It's when mommy bloggers take to the internet by the thousands that the world really starts to pay attention. Major news outlets have been churning out statistics for years. While these are helpful guidelines in terms of what to expect, it's the reality of pregnancy and birth stories from each side of the pond that are highlighting the real differences.
In the UK, it's "mummy." In the US, it's "mommy." The differences go way deeper, though. While and mothers-to-be in both the US and UK are fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where quality healthcare is readily available, not everything about the way those 9 months are spent is the same. In fact, they're very different.
The differences start the minute that pregnancy is officially announced. While some differences stem from budget variations and the major differences in how healthcare is structured, a lot of them are cultural.
Brits may joke about the US culture, and vice-versa. For instance, something as simple as buying milk can make people gasp. In the US, buying milk by the gallon is the norm. Over in the UK, milk is sold in individual pints (with larger bottles available). Brits might use the word "lift" for the elevator. Or "buggy" for a stroller.
This one is going to be a fascinating read. Here are 20 major cultural pregnancy differences between the US and the UK.
20 C-SECTIONS AREN'T "PICK AND CHOOSE" IN THE UK
Brits are always a little taken aback when they hear how high C-Section rates in the US are. The 2017 rate of C-Sections in England sat at 9% (11% for Wales and Scotland, plus 14.6% in Northern Ireland). BBC reports these stats to be far higher in the USA.
The US has the highest C-Section rate in the world– 32% of all births are a C-Section.
Reasons for this vary (and no, not every mother in the US "schedules" her birth in). The most likely reason for the difference is simply one of risk. It's considered safer overall for the medical team. There may also be a higher financial incentive with US health insurance policies.
19 UK HOSPITALS SEND EVERYBODY HOME THE SAME DAY
Give birth in the USA, and you're more likely to spend at least one night in the hospital. Over in the UK, it's considered completely normal to stay hospitalized for a few hours, then pack your bags and go home. Provided there are no medical needs keeping mom and baby back, that's precisely what happens.
The average US stay for a new mom is 4.1 days. The World Health Organization recommends a 24-hour stay for mothers who have uncomplicated traditional deliveries. From someone who is the from the UK (and knows that the National Health Service has tight budgets), this may be one reason why you get sent home sooner.
18 UK: NO OVERNIGHT VISITORS (FRIENDS AND FAMILY GET HOURLY SLOTS)
"Visiting hours are over." A phrase you will absolutely hear across hospitals in the UK. When Modern Alternative Mama's Kate took to her blog to compare UK vs. US mentalities after having a baby, she noticed this very thing. In the US, it's fairly common to have friends and family visit you in your room once the baby is born.
While visits are permitted in the UK, the structure (which involves shared wards over private rooms) simply doesn't make "visit when you like" an option. Visiting hours are generally in hourly slots. You'll almost never find a new mom allowed visitors overnight.
17 MIDWIVES: ALMOST ALWAYS PRESENT IN THE UK (VERSUS ONLY 8% OF US BIRTHS)
Midwives have traditionally been used to help deliver babies for centuries. Over in the UK, a midwife will be present during almost all births (but an OB/GYN or doctor won't be unless necessary). In the US, less than 8% of births have a midwife present.
The UK actually has a reality show called "Call The Midwife." The UK employs 25,000 full-time midwives.
In the UK, all pre- and post-natal care is provided by a midwife unless a doctor is deemed necessary. Free midwife visits are available to new moms. Those 25,000 midwives in the UK dwindle to 11,000 in the US (for way more people).
16 EPIDURALS: 30% OF UK BIRTHS (VERSUS 95% IN THE US)
How a pregnant woman chooses to handle pain during the birth is 100% her choice (well, unless the doctor advises against that opinion). Epidurals are on the rise in the UK, but stats are still way lower than in the US. Epidurals in the UK might have doubled in recent years, but they're still only used for around 30% of births.
In the US? That figure sits at 95%. UK moms are encouraged to use TENS machines (which many moms in the US haven't even heard of). This small electrical device delivers a tingling sensation across the body. From someone who has used one for other reasons, it isn't bad!
15 UK HOSPITALS DON'T PROVIDE DIAPERS, HATS, OR ESSENTIALS
Remember that free UK healthcare comes with a tight budget. The UK's NHS system is facing an uphill financial battle. In 2018, The Guardian reported the "fears" that the NHS' £20 billion boost may be spent "to pay off debts." This system offers free healthcare, but no whistles or bells.
