Welcome back to the International Birth Stories series. If you’re just joining us, make sure you check out the other testimonies in the series: Australia, Germany, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, England, Djibouti, Northern Ireland, Brazil. This week we have Joy, with a birth story from France.
She delivered in a small town public hospital, with a public health department obstetrician.
Intro: What brought you to France?
My husband and I were in France for language school.
1.) What surprised you about prenatal care in France?
They did internal checks at EVERY prenatal appointment. Also, an ultrasound in each trimester was standard. The modesty ideals were different as well. I was asked to take off all my clothes for each appointment and not given anything to cover up with. I don’t remember them doing urine checks routinely, if it all.
2) What surprised you about giving birth in France?
I was surprised by the lack of care for personal comfort or modesty. For instance my water had broken before I arrived at the hospital, but I had not yet gone into labor. I was asked to sit naked on a vinyl covered hospital bed with no sheets or any kind of pad to absorb the fluid for two hours while they did the admission paperwork. Also, they expected me to be silent while in labor and were very pushy about giving me an epidural when I was, in their opinion, being too noisy.
3) What surprised you about post-natal care in France?
I was left for observation for 2 hours after birth in the delivery room. No one came in and checked anything. Nothing was offered to help clean me up. After a while I finally used those brown stiff paper towels from the sink area to try and absorb some of the fluids. It was awful… I was freezing and messy and very uncomfortable and no one was “observing” anything. We were left alone.
Physical therapy is recommended to get your perineal area and vaginal muscles tightened back up after delivery. You are expected to do all the baby care right from the beginning. I don’t remember there even being a nursery. The morning after giving birth at midnight, still very weak, I was woken up at 5 or 6 to go bathe my baby. A long hospital stay is normal…up to a week. I had to fight to be released after 2 days.
4) Overall impression of pregnancy/birth culture
This was my fourth child and people here found that very odd. I was offered an abortion several times throughout my pregnancy because they just could not seem to grasp that I actually wanted a fourth child. The mother’s life was always considered more important than the child’s. So for any sickness or pregnancy difficulty… an abortion was offered. This really shocked me.