How does an English pregnancy compare to a French one?

I am now 32 weeks pregnant and it has been such an interesting journey, comparing my pregnancy in France to my pregnancy here in the UK, so I thought I would share my comparisons of the two pregnancies.

Pregnancy N°1: The French One                                                        
When: March – December 2006
Where: St Vallier de Thiey, a village on the French Riviera, inland above Grasse and Cannes

  1. Permanent nausea 24/7 for the first three months.
  2. Permanent exhaustion 24/7 for the first three months.
  3. No real cravings, except wanting red wine whenever I saw a glass.
  4. Very low blood pressure (signed off work for this twice, in the first and last trimester.)
  5. Anaemic for most of the pregnancy.
  6. Stressful pregnancy, counting down each day.
  7. Horrific cankles (what are cankles?) from about month 4 until the birth.
  8. Weight gain of 13Kg (about 29lb) from start to finish, and a teeny tiny bump (this is me at nearly 42 weeks – excuse the highly unattractive photo!):

    The night before my induction with L

    The night before my induction with L

  9. A baby that I thought moved quite a lot.
  10. 45 minute commute door to door: driving from our home in the hills above Grasse to the office in the coastal town of Antibes.
  11. No ante-natal visits with midwives, all done with my gynaecologist/obstetrician.
  12. Virtually no ante-natal preparation/classes etc.
  13. Monthly appointments with my gynaecologist/obstetrician, with full weigh-in, blood pressure check and examination “down below”.
  14. Monthly blood tests in a separate lab for toxoplasmosis (more information about toxoplasmosis).
  15. Test for diabetes despite not being at risk.
  16. Scans offered at every monthly check-up if I wanted them, with 3 obligatory ones.
  17. Strict instructions given from the gynaecologist/obstetrician on what to avoid eating and drinking: no alcohol, no smoking, no raw meats or fish, no cheese made from unpasteurised milk, no foie gras, no shellfish, all meat to be cooked all the way through, all fruit and veg to be washed thoroughly etc.
  18. No mention of breast-feeding at all.
  19. An induced and very quick labour with epidural (more about that here) with the end result being a healthy little girl:
Result: a baby girl weighing in at 2.7kg (5lb 15oz)

Result: a baby girl weighing in at 2.7kg (5lb 15oz)

Pregnancy N°2: The English One                                                      
When: February – November 2012
Where: London

  1. Very little nausea, and what I had was very easy to control.
  2. More tired than usual, but again it was easy to control.
  3. No real cravings, except wanting to eat lots of fresh fruit and having more of a sweet tooth than usual.
  4. Normal blood pressure.
  5. No problem with anaemia.
  6. A mostly stress-free pregnancy (except for the usual stresses and strains of daily life), with no big rush to get through it. This one has certainly whizzed by a lot faster.
  7. Cankles only making occasional appearances, when the UK weather is hot and when we were on holiday in sunny climes 🙂
  8. Weight gain of 9kg (about 20lb) so far and a much bigger bump, here I am at just 30 weeks this time round:

    L kissing my 30 week tummy

    L kissing my 30 week tummy

  9. A baby that doesn’t stop dancing. Ever. This is one active baby! I thought that L was a mover and shaker but this one beats her hands down.
  10. 45 minute commute door to door: a 7 minute walk to the tube station, an 18 minute ride on the Northern Line where I usually get given a seat, then a 7 minute walk the other side.
  11. All ante-natal visits carried out by different midwives at the local hospital where I will have this baby.
  12. Refresher NCT classes start tomorrow and I’m also doing hypnobirthing this time round. I’ll have more to report on that later…
  13. Fewer appointments than with L, I have been weighed once at the very start, my blood pressure is checked each time and to my amazement no one has ever examined me “down below”! This is the biggest shocker after pregnancy in France!!
  14. No mention of toxoplasmosis at all, except when I asked about it I was told that if I didn’t work on a farm then I shouldn’t worry about it. They did however tell me to wear gloves for gardening and for cleaning cat litter and to wash all fruit and veg thoroughly.
  15. No mention of a diabetes test.
  16. 2 scans at 12 and 20 weeks, plus an additional scan planned for 36 weeks to check the size of the baby as L was so tiny.
  17. A vague mention made of what to eat/avoid eating etc. Although during the first midwife appointment we did discuss alcohol and smoking.
  18. Breast-feeding talked about and the advantages clearly explained during a recent midwife appointment, despite me stating that I’m a huge advocate and that I breastfed L for 1 year and exclusively for 6 months, and that I fully intended to do it again.
  19. Hopefully a natural birth this time in a midwife-led suite in the local hospital, which I promise to report back on.

