Pregnant in the UK – Part 1

Little by little, it has become apparent to me that the care models employed in the UK healthcare system for pregnancy and birth are different than those utilised within the US [private] healthcare system—the differences in the care models seems stark, speaking as someone on the receiving end.  Drew and I, of course, have only directly experienced pregnancy [antenatal] care in the UK.  Up to the point where I myself became a pregnant patient, what we had come to expect from a healthcare system in terms of antenatal care was based entirely the collective knowledge we had absorbed of the US culture in which we had been inactively immersed as observers for so many years.

elsa konig 38 weeks
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig

Turning up to my GP (General Practitioner, a.k.a. Family Practice Physician) pregnant was a strange experience. I fully expected her to confirm what I thought I knew with a blood test but it puzzled her that I would even think to suggest it. “Do you think you did it wrong?” she asked about the urine stream test. After I calmly explained that I was only asking because of my familiarity with the routine in the US she replied, “I get the impression that they are more interested in collecting your money than confirming what a urine test has already told you.”

I sat stunned through the rest of the visit, trying not to be so blatantly American (a.k.a. ignorant and annoying to GPs). She handed me a purple book and told me to make a decision about where I would like to be ‘booked in’–I hoped that the purple book would tell me what ‘booked in’ meant. She asked me if I wanted to ‘go private’ or ‘go NHS’. When I explained that I didn’t think my private insurance covered antenatal care, she suggested that I check and make a decision about that, too–but she did praise the NHS care at UCH (University College Hospital) local to me explaining how commonly her patients delivered there. In all truthfulness, I had never considered whether or not to ‘go NHS‘… (In all truthfulness, getting pregnant in the UK was less of a calculated plan than a weakening in the knees at the sound of the sweetest man on Earth saying the sweetest things I had possibly ever heard.) I guess she assumed that Mrs-I-am-American-where-is-my-blood-test-damnit?! would want private healthcare, hence her pro-NHS cheerleading.

She calculated my due date, she gave me a flu shot, and she said that when I made a decision to give the office a call so that my midwife appointments could start at 16 weeks. I think she wished me luck before she shuffled me out.

I remember feeling incredibly alone. I remember being angry. I remember wondering how I could have been stupid enough to have agreed to live out such a serious life event in this backwards place. But those feelings are a complete 180 degrees from my perspective these days… I am grateful for the care I have received to this point and I look forward to our birth experience–I was hardly aware of what happened to bring me into this light. If you are curious to know what changed my mind, I am eager to share my introspection with you. Keep tuning in.

One response to “Pregnant in the UK – Part 1”

  1. I would love to compare and contrast our points of view! I find some of the things about the NHS fascinating, but others shocking and appalling. But I suppose, like everything else, there’s good and bad points to both, n’est pas?