So, before I begin, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I am an avid supporter and great fan of the NHS as an idea and as an institution. I think it’s a great feat of social and universal medical care, and I have greatly appreciated being able to see a Doctor, get medicine and not be afraid of calling an ambulance if it were ever needed, since my arrival in the UK nearly 4 years ago. I feel that the majority of people who work in the NHS are incredible and very hard working people, who have been stretched to their limits by a government that takes from their plates at every turn, to feed the baying dogs of private industry below the table even though everyone is looking! I have nothing but respect for the people of the NHS, and for the institution as a whole. That being said, because the NHS is being bled dry by bad policies, the services they are capable of providing are becoming more and more limited. Part of my pregnancy experience thus far, has obviously been around my heath care within the NHS and regrettably, due to a combination of bad financial policies, antiquated notions of health around weight and the very odd bedside manner of a few individuals, it has left me with feelings ranging from slightly confused to totally baffled, and I got there via the stations of incredibly frustrated and utterly insulted.
But, this is not a “hate piece” on the NHS, so if that’s what you’re here for jog on love. It is a commentary of my personal, and regrettably so far upsetting experience of the antenatal care therein thus far, and I just want to make it clear that I genuinely believe that the problems are a result of the cut throat reduction of funding the NHS suffers under. Good? Good.
Now, moving on to my actual piece… Healthcare. It’s an essential part of antenatal care, and anyone who has sat through High School Biology, or has a meddling older neighbour or family member, has already been well schooled on “the basics”. Personally, I took a slightly more vested interest in the medical aspects of pregnancy, fuelled (not in small part) by my personal aversion to the very idea of it (as discussed here). I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be, for a process as notoriously unpredictable as this.
I had the timeline of the scans at hand, knew which symptoms to expect at what point, and which tests to expect as the weeks passed, and yet none of my reading prepared me for my experience with my very own “medical team”.
When I first discovered my pregnancy (with a private at home, Clear Blue pee on a stick test) it was April 19th. I called my (new) local GP’s office right away, and they summoned me for a registration appointment, which I needed since I hadn’t registered with them yet, because we had only just moved into the neighbourhood a few weeks prior. Said appointment was scheduled very quickly, for Monday the 24th of April. I went, filling out tons of forms and got to meet a very kind young nurse, who took my blood pressure (and complimented me on it), measured my height and took my weight. She entered some numbers into a chart and told me to make a new appointment to come and see the actual Doctor.
I was a little deflated, since I was hoping to get an official confirmation of the pregnancy at that point, especially since I didn’t have any sort of indication of how far along I might be. You see, I don’t have regular periods, and my last one had been in January of this year, so I had no way of knowing how far along I was, other than that the digital Clear Blue Test said it was more than 3 weeks. Alas, there was nothing she could do, so I went to make a new appointment. The first possible date? May the 5th, almost 2 weeks later! This baffled me, since everything I had read said it was crucial to know how far along one was, but oh well; I had no choice and they were doing their best.
It also struck me as odd that I wasn’t instructed to take the oh so important folic acid, but I just took it upon myself to go buy some at Boots and made sure to take the average recommended daily dose of 400 micrograms. (As discussed with the Pharmacist.)
At home, I did a bit of crude math, based on a combination of the “3+ weeks” diagnosis the digital stick gave me and our *cough* recent intimate liaisons *cough*, and arrived at a rough estimate of 6 weeks pregnant. I downloaded the NHS approved app for my phone, and fervidly threw myself into even more reading.
My husband, very excitedly, took the morning of May 5th off, so that he could attend that very first Doctors appointment with me. The Doctor measured my height, my weight, took my blood pressure (which she too complimented me on – I thought this odd) and then asked me exactly the same questions as the nurse had two weeks prior. No sooner had the appointment started, she then wanted to dismiss me from the office, with a referral to the local hospital’s maternity unit.
Excuse me? But she hadn’t done any tests yet! No pee test. No blood test. Nothing to actually confirm the pregnancy. I asked about this, and she said that the “at home tests were as good as anything they could do”, and when I protested some more, especially about not knowing how far along I was, she laid me on a table and to poke my abdomen. She poked my abdomen – with her hands – and then proclaimed “anywhere between 6-10 weeks, but not past 12”. I was completely dumbfounded. That wasn’t a diagnosis. That wasn’t medical evidence. Where was I? When was I? The 1800’s?
In a desperate attempt to get any semblance of a medical answer, I also mentioned that my Rhys factor is negative, and asked if she would test for that please, since I know they need the confirmation, but even that was refused, saying he hospital would do it – whenever I got there. Which she didn’t know when that would be. Anytime within the next 2-3 weeks. I was to expect a letter (a physical, paper, snail mail letter) in the post, confirming my “booking appointment”. I walked out of that appointment with a prescription for an over the counter supplement called “Pregnacare”, which I was to take instead of what I had been taking so far, and in near inconsolable tears.
What if I was having a hysterical pregnancy? What if it was an ectopic pregnancy? What if, because I am quite heavy and thus a baby bump wouldn’t show on me like on other women, I was already passed the 12 week mark, which was the window for the dating scan? What if my hormones were just out of whack, given that my monthly cycle never recovered after the Nexplanon was removed? I had so many questions, and not a single answer. Not even a proper confirmation that I was actually pregnant.
Not the start I was hoping for to my pregnancy care, and it had me very concerned for the rest of the journey, which I was already so concerned about. x