Pregnant and in France

(Annie Woolston) #1


Sorry if this is not in the right place. I have only just joined up and not really fully explored the site yet.

I have just discovered that I am pregnant, for the first time, and altho I live in France, my French really isn’t very good, so I am trying to find anyone English, or English speaking who can pass on any help/tips/pointers/advice etc!

I have been to the doctor today and had numerous blood samples taken, but I’m not sure what to do next!

Many thanks,


(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #2

Mine was born at 2.7 kilos but regained her birthweight in 6 days so that’s how long I was in hospital. She’s still below the chart for her age (not even 3rd percentile!) as far as weight is concerned but she is in the 50th percentile for height & head size so we’re not worried that she tracks on her own special weight chart.

For my next birth there is a chance my hubbie might not make it, as he’ll be working away so I’ve asked a friend to stand in for him (she’s french but speaks excellent English) so maybe next time I’ll understand 100%. Although I’m hoping the little one waits for Daddy to get home before making an entrance

(Tracy Thurling) #3

Umm, I’m practically fluent in French but when it actually came to giving birth, I could not remember a word - total panic reigned. mind you, I’m such a wuss that 2 years later I stood at the door of the maternity unit refusing to enter as I was so scared of having to go through it again. As my husband pointed out - it’s a bit late to worry now, having said that the 2nd baby was a totally different experience and nowhere as bad as the first time.
We had size problems with the first as well, although a healthy 3 kg at birth, she dropped to 2.6kg - and stayed there for a month!!! Not to worry - she’s now a strapping 5 year old, in the top 10 percentile, so you just never know - the second was a healthier 3.3kg - and 3 years later down in the bottom 10 percentile, it’s just amazing how much they change.

(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #4

yes it’s amazing how well you manage. I remember being really pleased with myself for managing to go through the whole birth & stay speaking in French the whole time (it just happened naturally). I understood 80% of what was being said by the medical staff & they were excellent and very caring. It was a good experience & I am so totally relaxed about this next one!
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(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #5

Congratulations Amber & it sounds like you had a difficult one. I had a little scare in the 4th month and had extra scans with the specalist saying I might have to ‘do nothing’ for the rest of my pregnancy which with a 13m old didn’t seem possible at the time. However the scans showed everything was ok & I’ve been able to continue with a normal lifestyle - I’m just a bit more careful about what I lift etc. than I was first time round.
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(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #6

@Amanda we had the opposite problem, our little one was only 2.7 kilos & needed premie clothes which were tricky to find locally. The bump is also apparently a petit bebe and so I think we’ll be needing to reuse the premie clothing again.

My little one is 15m old & still wearing M&S 9m clothes, in the french sizes (I love Catimini) she’s between 12-18m.
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(Ria Tounsi) #7

Congratulations Annie

As I’ve read all the replies I can see you have lots of good info and nothing I could add to that except to say my experience of the medical system here has been very good and that is despite not being very good at French.

I am currently waiting for my first grandchild to be born, ma Belle Fille is from Peru and living in England so she is also feeling a little like you must be and I see it as my job to listen to her. Do you have someone you can do that with? My son tells me she finds that a great relief to just be able to get it all off her chest and then get some clarity in her own thoughts.

best wishes to you

(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #8

Hi Annie,

I just bought 2 linen skirts & 2 pairs of linen trousers from Blooming Marvellous on my site (Black & White for each) so they go with any maternity top. I find the vest style tops with built in support are comfortable for hot weather & in winter you can just throw a shirt or cardigan over the top (you tend to feel the heat more when you are heavily pregnant. BM have a maternity sale on at the moment up to 50% off. They also do breastfeeding tops which unclip and these were excellent last time round so you don’t need too many bf underwear.

One other thing I found difficult to find for a reasonable price was maternity & bf underwear, in the end I bought Elle McPherson which was comfortable but at least resembled the sort of thing I would normally wear as opposed to something my granny might wear

I tried some of the french stores (dragged husband round Kiabi, La Halle & Natalys) but the prices didn’t match the quality of the stuff I’ve had from the UK shops. A high end shop for maternity (something special is Isabella Oliver - also got a sale on at the moment and they are based in France too - web only).

In terms of the Declaration it’s on ly the first page you fill in & it copies in triplicate, there was one question which threw me near the bottom which was about how long it takes you to get to work…I didn’t know why they were asking that but look out for it.

