Giving Birth Down Under – 10 differences between UK and OZ
Having had my first baby in the UK under the care of the NHS and my second in the private system in Australia I am in no way trying to establish one is better, rather just give you an idea of the differences I experienced.
1. Interestingly in Australia generally you are advised to go to hospital a lot earlier than in the UK, regardless of whether it is a first or subsequent birth. However if you have read my labour story here you will see that I like to cut things fine!
2. My first impression of the hospital in Australia was that it is more like a hotel than a hospital. My labour experience this time was pretty similar to the Bears birth. I arrived at the hospital too far gone on both occasions to go into the assessment room and on both occasions I was taken straight to the delivery suite.
The delivery suite in Australia was very similar to the UK, a little bigger – which made absolutely no difference to me as I was in and out so quickly. There was all of the same equipment available should you wish to use it, birthing balls, bean bags etc.
3. After delivery in the UK, I was asked if I wanted to have the injection to help birth the placenta (tmi? – sorry) and I chose not to. My experience here in Oz was that it was assumed I would have the injection and they told me they were about to do it until I said that I didn’t want it. They were a little surprised as I think it is standard practice here but they were very good and did not push the issue at all.
4. Immediately after birth both here and in the UK your baby is given to you for skin to skin contact. The only difference being that when it is time to do weight measurements etc, the baby is weighed and tested in the same room that you deliver in the Uk, whereas bub is taken away to the nursery for all of that in Australia (dad went with).
5. Here in Oz, after everything had calmed down I was taken to a private room for the night which was great, all I had to worry about was looking after baby.
In the UK I was taken to a shared ward and although we were separated by a curtain meaning I didn’t see the other mothers, I could definitely still hear them which doesn’t make for a great nights sleep (not that I slept a wink on either occasion anyway as I was so full of adrenalin).
Again another difference here is that there is a night nursery at the hospital and the midwife asked if I wanted her to take baby Bear to the nursery for the night and just bring her back for feeds to help me get some sleep. I didn’t utilise it as I wanted her with me (so I could stare at her all night long,) but I can imagine that if you have had a long or traumatic labour that this would be a godsend.
6. Length of hospital stay is a major difference. In the UK it is a case of get you in and out as quickly as possible. With the Bear I was barely in hospital 24 hours and even then it was only because I was hanging on for dear life to stay absolutely petrified, having no idea what I was supposed to do with a new baby.
In Australia (and again I must stress this is private) the standard is 4 nights and 5 days in hospital. I know that if you use the public system it is very similar to the NHS in the UK. Which makes a lot of sense, if the Government is paying for it why keep people in longer than they have to.
In my case this was brilliant as it really gave me time to ‘just be’ with the baby. There was no pressure to try to get back to everyday life. The enforced rest gave me the time to sleep when baby slept, make sure feeding was going well with a lot of support (another thing that is monitored closely in hospital, with charts detailing feed times, dirty nappies); and to generally start to heal.
This was especially good for me having the Bear at home as although husb had to be daddy day care, it meant that rather than neither of us having any sleep dealing with new baby and toddler, at least husb was able to go home each night and get a proper nights sleep so that he was in a better state to care for us when we were discharged.
7. Another thing to note in Australia with the private system (not sure if this is dependent on your health plan or not) if you choose to discharge yourself earlier than the recommended 4 nights then as part of your care package you will either get in home help with cleaning the house etc, or a meal delivery service to help with the first few days/weeks at home.
With hindsight maybe that would have been a good idea judging by the state of our house at the moment!!
8. Additionally, in Australia baby settling classes and physiotherapy are offered by the hospital as part of your stay there which was very useful. Again I suppose this is one of the privileges of going private.
9. While in hospital here in Australia you have the option of specialist paediatric care. The Paediatrician comes and offers their services but you have to pay extra for this. It is not compulsory here and it was sold to me as almost like an extra.
In UK there is a Paediatrician on site and this check is just all part of the standard service rather than additional to the care.
10. The Piece d’ resistance – the luxurious Park Hyatt Hotel.
The hotel has a ‘Family Retreat’ partnership with the hospital. Basically if you have had a straight forward labour, providing there is space you get to go. I managed to get there on my final day so got a full day and night. nothing like going out on a high.
Strange that when I was in a manky hospital room husb didn’t come to visit until the afternoon whereas as soon as I got to the hotel he and Bear were over in a flash making use of the swimming pool and room service as well as arriving at my hotel on my last morning at 7am in order to partake in one last luxurious breakfast, I wonder why I didn’t see him so much at hospital!!!