Having a baby in the United Kingdom

newborn baby
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Updated 2021-09-15 09:23

Going through a pregnancy and having your baby is a life-changing event. Hence, parents-to-be want to have as much control of the situation as possible by planning in advance and preparing for different scenarios during pregnancy, labour, and birth. This article aims to help you get organised to have your baby in the UK and care for it while living in the country as an expat.

Where to give birth

In the UK, you can give birth at home, at a birth centre run by midwives (i.e. a midwifery unit), or in the hospital, depending on your and your baby's health, pre-existing medical conditions, and whether you have had complications during the pregnancy. Women usually choose to give birth at home because they feel more relaxed being in a familiar environment and surrounded by their families. Also, they don't have to stress about rushing to the hospital. Suppose you want to give birth at home, you will receive the support of two NHS midwives while you are in labour unless you opt for a private midwife or unassisted birth (aka freebirth).

Important:

Epidural injections cannot be given at home. However, you can use other relaxation techniques at home such as a warm bath, prenatal yoga, etc.

Attention:

Every birth in the UK must be recorded (notified) within 36 hours. If you give freebirth, inform a GP as soon as possible.

Giving birth at a midwifery unit is cosier than a hospital, even though it may be part of a hospital maternity unit. If the midwifery unit is separate from a hospital, there won't be immediate obstetric, neonatal or anaesthetic care (e.g. epidural). In the UK, the majority of births occur in hospital maternity units run by the NHS (National Health Service). In a hospital, you will be in labour with a midwife. However, doctors are available if intervention is required due to complications. Also, you will have direct access to anaesthetists and neonatologists. If there's more than one hospital in your area, you can choose which one you want to give birth at.

Good to know:

If you have decided that you want to give birth at home, it doesn't mean that you cannot change your mind later on in your pregnancy and go to a hospital when you are in labour.

Useful link:

Find maternity services near you

Private Vs. NHS hospitals

In 2018, the government committed to quite ambitious plans that will offer better support to mothers and new babies and will "make the NHS one of the best places in the world to give birth." In the UK, the majority of births occur in hospital maternity units run by the NHS (National Health Service), where maternity care is offered for free under certain conditions. Due to the high number of patients and the often understaffed hospitals, the NHS cannot consistently deliver what it promises or aspires to, and this is something you should keep in mind when going to give birth.

Unless required differently due to your medical condition, the NHS offers ten prenatal appointments with a midwife (most likely this won't be the same midwife that will be with you in labour), blood tests, two free ultrasounds (not the ones giving 3D or 4D images), and about four postnatal appointments. While you are giving birth, the NHS secures you a private room. However, when you enter the postnatal ward, you will be sharing the room with other new mothers and their babies. If you want more privacy after giving birth, you can book a private room within the NHS maternity unit for about £450 per night.

There's also private maternity care available in the UK, usually selected by families looking for more extensive and personalised services. If you choose to give birth under the care of obstetricians and midwives in a private hospital, expect to pay no less than £5,000 for an overnight stay at the hospital. If a caesarean is wanted or needed, the bill will increase by at least £1,000. Also, note that while under private care, there are many extra charges (e.g. anaesthetist, routine checkups, etc.) that may appear on the final bill.

Good to know:

You can give birth at an NHS hospital but hire an independent midwife, who will offer you private and personalised care during labour.

Important:

Regardless of whether you are receiving public healthcare or private, you have the right to refuse procedures meant to speed up labour. Also, you can refuse certain drugs and insist on having an active birth unless there are complications that require a different action.

NHS cover for expats

You are entitled to free NHS maternity care in the UK if you are an Ordinarily Resident in the UK. EU nationals who are not Ordinarily Residents but are insured by a European state and are holders of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will not be charged for "medically necessary treatments." If you paid the immigration health surcharge (£200 per year) when you applied for a visa that allows you to stay in the UK for more than six months, you are entitled to free NHS healthcare. If none of these applies to you, you will be asked to pay for the prenatal (aka antenatal), birth, and postnatal care you receive. These charges sum up to anything between £4,000 and £9,000. However, before the NHS charges you, staff members will enquire about your immigration and residence status and confirm with you the charges.

Attention:

You cannot be refused prenatal, birth, and postnatal medical care based on your inability to pay. Maternity care must not be delayed or denied due to charging or payment issues.

Attention:

No other person except the patient is liable to pay a debt for their NHS care. Before signing a joint agreement with your partner, for example, consult a debt advisor. Also, the NHS cannot put pressure on the patient to provide a guarantor. In such a case, you should seek legal advice.

Get support from a doula

A doula is a person who has been trained to support expectant parents, pregnant women, and new parents. A doula doesn't have medical knowledge or training and cannot replace the midwife or other health professionals. Usually, new parents hire a doula (costs range between £800 and £2,000) to help them with postnatal support.

COVID-19 considerations:

Due to COVID-19 safety measures, birthing partners were prohibited from labour rooms, and women had to go through prenatal appointments and labour on their own, putting a toll on women's mental health. Hence, during the pandemic, more women in the UK were recorded giving birth at home or preferring planned caesarean deliveries.

Professional duties and pregnancy

Pregnant employees in the UK are entitled to paid time off for prenatal care (e.g. medical appointments, parenting classes, etc.), maternity leave (at least two weeks and up to 52 weeks), and maternity allowance. Also, they have the right to report any unfair treatment or discrimination against them due to their pregnancy. A pregnant employee must inform their employer about their pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the baby is due, whereas in some exceptional cases this is not possible because the employee herself might not be aware of the pregnancy.

The statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks and is equivalent to 90% of the employee's weekly earnings for the first six weeks and equivalent to £151.97 or 90% of the employee's weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. The maternity pay is paid in the same way (e.g. monthly or weekly) as the employee's salary and is subject to tax and National Insurance deductions. If you are not eligible for SMP, check whether you meet the government's conditions for maternity allowance. Also, some companies have their maternity schemes, which, however, should not be offering less pay than the statutory amounts calculated above.

Even though you agree in advance with your employer when you want your SML and SMP to start, the leave and pay will begin inevitably if you are absent for a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before the baby is due. Last but not least, you can take up to 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave and up to 37 weeks of Shared Parental Pay with your partner if you are having a baby or adopting a child. The 50 and 37 weeks respectively are shared between the two of you, and the leave must be taken either in blocks or one go within the first year of the child's birth or placement with your family. You and your partner can both take the leave at the same time or separately.

Good to know:

The ordinary maternity leave is 26 weeks after you give birth, but it can be boosted by 26 more weeks (additional maternity leave).

Good to know:

The partner of a pregnant employee has the right to take unpaid time off work to attend at least two prenatal appointments.

Useful links:

Maternity leave

Maternity pay

Maternity planner

Maternity allowance

Baby's citizenship

If you have legal permission to live in the UK permanently (e.g., settled status, indefinite leave to remain, right of abode for Commonwealth citizens) when you give birth, the child will get British citizenship automatically. Suppose your baby doesn't get British citizenship automatically, you can apply to register your child for British citizenship if you and your child or its father meet certain conditions. Note that the citizenship application may cost more than £1,300 and the fee is non-refundable.

Attention:

The child cannot obtain a UK passport before obtaining British citizenship.

Useful link:

Check if your child is a British citizen

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.