For the sex of the baby, they usually will ask if you want to know at the 20 week scan, I don’t want to know & didn’t last time. I think their vital parts are visible now to the trained eye.

My bump is growing this week I’m sure and it kicks like mad each time I eat or lie down, loving it!

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(Katie Osborne) #9

Hi there

for your maternity stuff - try kiabi, reasonable range at lowish cost (as you are not going to wear it much is ok) - otherwise you will find most of the baby shops Aubert and Bebe 9 spring to mind will also have a maternity range. It occurs to me that I think La Halle and Gemo also do low cost maternity gear.

You will get 3 obligatory scans - at 3 months, 5 months and 7-8ish months. You are offered the choice at the 5th month scan. If you are booked in at a maternite your 4,6 and 8 month checks are just with a midwife and therefore no scan. I was lucky and that for my 2nd I had my gyne every month and got to know at 4 months.

for the declaration de grossesse - I can’t remember there being much that was complicated but if you have a problem my advice would be to take it to your GP who will be able to help. But don’t hang about it is a legal requirement that it is done before 14 weeks.

hope that helps


(Annie Woolston) #10

Hi Suzanne,

I’ve just started looking into all the baby paraphernalia, and I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t! There are so many options aren’t there - plus I have panic moments when I think I don’t even know where to buy maternity clothes from! I’ll definately have another look at UK4Me, altho with clothes I do like to be able to feel the fabric before I commit to buying something - slightly weird perhaps, but its something I can’t stop doing.

There is one thing that I was wondering if anyone could help with - the declaration de grossesse form. Admittedly I’ve only glanced at it, but got so confused I’ve not looked at it since. I was wondering if there was a helpful website that might aid me in the completion of the form. If not, I shall harang the few English mothers around and hope they take pity on me!

Do they tell you the sex of the baby at the 20 week scan in France? I can’t decide if I want to know or not - at first I was a definate no, but now I can see the appeal, if only to buy the right colour clothes!

Oh dear, more questions. Sorry. And thank you again!


(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #11

Hi Annie,

That’s great to hear. I have my 20 week scan next week - can’t wait! I’ve just bought a maternity pillow from one of the baby shops on UK4Me & I’m sleeping much better now (apart from when the little one wakes up teething at 4am). I didn’t have a maternity pillow for my first babe and tried using an ordinary pillow but I’ve found it much more comfortable this time round. I know it sounds strange early on but I used to get knee ache & that started again but now it’s gone. Other stuff I’m going to get soon includes a bath seat for the baby, we managed without for the first one but with a toddler as well I think this will help me cope easier & less stress on my back.

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(Catharine Higginson) #12

so we must be quite close then - Bayonne was our nearest hosps till recently - we have now just hopped over the border into the 40 - anyway it is one of the best hosps in France so you are in good hands!

(Annie Woolston) #13

Hello all,

thank you so much again for all the helpful advice & tips that you’ve passed on. I am very much calmer now than when I initially created this discussion and I’m sure a lot of that is to do with all the responses.

I thought I’d keep you up to date - if anyone was interested! I had my first scan and appointment with the doctor who’s going to be following me yesterday at Bayonne Hospital, where I was very impressed with everything. The ultrasound lady knew a few words of English and made sure that we understood everything, and the doctor was quite amusing, altho I’m not sure if he meant to be! Anyway, everything seems fine and I’ve plenty of other appointments booked along with the multitude of blood tests, so far so good.

Thanks again to you all,


(Sara Bowles) #14

Hi Annie,

Congratulations! I had my 4th baby - Amy - last year in France. The system here is rather different to the UK and their is a lot of onus on YOU making decisions, which is not so easy.

Because I had not had any problems with my 3 previous pregnancies and births, I wanted to have my baby at home in a birthing pool. This was a big challenge as this type of thing seems to be rather frowned upon here! Only 1% of births in France are home births.

Anyway, I went to our nearest hospital for regular pre-natal checks, blood tests etc. They book you in for your next visit each time you go, they will also tell you what else you need to do - any tests etc. Sorry, but you need to prepare to become a pin cushion until your baby arrives - it isn’t so bad, and all well worth it in the end.

I wrote to the nearest British Embassy and asked if they knew of any British midwives working in France, as to have a home birth you must find a freelance Midwife who is prepared to attend you. You can also use the community or an independant Midwife to do all your Pre-Natal exams too, if you find that easier than going to the hospital each time. You will at least always see the same person and build up a relationship by doing this.

