Childbirth is an emotional rollercoaster, a physically exhausting ordeal, and one of the most profound experiences a woman can have - regardless of where it takes place.
That said, where a woman gives birth can have a massive impact on the process itself, and to outsiders, there are so many confusing things about childbirth in the USA. From the country’s healthcare system to its crazily high C-section rates, giving birth in the U.S. seems a world away from how it's experienced in other countries.
Why are nearly all births attended by an OB-GYN, whereas other countries rely on midwife-led care, with far better overall results for moms and babies? And why does an average American birth cost as much as delivering a royal baby? Seriously, how can anyone afford to have a kid in the U.S.? These are just a few things that baffle the rest of the world - read on to find out more.
20 US Moms Get To Pick An OB-GYN
Not only do the rest of the world find it weird that most U.S. births are attended by an obstetrician, even for low-risk pregnancies, but it’s also extra bizarre that American women can actually pick their medical professional. That’s right, U.S. moms get to shop around for an OB-GYN they trust and feel comfortable with.
19 Births Don’t Often Involve Midwives
In Scandinavian countries and France, around three-quarters of babies are delivered by midwives. The figure is over 50 percent in the UK. Yet, in American, less than 10 percent of deliveries are overseen by midwives, with the U.S. hospital system favoring obstetricians instead, believing it to be safer. Ironically, the facts prove this isn’t the case at all.
18 Midwifery Isn’t Even Regulated In The U.S.
There is no federal-level regulation for midwives in the United States. Different states have varying laws, regulations and entry-level requirements, and as a result, the term “midwife” has no standardized meaning in the country. But this is changing, as the potential benefits of midwife-led maternity care have become obvious.
17 Childbirth Is Wildly Expensive In The U.S.
Seriously, why does it cost $32,093 just to give birth in America? It is the most expensive country in the world in which to deliver a baby, and with such a high intervention rate, the cost can quickly spiral into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. By comparison, it costs an average of just $1,950 to deliver a child in Spain.
16 Despite The High Cost, Outcomes Are Bad For Moms
Despite the huge cost of childbirth in the U.S., the country ranks poorly in health outcomes for mothers. Shockingly, more women in America pass away because of pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country, and the numbers have been rising. It’s one of the riskiest industrialized countries on the globe in which to have a baby.
15 Outcomes Aren’t Good For Babies, Either
It’s not just moms who don’t always fare well in the American healthcare system. Around 6.1 for every 1,000 live births sadly don’t end happily, and this rate is higher than in Hungary and Slovakia and is three times higher than the rate in Japan and Finland. These numbers are just too sad.
14 There Are So, So Many Tests During Pregnancy
In the U.S., women will have on average 10 to 15 appointments with their OB-GYN while pregnant, whereas women in many European countries will have midwife appointments, and might not even see a doctor at all - providing their pregnancies are low risk. At every one of these prenatal appointments, mom will have to endure a variety of tests.
13 Women Have To Worry About Paperwork During Labor
The U.S. has one of the most expensive and complicated healthcare systems in the world. It’s beyond confusing and it’s nearly impossible to anticipate the costs you face before you start seeing the bills roll in. This kind of billing system requires lots of paperwork, so U.S. moms will have to worry about signing forms when their minds really should be on the labor itself.
12 Home Birth Is Really Uncommon
In many places in the world, home birth is more common than hospital births. Even in developed nations, like the Netherlands, where a sizeable 16 percent of births take place at home, home deliveries are a more popular choice than in the U.S., where less than one percent of deliveries happen outside of a hospital.
11 One In Three U.S. Births Is By C-Section
A massive one in three U.S. babies is delivered via cesarian section. According to a 2017 Consumer Reports study, 26 percent of healthy, full-term women, who had low-risk pregnancies, delivered via C-section - and these are women who would probably have been encouraged to have a vaginal birth in other countries.
10 U.S. Hospitals Don’t Offer Gas And Air
Nitrous oxide, otherwise known as gas and air, is frequently used by dentists in the U.S. But despite it being a common pain relief treatment in European hospitals, it’s not offered to American moms in childbirth. Around 60 percent of moms in the United Kingdom use nitrous oxide as an alternative to an epidural.
9 There Are No Home Visits From Postnatal Nurses
The Netherlands and the UK are just two examples of countries in which new moms can expect home visits from trained health professionals. In the UK, every woman receives a minimum of four visits within the first two weeks of a baby’s life. Health visitors make sure mom and baby are happy and healthy and can offer help, advice, and reassurance.
8 Gender Reveal Parties Are Still Very Much A U.S. Thing
When it comes to baby showers, the U.S. leads the way in terms of elaborate parties. But while the rest of the world is catching up, the idea of a gender-reveal is a much harder sell. Perhaps the gender stereotyping is off-putting, or maybe it’s one pre-birth celebration too many. Whatever the reason, it’s still mostly a U.S. thing.
7 U.S. Moms Are Offered Birth Circumcision For Boys As Standard
In many countries, circumcision at birth is not offered as an optional extra. It can be requested for religious reasons, but it won’t be offered otherwise. However, in the States, approximately 55% to 65% of all newborn boys are circumcised every year, though this number is decreasing annually.
6 American Moms Stay In Hospital For Longer
Thanks to postnatal services, which closely monitor new moms and babies, women in countries around the world are discharged within a matter of hours after childbirth, providing there were no complications. Women in the US, however, often stay in for at least 48 hours, even after a low-risk birth.
5 U.S. Moms Are More Likely To Have An Epidural
Of all the non-surgical births in the U.S., a massive 50-70 percent happen with the help of epidurals. The rate in other developed nations is far less - it’s just 40 percent in Britain, for example, where midwife-led care is more likely to steer moms away from medical pain relief.
4 Some U.S. Hospitals Still Have Nurseries
Nurseries became commonplace in American hospitals in the early twentieth century, but putting your new bundle of joy in a separate room doesn’t encourage breastfeeding and bonding, so it’s no surprise that they are steadily falling out of fashion. On the plus side, hospital nurseries do allow moms to get some precious rest.
3 US Medical Professionals Don’t Prioritize A Mom’s Wellbeing
In Britain, for example, there are nationwide guidelines that stipulate that doctors must prioritize a mother’s wellbeing over that of her unborn child if they are both in danger. It’s a legal requirement. There is no similar regulation in the U.S. at a federal level.
2 A Glass Of Red and Caffeine Are Strictly Off Limits To Expectant Moms
According to the CDC, about 90 percent of pregnant American women say they refrain from grown-up juice. There’s a social stigma to drinking in pregnancy in the U.S., whereas other countries are more relaxed. A 2015 study found that consumption ranged from 20 percent to 80 percent among women in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
1 Crowdbirthing Is Big In The States
Not too long ago it was normal for American dads to wait outside the delivery room, while moms were inside giving birth. Now, moms are inviting more and more people into the delivery room as part of a trend called “crowdbirthing.” The Kardashians are big fans.
Sources: BBC News; The Guardian; The Atlantic; NPR.org; Scientific American; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Smithsonian.com;