Thursday, April 5, 2012

Having a baby in France, chapter 1: finding out you're pregnant

Here's a new series for all my friends who've asked me what it's like to have a baby in France! This is not my first time, but I didn't document it last time and I thought it would be fun to have a blog series to talk about what it's like for one Paris-suburbian American expat to be pregnant and have a baby in France. So besides having the best-dressed, best-smelling baby, what's it like? Let me tell you....

Finding out you're pregnant
Home pregnancy tests are available in pharmacies and much to my pleasant surprise, I didn't have to ask for one at the counter for all ears to hear. I simply wandered around the pharmacy until I found one and then paid for it at the counter. It's still a little embarassing, but it's usually the quickest way to find out if those two little lines are really going to appear! I love French pharmacies, by the way. Everything is so neatly packaged, it smells good and the pharmacists are generally very kind and professional and will help you find the right product for whatever ailments happen to be bothering you. You generally cannot find these types of products in the grocery stores like you do in the United States.


Preliminary prenatal visits
When I called to make an appointment with my ob/gyn for my pregnancy, I was told that I needed to first see my family doctor who would give me two prescriptions: one to have a series of blood work done, including measuring your levels of pregnancy hormones, and one for a first ultra-sound to determine the actual age of the embryo. In other words, doctors are so overbooked here in France, that they want to make sure that you are really pregnant before you make an appointment to go in to see the ob/gyn.

#1. Family doctor
Dr. Sow-Ouakara did not examine me, but simply printed out two prescriptions. I then made two separate appointments, one at the lab and the other at the medical imaging facility (two entirely separate entities).

#2. Blood work
The blood work checks your blood type, for diabetes, for cholesterol, your iron levels and a few other things. The technician was warm and friendly and asked me what was wrong. I told him nothing, that I was just pregnant! You pick up the results the following evening.

#3. Ultra-sound
The ultrasound is done by a technician, who in my case was very kind and professional, but just whipped through the ultra-sound pointing out different parts of my anatomy along the way, but with no change in emotion once we arrived to the embryo and listened to the beating heart. My knees were shaking and my eyes were watering, but we had already moved on to the ovaries and I would have to savor my precious moment in private at a later time! The technician prepared the photos of the ultra-sound and the receptionist neatly stapled them into a folder, while I waited in the reception area.

As of today I am 8 weeks, 2 days pregnant. There is just one embryo and his heart beats like a little horse. It's my fourth time, but this miracle never ceases to amaze me! My heart is filled with gratitude! Here's my little baby pictured below!



#4. My pregnancy medical file
My lab results and my ultrasound images, I will need to guard preciously as they constitute my medical file that I will need to take with me to every pre-natal appointment. And with my pregnant lady memory I have already misplaced my lab results!


Nausea in France
It feels exactly the same as in the USA! Depending on the day, I either feel just average or so very sick because the nausea lasts day and night and even prevents me from sleeping because it is so intense. I try to hold back the vomit because I hate vomiting, but that wears me out! And then I end up with other digestive problems! I don't know what's worse!!! I am anxious for the first trimester to be finished! I've told all my friends "no more bises" (the traditional greeting with two kisses on the cheeks) because when I'm feeling sick the proximity to skin and odors makes me want to vomit!!! Yep, I can't even kiss my husband and children and even fancy Parisian baby perfume is repulsive right now!


P.S. To read the other posts on having a baby in France, click on the links below:


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