I was given the name of a lovely English midwife working here, but she was too far away to be my attending Midwife, so she helped me find two Independent Midwives who worked together in my area. One of them spoke fairly good English which was a help.

I am happy to say that I did get the birth of my dreams, Amy was actually delivered by her Daddy in the wonderful birthing pool we had purchased, 20 minutes before the Midwife arrived - it was absolutely magical.

If you want any further advice from an experienced Mum, I am happy to help you - just let me know.

Best of luck
Sara x

(Catharine Higginson) #15

We are just south of Dax in the 40. Initially it was a bit of a compromise as we couldn’t afford to buy in the PB but I actually much prefer it here, precisely for the reasons you mention above…The neighbours are lovely, helpful and not ‘curieux’…

(Katie Osborne) #16

Hi there - I am new to the site and exploring on this wet afternoon. The advice from the other mums below is much the same as what I owuld be able to give you (I have had 2 children in France - now 4 and 6). The only thing I can add is to contact your local PMI (something like Protection Maternelle et Infantile) who will have been notified of your pregnancy when your doctor filled out your 14 declaration. Mine provided breast feeding workshops, and regular weighing session with a pericultrice after he was born. As my second bb was a tad difficult they even helped to arrange a home help to come in a couple of time a week for a few weeks (means tested but CAF supported) When I was pregnant with the second one the midwife attached to the PMI (a new one from when I had the first one) even phoned me and came and visited me as she had noticed I was british and wanted to ensure that I knew what the procedure was - it would have been invaluable for the first one. Good luck with the rest of the pregnancy and enjoy your 5 days recup in the maternite (top tip get a single room otherwise your bb will wake up everytime the other bb wakes up)

What I have learnt is the help and support is there - you just have to look for it - it seems to be a little bit less automatic than in the UK

My other top tip is not to give birth in august ( I did it twice) - staffing levels are lower - everyone is on holiday and there is a difference!!!

The good thing about being british and having children in France is you can pick and choose on the advice - I stopped sterilising bottles at 4 months, but my kids never started a nap at 4pm!! and go to bed at a decent hour!!

(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #17

Hi I’ve created a group Franglais Kids for parents of kids who will be bilingual to discuss our experiences on Survive France.

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(Christina Bernier) #18

Hi Catherine
No, no longer near Bayonne. We left to move to Canada for 8 years but am now back but in the Dordogne 24.
I did love the Pays Basque area but saw it through different eyes after I had a child…found too much racism and sexism to want to raise a child there.
Where are you now?

(Catharine Higginson) #19

I hired a TENS machine and found that v good. Doesn’t help in the closing stages (you’ll know when as you rip the thing off, shouting 'Get this ****ing useless thing off me NOW…"

But well worth it until that point and being mobile always helps I think.

Christina - are you still near Bayonne - it was our nearest town will 6 months ago - we are a bit further north now. The photo at the top of the Survive france site is one James took there for a feature and an image that I just love as it reminds me of Bayonne and all the lovely restaurants by the river…

(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #20

Hi Christina,

It’s scary you were almost pushed into an epidural. Thankfully that wasn’t my experience. It is standard practice I believe to see an anaesthatist and have special blood tests just in case (which I saw & he was arrogant) but I was only asked once afterwards about an epidural and I declined. The hospital & all the midwifes seemed very happy to go through a natural birth with just gas & air near the very end.

My antenatal classes included Sophrology which allowed me to control my mind & hence breathing for a long time during the labour pains and I think this helped me keep drug free. That said, I was lucky and had a good birth process but it may well be different with the next one so I’m keeping an open mind. I may be screaming for pethidine next time!

I did need a minor procedure afterwards which required the anaesthatist as I was put to sleep for 20 mins (in walked swaggering anaesthatist) but even this procedure was peaceful and without problems. I’m going back to the same hospital again as I had such a positive experience there.

I was in for 6 days & kept calling it a hotel (much to my oh’s amusement). The food was excellent & I felt really cared for, such a contrast to my friends in the UK who were pushed out after 1 day or less!

The midwifes at the hospital were excellent & gave lots of advice, my baby stayed with me at all times & my oh was able to stay over every night too in a put up camp bed in my room. This was a local hospital not private (even though we have private insurance) and I am happy to go back there in November.

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