The Cost of Pregnancy and Birth

Firstly, I’d like to say that this is no way an attack on people who
provide services to pregnant women – everyone has to make a living,
and I know there is a market for it. I know there are a small number
of voluntary organisations that offer support in pregnancy and birth.
If I could I would pay for every service on offer – I have lots of
friends and relatives who provide the sort of services I’m going to
talk about and I think they do an excellent job and I understand why
they do it. In fact, I’ve seriously considered training in some of the
things I am talking about here. But …

When you become pregnant you are immersed into a world where you are
marketed at from every angle. In my experience marketeers, at their
most cynical, deal in fear and unachievable aims (oil to prevent
stretch marks? knock it off) and at their best try to inform parents
of the best/most useful products and services out there to improve
their experience of pregnancy and birth and newborn babies.

I have been thinking about what would make this second pregnancy more
bearable (aside from a butler, chef, cleaner etc etc etc). There is a
HUGE group of very eager people out there who want to sell me things
to make it better. Massage for example – I know I would benefit from a
massage as I think this perpetual headache is caused by tension in my
back and neck. But, the cheapest I’ve found is £30 for half an hour.

I have PGP (or SPD as it used to be known) and I am in almost constant
pain, some days it’s pretty severe and stops me walking/sitting/lying
comfortably. I cried in the middle of town on Thursday at the thought
of the 10 minute walk home as it hurt so much.

I know I would benefit from Pilates or Yoga for this – again, this
comes at a cost. Around £7 a class, so if I was to go every week for
the rest of my pregnancy that would be £140.

I have heard that reflexology and aromatherapy can help with this too
– again, at unobtainable prices.

I would also benefit from Physio, the physio I have been offered on
the NHS consisted of one appointment where they told me how to get out
of bed and to try to not sit still for more than 20 minutes at a time.
I was told to come back if I wanted a support belt later on in the
pregnancy and that was that. No offer of manual therapy throughout the
pregnancy. Private physio/osteopath/chiropractor would be hugely
beneficial – but the cost is too high. The Pelvic Partnership supports
women with this problem and they say that manual therapy is the only
thing that works to help with the pain during pregnancy. But it is
unavailable to most people.

Most things that would really, really help are unavailable – in their
fullness – to most women. The demand for Doulas has hugely risen in
the last few years and I have heard such wonderful, positive stories
of births involving Doulas – but only for those people who can afford
it. Similarly the NCT and others offer wonderful antenatal classes,
which are also rather expensive. I know Doula UK and the NCT offer
reduced rates to those on the lowest incomes, which is fabulous, but
it leaves people like me out. We are not poor but we are on a tight
budget. The squeezed middle, if you will.

There are so many products out there for expectant mothers – bubble
baths, books and vitamins to name but a few. They all claim to make
your pregnancy and birth less painful, more enjoyable and more of this
wonderful, beautiful, calm and natural experience that we are told
about.

Breast pumps, birth pools, special pillows etc etc etc etc all cost a
lot of money.

Now all of these things are, rightly, classed as complimentary
therapies or services. They are not vital to pregnancy or childbirth.
The woman and the child can survive without them. I know that. Plenty
of people can’t afford all these things and go through pregnancy and
birth without them. Hell, some people have complication free pregnancy
and straight forward births, or so I’m told. The NHS and NCT offer
feeding support and Children’s Centre’s do something to support most
communities. But sometimes we need more than just survival, don’t we?

I feel as though the hospital I gave birth in felt that Joni’s birth
was a ‘success’ because we were both alive at the end of it. That IS a
success, when you consider that before all the medical interventions
we needed existed we probably would have both died in the process. But
really, NHS, is that all we can expect? Life = success, Death or life
limiting damage = Failure.

Something I know I would benefit from is counseling about Joni’s
birth. To close the door on it and have a calm birth with baby 2. You
know, where I’m not refusing to listen to the heartbeat for fear of a
panic attack. As far as I know, the hospital I am registered with do
not offer any sort of birth reflection service (funnily, the hospital
I had Joni at does – I guess the demand is pretty high there?!). So,
what am I left with? Do I pay for counseling (probably a minimum of
£35 per session) to deal with this?

Counselors on this subject see it as vital to be able to go over the
previous notes with me in order to deal with how and why things
happened. Good idea – I thought. So, after sending 3 letters (by
recorded delivery) to Ashford and St Peters Hospital Trust requesting
the forms to obtain my notes, with no reply, I spent 40 minutes on
hold and 30 minutes being transferred between two people and was
eventually told that I could fill out a form and send a cheque for £50
then I would be allowed to collect my notes from the hospital (20
miles away). So, all in all, to get my notes it would cost me around
£70. Not to mention my time.

As I’ve said – we are not poor. We could find a way to get this cash
together (our house is cluttered, I sell a lot of things on eBay, we
could feed Joni less etc) and pay for it. But why?

Why should I pay for maternity notes from that hospital? I’m asking
for them because I was traumatised by the events that took place
there. I need professional help to come to terms with it. By their own
admission it was their fault that things ended up how they did. They
sighted their lack of staff and inexperienced midwives in their
defense of my complaint. And they would like me to pay £50 for the
privilege of re-living the whole thing?? I don’t want the notes for a
laugh.

What about people who simply can’t afford it? What must they do? Be
happy they merely survived? Suffer in pain? Experience an inferior
pregnancy and birth because they couldn’t afford all the things they
are told would make it all better?

