So today the NHS announced that they are piloting the idea of a £3000 birth budget you can read the article (here).
And it got me thinking: a while ago I wrote an article for the local NCT magazine about the cost of alternative therapy through pregnancy. I calculated that I had personally spent around £1000 on massage, natal hypnotherapy, yoga and McTimoney Chiropractic and that, looking at the cost differential between a forceps delivery and a c section, it just happened to be the same amount. I argued that, having “invested in my pregnancy” I had saved them that money and I wondered if they would reimburse me some of it. I never asked, but what if you could…?
Anyway, £3000 to custom-make your own pregnancy sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Apparently you could pay for a home-birth, a birth pool, hypnotherapy or extra breastfeeding support? Some women need more attention than others so how does this net out? Does this include access to the thousands of alternative practitioners (like me) who could make a difference to the experience?
A word on the breastfeeding support though, according to this inflammatory article which hit the media a few weeks ago, the UK has the worst rate of breastfeeding in the world with 80% of women intending to try and 0.5% still breastfeeding after one year. In my eyes, breastfeeding is a grossly –underfunded area of postnatal care and should be offered as a matter of course for as long as help is needed.
My second pregnancy was fine up until 38 weeks. I probably would have spent my budget on “nice to haves” like yoga and hypnotherapy rather than anything medical (the lines are not clear about what is included) but at 38 week my body started to produce too much amniotic fluid. The midwives measured my bump and I had gone up 4cm in 1 week which is way too much. Without the routine appointment, I am not sure I would have noticed, so I grateful that these are not optional. I was admitted to hospital at 40 weeks exactly, my waters broken artificially and I delivered my son without any further intervention three hours later. I am 100% happy with my birth as a result of a highly skilled consultant and a little bit of uncomfortable fiddling.
But what if I had spent my budget before then? Any then I needed intervention at the last minute. What if I wanted a home birth, was docked the money accordingly and then ended it up in hospital? What if I had a completely hassle-free birth and my best friend struggled through her whole pregnancy with a complicated medical condition which required attention in excess of £3000? Could I give her something from my pot? All the questions that we need to understand.
It’s a bit flawed (and we Brits love a good argument to pick holes in) but I still think it’s a genius idea. It’s empowering. It gives us choices and it puts the control very firmly back in the hands of the pregnant mother to be. We have lost so much of our choice in a factory process where we tick the boxes and are expected to conform to a pregnancy “norm”. We suffer from not quite having enough time and attention from the NHS and I believe post-natal depression is on the rise as a result. Midwives are some of the loveliest people on earth but they are stretched and stressed and sometimes we need more than they can give.
We have lost so much of our choice in a factory process where we tick the boxes and are expected to conform to a pregnancy “norm”
Empowerment in pregnancy helps us make better decisions: we eat better; we drink more because we know it helps and we don’t expect to be able to take a pill to make symptoms disappear. Many women come to homeopathy in pregnancy because it is a safe alternative to many over the counter medication which is now forbidden. In alternative medicine they find the ownership. How amazing would it be if they could find that in the mainstream too, instead of being told what to do?
Let’s see what transpires. But whatever it is, anything that makes it MY pregnancy not THEIRS is already going in the right direction.