It is hard to say how much of the differences are because it is a second pregnancy, so the medical staff and B and I are more relaxed about the whole thing. Also for my pregnancy with L I had previously had a miscarriage so I’m sure that added a lot of stress as I wondered about my ability to carry a baby to term.

The biggest shocks for me are the fact that no one mentions anything about toxoplasmosis here, which is HUGE in France, both at check-ups/blood tests and when talking to other mums (I was always getting asked, “Tu as eu la toxo?” whenever discussing pregnancy with other women). The other thing that still amazes me is that no one has ever asked to look between my legs! Now I’m not a huge fan of a stranger poking and prodding about down there, but after that being such a regular occurrence at every single check-up for 9 months it France, it still astounds me that not one single person has looked down there yet! According to my UK mum friends this is common and you’ll only get looked at “down there” if you are overdue and need a sweep.

Fortunately I realised fairly quickly that no one was interested in what was going on in my knickers after my first check-up so I’ve stopped getting naked now for my appointments!

How did your pregnancies compare? Was it a boy/girl thing? A country comparison? An age comparison? I’d love to hear if you had any surprises with later pregnancies.


8 Responses

  1. Pauline says:

    I know next to nothing about being pregnant in France so I’m amazed about the ‘down below’ checks. The whole point is that the cervix is closed, right? So what exactly do they expect to see?

    In the UK they definitely leave you to your own devices. A lot of the time, they expect you to do your own research and to ask questions to the midwife rather than being offered the info and getting drilled about food etc. In the majority of cases this works fine and makes it quite a relaxed experience (it was for me anyway). If you are anxious about anything though, it can feel a bit too lax, especially if you’re an introvert or not confident enough to ask questions.

    When I do get pregnant with a second (soon I hope), I would REALLY like to have the same experience as you! I was off sick for a month the first time around with the 24/7 sick feeling and the tiredness, and I could really do with a manageable first trimester. My only certainty at this point is that I won’t have to commute.

  2. Franglaise Mummy says:

    I’m not really sure what they’re expecting to see, other than a closed cervix but who knows?!? I think it would be a relief to have these examinations from around 25 weeks onwards to check you’re not at risk of going into early labour, and that would be picked up easily this way.

    I’m quite happy to be left to my own devices this time round, but last time I would have probably been freaking out, so it’s just as well I had L in France in that case!

    Fingers crossed you get a nice easy second pregnancy, I was expecting mine to be horrific, what with being 6 years older (and no spring chicken) too, so it was a very pleasant surprise!

  3. Really interesting to read the comparison between your pregnancies. I wonder how the labour and deliveries will vary. I have lots of friends in France who were so stressed about me not having any toxo tests through either of my pregnancies, made me smile reading your comments about it!

  4. Franglaise Mummy says:

    Give it a few more weeks and I’ll be blogging on here about how this labour, delivery and birth have gone. It’s so funny how things can vary from one country to another – toxo was the subject of conversation when I was pregnant in France, whilst over here no one knows what it is!

  5. Claire says:

    I know this is an old post, but I’m English and pregnant in France and the toxo thing is incredible! I only heard about it when a pregnant friend from France stayed in my UK flat and said she couldn’t touch my cat – at all. Now that I’m pregnant myself and living in France I discovered that the UK has such low rates of toxoplasmosis that it’s not even screened for, while France has one of the highest rates of it in the world (due to all the rare meat and tartare consumed possibly). Apparently most French women already produce the antibodies as they’ve previously been exposed to it, so are not at risk, but like me, foreign women don’t have the antibodies so are at risk and have to be tested every month. I have also had everyone ask me if I have had it as their first question, especially if anyone is preparing food – and had them insist on rewashing all the vegetables several times etc! Very sweet.

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Oh how it brings it all back! After I had Léna in France I tried my hardest to get toxo so I wouldn’t have to go through all the monthly blood tests for future pregnancies! Then I had our second, Clémence, in England and no one even uttered the word. So funny! Courage ma belle 😉 Has anyone warned you yet about “ré-education du périnée” yet? That’s another big difference…

  6. Claire says:

    Oh yes, I’ve heard! The mind boggles…

  7. Cazzie says:

    I’m 6 months pregnant in france and my gyno has never asked me if he can look down there maybe it’s changed since you had your baby here. I have previously had a baby in the UK and due to their negligence my little girl was born sleeping so all the extra tests they do in france make me feel a lot more secure here.

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