Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baby abroad: registration, doctors, midwives, timeline (NHS part two)

A lot of people over here complain about the NHS. A lot of people over here also complain about all kinds of things that aren't really that bad -- like the rain, for example. Edinburgh literally gets half the annual rainfall that my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, gets. Complaining about things is a way of life -- something people even joke about. (Although, truthfully, it seems complaining is really just a form of conversation with friends or with strangers in an elevator. I've not seen anyone complain to authority, in a way that we loud Americans so often do.) When I tell my UK friends here how much I paid for health insurance in the US (a plan that didn't include dental, much less maternity), followed by what percentage of medical bills that "insurance" actually covered, suddenly the NHS is a source of pride.

David and I arrived in the UK on student and dependent visas, and we thought we were supposed to register with the University Health Care. That's how it was in college back home. Your college insurance covered university medical care, not your private doctors. In January, when we found out I was pregnant, we (probably I) complained to a friend about having to trek across town (a whole 2 miles, ha ha) to the University doctor.  She then informed me you could register with any doctor office in town.

So we walked into our neighborhood medical center and said that we lived over here and would like to register with a doctor. Three minutes later, we were in their system -- no calling to see if their practice took my insurance or whatnot, just a simple form.

When you switch doctors (at least at this practice) you must come in to see a doctor or nurse to discuss your medical history. Seeing as scheduling a physical or any other sort of basic wellness checkup can take months back in the States (the last US doctor I saw before I moved was my dermatologist -- an appointment I had to set up four months in advance, despite the fact that I had a strange new asymmetrical mole and a history of precancerous cells), I figured this basic NHS appointment would be a few months out.

Wrong. Both David and I were booked in the following week.*

To schedule a maternity appointment, we needed to call the central midwife office, or something like that. David called (I hate making phone calls) and was told we'd need to wait about a month to come in for our booking appointment. Ahhhhh ... the wait list! There it was! But ... no ... the real reason? Well, that's how they do it here -- wait to see you until you're 8 weeks along.

That is probably shocking to my American readers (it was to us, at first), but think about it for a minute. If something bad was going to happen, it would happen regardless of having an early ultrasound. There's really nothing they can do for a healthy woman at five weeks pregnant. I mean, I'm not sick; I'm pregnant.

They do offer the NHS published book, Ready, Steady, Baby, which is basically a streamlined version of What to Expect, except with Scottish-specific advice, such as "Safety during lambing season." If you're a nerd, like me, and had already read several books about pregnancy, well, just return to normal routine -- minus alcohol and unpasteurized cheese, of course -- and await your 8-week "booking appointment."

After all, you're not sick, you're pregnant.

*Since then, I've had the both the doctor and the dentist offer me a non-emergency appointment the next day.

Next NHS blog: I get red-flagged as high risk and am sent to a multitude of obstetricians and hematologists at two different hospitals. Remember, they do check bloods and things...


  1. They also like to wait for week 8 in France as well (minimum week 6). :-) and they have the same "you are not sick, you are pregnant!" attitude. Refreshing. And no fear mongering.

  2. They also like to wait for week 8 in France as well (minimum week 6). :-) and they have the same "you are not sick, you are pregnant!" attitude. Refreshing. And no fear mongering.

    1. I can't tell you how much of a difference that attitude has made in my own mental preparation.

  3. Complaining as a form of conversation? I'd probably fit right in! :) I'm loving these NHS posts.

    1. Ha! Glad you're liking the NHS posts ... I should have written them ages ago.

  4. I'm so glad you're liking the NHS care! I really loved it (for the most part) and found the approach to pregnancy and birth so refreshing. There were some things that my friends back home were really shocked by, but I liked the laid back attitude and mindset that pregnancy is normal and healthy. Some of the midwives we came across were better than others, but I know I would have ended up with a c-section back in the states and I was able to have a natural birth with ZERO tears thanks to the coaching of my midwife. Also, the home visits from the midwife and health visitor are awesome. It makes so much more sense than you schlepping a newborn and your recovering self to a doctor's office full of sick people.