"I'm in the UK and the hospital said bring your own." This mother had to provide her own diapers and cotton balls.
In the US, it's fairly common to find diapers, hats, and other essentials provided. The What To Expect forums mom you see quoted there joins dozens of others.
14 THEN AGAIN, NO UK MOTHER EVER HAS TO PAY FOR HEALTHCARE
The biggest difference between healthcare in the UK and the US is one of cost. The UK's National Health Service (NHS) was founded in 1948. It offers free healthcare to anyone living in the UK. That includes doctor's appointments, treatments, hospital stays, therapy, and even free home births.
While the US government has experienced some changes in recent years, there is no NHS equivalent in America. Health insurance is something that millions of people in the US still rely on. Even if your job covers it in the US, the company (not the state) is footing the bill. The NHS covers healthcare from the ambulance to the discharge.
13 HOSPITAL MEALS IN THE US: MAC AND CHEESE, CHICKEN PARM, SALADS
You don't go into hospital to eat, but there's no denying that what lands on that tray will leave you with an opinion. There are already major food differences between the two countries– ask anyone in the US what Welsh Rarebit or bangers and mash are and they likely won't know.
Hospital meals in the US can include mac and cheese, soups with crackers, salads, or even fried chicken. For breakfast, you might even get a stack of pancakes with blueberries and syrup. Of course, you can usually opt for granola, yogurt, or cereal. If you're curious about hospital foods across the world, just Google it. The pics are fascinating!
12 UK HOSPITAL MEALS: STEAK PIE AND MASH, SYRUP SPONGE, LOTS OF BAKED BEANS
British hospital food doesn't get the best rep. Remember though, that while the healthcare itself is free for the entire UK, budgets are super tight. A UK hospital stay will offer vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, or gluten-free options, but the food types are still traditional.
That list on the right? It includes chicken and stuffing sandwiches, baked beans, and cauliflower cheese. High five, Brits!
We dug out an NHS menu. It contained: Lancashire hotpot (a meat stew), baked chicken and vegetable pie, peaches in juice, Somerset apple cake with custard, plus a Ploughman's sandwich (a type of cheese sandwich). Tea, of course, is a given.
11 UK MOTHERS STOPPED HAVING THEIR PREGNANCY SIZE MONITORED IN THE 1990s
Size is going to change during pregnancy– regardless of where in the world you are. Baby bumps will eventually come, and yes, it's expected that overall shape will change. How it's monitored is where the difference lies. In the UK, monitoring a pregnant woman's size stopped in the 1990s. Not the case in the US.
Anyone who watched Khloe Kardashian's pregnancy on KUWTK will have seen her OB/GYN monitor her changing size and advise her on how to keep in shape. While that advice is given in the UK, the monitoring component is missing. Guidelines are still available in the UK for expectant mothers.
10 PRIVATE MATERNITY ROOMS ARE A RARE LUXURY IN THE UK
Maternity setups in hospitals are very different in the UK versus the US. While private hospitals do exist in the UK, the vast majority of British mothers find themselves in an NHS (National Health Service) hospital. Shared wards are the standard for almost every type of stay, including maternity.
Wards for new moms can be shared by up to 8 women in the UK. It's considered a real luxury to wind up in a private room. Over in the US, where private hospitals are the norm, it's generally expected for a private room to be provided. Then again, you can always wind up with Janice from Friends as your neighbor!
9 THE BIG SNIP IS "MEDICAL REASONS ONLY" IN THE UK
If you're having a baby boy in the US, whether or not to go for "the big snip" is likely something you'll consider. While The Washington Post reports that these rates are slowly lowering in the US, figures in 2010 were still at 77%. In the 1960s, they were slightly higher, at 83%.
Hospitals in the UK do not offer the "snip" as a choice– simple as. This procedure is only an option if the situation is deemed medically necessary. As a result, rates in the UK are just 3.8%. Of course, Jewish or Muslim parents choosing to do it for religious reasons continue to have it performed via traditional methods.
8 BABY SHOWERS ARE A BRAND NEW THING IN THE UK
Mommies-to-be in the US get a few extras that pregnant women in the UK are only just learning about. Kylie Jenner didn't need to be a celebrity to have a baby shower– they were already common practice in her native America. Celeb baby showers like Porsha Williams' have even extended to gender-reveal parties.
