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
- Permanent nausea 24/7 for the first three months.
- Permanent exhaustion 24/7 for the first three months.
- No real cravings, except wanting red wine whenever I saw a glass.
- Very low blood pressure (signed off work for this twice, in the first and last trimester.)
- Anaemic for most of the pregnancy.
- Stressful pregnancy, counting down each day.
- Horrific cankles (what are cankles?) from about month 4 until the birth.
- 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!):
- A baby that I thought moved quite a lot.
- 45 minute commute door to door: driving from our home in the hills above Grasse to the office in the coastal town of Antibes.
- No ante-natal visits with midwives, all done with my gynaecologist/obstetrician.
- Virtually no ante-natal preparation/classes etc.
- Monthly appointments with my gynaecologist/obstetrician, with full weigh-in, blood pressure check and examination “down below”.
- Monthly blood tests in a separate lab for toxoplasmosis (more information about toxoplasmosis).
- Test for diabetes despite not being at risk.
- Scans offered at every monthly check-up if I wanted them, with 3 obligatory ones.
- 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.
- No mention of breast-feeding at all.
- An induced and very quick labour with epidural (more about that here) with the end result being a healthy little girl:
Pregnancy N°2: The English One
When: February – November 2012
- Very little nausea, and what I had was very easy to control.
- More tired than usual, but again it was easy to control.
- No real cravings, except wanting to eat lots of fresh fruit and having more of a sweet tooth than usual.
- Normal blood pressure.
- No problem with anaemia.
- 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.
- Cankles only making occasional appearances, when the UK weather is hot and when we were on holiday in sunny climes 🙂
- Weight gain of 9kg (about 20lb) so far and a much bigger bump, here I am at just 30 weeks this time round:
- 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.
- 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.
- All ante-natal visits carried out by different midwives at the local hospital where I will have this baby.
- Refresher NCT classes start tomorrow and I’m also doing hypnobirthing this time round. I’ll have more to report on that later…
- 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!!
- 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.
- No mention of a diabetes test.
- 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.
- A vague mention made of what to eat/avoid eating etc. Although during the first midwife appointment we did discuss alcohol and smoking.
- 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.
- 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.