Its one thing not being able to pay for something as luxurious as a
massage but quite another being told that I have to pay for something
as essential as my notes.

I guess those who can’t afford it probably have to suffer in silence.
I expect William Hague would blame them for not working hard enough.

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This entry was posted in Childbirth, Parenting, Post Pregnancy, Pregnancy Number 2 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Cost of Pregnancy and Birth

  1. eciton says:

    You’re right that it’s a costly business and there seem to be a million things lining up to drain the coffers, ranging from the almost essential to the potentially helpful or even ineffectual. We’re on a fairly tight budget too, and we’ve decided not to opt for some things that might have been useful — NCT classes, for instance. It’s not easy. You should definitely have access to your notes and I have no idea why it should be that costly. For Freedom of Information requests for example they’re only allowed to pass on disbursements, which should not be £50! Grrr.

  2. H says:

    Interesting read and very thought provoking, I was lucky and had quite a straight forward pregnancy and extremely quick birth and back home the same day, however my pain and trauma have surfaced since birth. Like you I have had life threatening issues at times and am lucky that my husband is my rock as without him the only option of holistic support was extremely expensive and I would not have been able to afford it – i am one of the lucky ones The Boots family is not. Regardless of ailment or situation it is our families and close friends who help us to pull through and I am eternally grateful for mine xx

  3. Lisa Ramsey says:

    I should mention that all doulas tend to be flexible enough to negotiate fees and some will at times offer their valuable support services during labour and birth for free – like me. I agree this level of support should be what all women experience through the NHS, but it isn’t unfortunately. I have had clients ask family, friends and colleagues to contribute to the cost of a doula or other useful service during pregnancy or birth, instead of buying yet another cute outfit which looks nice but soon gets covered in sick or poo! There are ways around it, but I agree its hardest for those in the middle of the road financially. We would be in the same position. By the way I have a birth pool you can borrow for free if you want it 😉

    • bornin2011 says:

      Thanks Lisa – its so wonderful to know that there are people like you who are so generous with your expertise and time – what a good idea to ask people to contribute too

  4. Sue Manwaring says:

    Emma so sorry and I agree with you 🙂 when I worked at Ashford Hospital many moons ago I was told that the birth records were the “property” of the patient after the birth was completed. Its frustrating because shouldn’t they just give you them because its about you after all.I hope that you can resolve this and get them for free 🙂

  5. Imogen says:

    As ever brilliantly put Emma, outrageous you should have to pay, surely that’s what tax is for?! Not to mention what it must cost you in emotional energy. It must take a lot of guts just to get as far as asking for the notes, let alone having to be so persistent with them. They owe you those notes. If, however, you decide not to push any further, I’m sure, you will still find counselling very beneficial. The notes and the information they contain tell the facts, they symbolise the hospital’s failings, but only you know how it felt and only you get to own that. x

    Re. price of yoga/pilates. I’m sure you’re already on this, but if money is an issue, perhaps one or two good quality pregnancy classes (maybe even spread across the trimesters) might be the answer and then repeat them at home. I saw a lady in my class the other day writing them all down, personally I’ve even thought about recording mine. An understanding instructor I’m sure would be happy to help.

    Re. osteopaths sorry to be London-centric but the School of Osteopathy in Borough does cheaper sessions than most £22, because they use 3rd year students. Also they specifically mention expectant mothers. Completely get that the whole cheapness is counteracted by the travel costs, but still, they might be able to advise on cheap alternatives in your area.
    http://www.bso.ac.uk/information-for-patients/appointments-faqs/

    • bornin2011 says:

      Thanks Imogen – that’s a really good point, I know what happened after all.

      And what a good idea about writing down what to do in the class – I like the idea of just going to a few and then carrying on at home – and maybe trying my waterfalls/mountain views DVD again!

  6. Hilary says:

    Ah. More good news from St Peter’s then. That is a complete disgrace. Presumably they are saying it is some sort of administration fee? I hope your letter to the CEO does the trick.

    Re the other costs, again it’s a real shame the NHS doesn’t (can’t?) do more. It can be hard for alternative therapists though… while there are a few who have buckets of cash, many are also part of the squeezed middle and struggle to make even a regular part time job of it, let alone a full time job. Offering those sorts of services to pregnant women would be a great idea for a charity though… Or is that part of what the NCT are/should be doing? I bet lots of therapists (by which I mean anything like massage, reflexology, alexander technique etc) would be happy to give an hour of their time regularly for people who couldn’t afford to pay their normal rates. And once a few in an area start doing it it’s quite impelling for the others to join in too. Good advertising to be affiliated with a decent charity too…

    I saw Imogen has mentioned the BSO – that’s where James works and is the osteopathy university and clinic I mentioned to you a while back. James has been in to the clinic as a body to practise on for exams etc and he speaks highly of them.

    I really hope you get to have a decent set of sessions with a good counsellor. It is so very wrong to be afraid to hear your baby’s heartbeat. Please don’t feel like you’re giving up if you do go for an elective section – it really shouldn’t make you feel like you have failed in any way, just that you have done everything you possibly can to bring your baby into the world safely.

    xxx

    • bornin2011 says:

      It is a good idea for a charity, I’m going to have a long think about and how it could be done/whether anything like this exists anywhere.

      Really hope my letter to the CEO works, it’s appalling that it costs £50.

      Seeing consultant tomorrow about birth options, really hoping its a positive appointment. I’ll have a think about the osteo – it’s a long way to go but might be worth it, especially as I have friends near there too.

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