Take it from a British woman in her 30s who has only been to one baby shower– they're pretty rare!
In the US, it's pretty common to get the girls together and throw a shower. We saw it on Sex and The City and Friends, but for UK mommies-to-be, it's more about the TV than the reality.
7 USA MOTHERS: STILL DON'T GET GUARANTEED PAID MATERNITY LEAVE
Mothers across the world gather online to discuss maternity leave. When The Washington Post listed the stats, it used the following words: "The world's richest countries guarantee mothers more than a year of paid maternity leave. The US guarantees them nothing."
While a Family and Medical Leave Act was signed 25 years ago in the US, the provisional 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave is all that a woman in the US can definitively hope for. While many companies offer some form of leave, less fortunate mothers can find themselves needing time off work (but getting no pay). Things in the UK are different...
6 UK MOMS: UP TO 39 WEEKS PAID MATERNITY LEAVE
Put it this way– being pregnant in the UK has as many concerns and anticipations as anywhere in America. Regular money coming in isn't one of them, though. The UK's Statutory Maternity Pay guarantees paid leave for up to 39 weeks. A new mom is looking at 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, after which rates vary.
Maternity leave in the UK is also compulsory. This is listed on the UK government website as a guideline to employers– they must offer their employees at least 2 weeks after birth (or 4 weeks if the mom is a factory worker). Dads also get paid paternity leave in the UK.
5 THE FIRST ULTRASOUND ISN'T UNTIL 12 WEEKS IN THE UK (6 OR 7 WEEKS IN THE US)
Provided you live in a developed part of the world, some form of pregnancy monitoring is almost guaranteed. Ultrasounds and blood tests are all part of safely monitoring a pregnancy, but there are regional differences. UK pregnancies involve far less medical monitoring than US ones.
"So many ultrasounds and tests to make sure the baby is ok!" This was a mother's view of the US after seeing how the UK handles pregnancy.
A pregnant woman in the UK can expect her first ultrasound at the 12-week mark. Over in the US, scans can begin as early as 6 or 7 weeks into the pregnancy.
4 GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TESTING IS SUPER RARE IN THE UK
With some of the world's best healthcare (and the budgets to fund it), the US seems to be all about the testing. A Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) in pregnancy is a test run to determine whether the expectant mother has gestational diabetes. This condition can cause complications during the pregnancy.
The test is pretty standard in the US. In the UK, GTTs are only performed if the mother demonstrates obvious symptoms (or has a risk factor). Another US standard is PAP testing. UK guidelines on this differ, stating that PAP testing should be avoided in pregnancy and at least 3 months post-partum.
3 UK HOSPITALS STILL OFFER OLD-FASHIONED GAS AND AIR FOR PAIN RELIEF
This one can seem super-weird to people in the US. Over there, the concept of offering gas and air as pain relief is either unheard of (or something that's learned through watching old movies). This 50/50 oxygen and nitrous oxide mix is also known as "laughing gas" for the side effect.
In the UK, gas and air is one of the most common forms of pain relief administered during labor. Take it from someone whose friend recently gave birth– "I was saying all sorts. Well, I was on the gas and air!" she said. For UK home births, gas and air cylinders are delivered to the house.
2 UK MOTHERS ARE A LOT LESS INFLUENCED BY THIS LADY
Nobody's seriously suggesting that a new mom would 100% get her advice from Kim Kardashian. Still, there's no denying that reality moms have a huge influence on parenting in the US. Millions of mothers read Kourtney Kardashian's website posts on gluten-free and dairy-free living.
Between 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, and KUWTK, there isn't an area of reality TV that doesn't have moms weighing in on their thoughts. How much you want to listen to the Kardashians (or Snooki, or the Duggars) is up to you. Reality shows exist in the UK, but they're way less influential.
1 $2,300 FOR A PRIVATE UK BIRTH ($30,000 IN THE US)
While the UK's National Health Service offers pregnancy, birth, and aftercare treatment free of charge, there are still mothers who choose to opt for private treatment. This can be paid for under a health insurance policy, or up-front.
Those figures are pretty staggering. A UK private birth costs around $2,300. For US moms, it can be the price of a house.
While a private birth in the US costs around $30,000, the figure can rise to $50,000 for a C-Section. Delivery costs alone (without staff and extra treatment) are $15,000 for a C-Section in the US.
Sources: Mumsnet, NHS Trust, The Independent, CNN, gov.uk, BBC