing thing about healthcare in the UK…The midwifes come to you.  Every day for the first few days, and then every other day for two weeks the midwife comes to your house to check on you and the baby.  She brings a little scale and checks the state of things in your life.  I have no doubt that this helps with postpartum depression as well.  The midwifes are there to check on not only the baby, but also the mother and the general state of things.  This is also true for all well-baby visits.  The nurses always come to you and bring all of their supplies.  You don’t have to lug your three wild and unruly children to the doctor’s office and wait with all of the sick people for 45 minutes.
4.) Overall impression of the  pregnancy and birth culture in Northern Ireland.
My general impression is that it is easier to have a baby in Northern Ireland than the US.  Honestly though, I might also feel this way because I’d already given birth before, so was more chill about everything.  Overall the country has a more holistic and laid-back approach to birthing.  In my experience, it is more about the mother and her body than I felt like it was here  in the US.
International Birth Stories -
You can read more from Tiffany at her blog How To Paint The Sky.

Come back next week to read about birth in Djibouti!



March 15, 2015

International Birth Stories – Brazil

International Birth Stories

Y’all, you know how much I love a good birth story…so I can’t tell you how EXCITED I am to introduce my new series to you:  “International Birth Stories- Americans Give Birth Abroad”

I’ve interviewed almost a dozen American women who have given birth internationally and their responses were amazing!  Every one of them had such interesting stories and I’m so thrilled and honored that I get to share them with the lovely Best of Baby readers.

Every week, I will be featuring a different lady and sharing her international birth impressions.  In general, their testimonies will cover details of their prenatal, birth, and postnatal experiences

As a quick disclaimer, these testimonies are not meant to be a representation of the healthcare system in the given countries.  Just as in America, pregnancy and birth experiences can vary greatly from woman to woman, hospital to hospital, etc.  A woman could be in a fantastic health facility and still have an awful experience, and vice versa. In many countries, public vs. private medical care also makes a big difference.  This series is strictly a collection of the personal experiences of individual women.

To start off the series, we have Emily.  Emily is married to a Brazilian, and her and her husband are both missionaries abroad.  They have 2 kids, one of which was born in the US and the other in Brazil.  She has lived in three different Brazilian cities and has had prenatal care in each of one of them.

International Birth Stories

1.)  What surprised you about prenatal care in Brazil?
I have had two different pregnancies in Brazil, though only one of my kids was born there.  Prenatal care is, in general, very disease oriented.  Doctors tend to treat pregnancy as a medical condition that needs to be attended to.  With my first pregnancy, my doctor sent me for extra ultrasounds, put me on bed rest for a weekend, and had me get many unnecessary blood exams.  Yet, my pregnancy was low risk and I was very healthy…no complications at all!  My second pregnancy, I searched out more “humanized” (the term that is used here) doctors, and had fewer ultrasounds, fewer blood exams, and felt much better cared for!  Finding these humanized doctors took me months of research.
2) What surprised you about giving birth in Brazil?
 Hospitals in Brazil have one of the world’s highest c-section rates.  The first question people ask when you are pregnant or just had a baby here is “C-section or vaginal?” because many people schedule c-sections without medical reasons.  Private hospitals have c-section rates of upwards of 80-90%.  I think the thing that surprised me the most was that I overcame that!  I had a totally natural, normal birth in a private hospital with a very high c-section rate.  The nurses were surprised that I was sitting up and walking around hours after giving birth, since they rarely see women who have had a natural birth.  I had the right team — a doula, a supportive husband, and a doctor who is one of the best in the city for vaginal births — and a short labor, so the combination of that allowed me to have a natural birth.
3) What surprised you about postnatal care in Brazil?
The funny thing about post natal care here is that everyone talks about the “resguardo” which is essentially the first 40 days after giving birth.  In these 40 days, there are a bunch of cultural taboos of things you can’t do or eat.  Like you can’t eat cabbage or eat spicy food or go on walks or take the baby out in public.  As an American, I don’t have these taboos, so I pretty much just continued my normal life, just slowed down a bit.  I took the baby out when she was three days old.  I was at the playground when she was two weeks old.  The good thing is that my doctor didn’t put any restrictions on me after birth, as apparently some do.  In terms of postnatal care, I felt like it was the same as in the US — two postpartum visits with the doctor, one at two weeks and another at six weeks.
 4) Overall impression of the Brazilian pregnancy and birth culture
Pregnancy and birth have so many cultural misconceptions surrounding them that affect even the doctors.  I think women in Brazil really need to take it upon themselves to become more educated about pregnancy and birth, and not just rely on what they learn from their doctors.   Many people end up having a c-section for reasons that are not actually sound reasons to have the surgery, but most people believe that a c-section is safer (even though it is statistically riskier!) than a normal birth.  People often are surprised that I birthed both my kids vaginally, simply because c-sections are, in many places, more common than normal births.
 International Birth Stories
Thank you so much Emily!  Stay tuned for next week’s international birth story featuring Northern Ireland!