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Epidural? The cost?

Posted by courtiot-185037 - Created: 16 years ago
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10 replies (Showing replies: 1 to 10)

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Posted by lynnettejane - 16 years ago

Hi all, I'm back after some long and busy shifts here in the UK. So epidural seems to be the way they go in France, ok, but I'm afraid that I really believe that this is about control more than pain relief. Right that's off my chest, now this is for Courtiot's daughter really or any other expectant Mum I suppose. Stay at home as long as poss, use other methods of pain relief as before mentioned, wallow in a deep warm bath, light some candles play your favourite music, have your better half with you for company and support. When it comes to going into hospital, if the only option is an epidural, ask for one which will enable you to walk, in our unit the epidurals are lighter and a woman can mobilise supported, a good reason for other half to be there. Ask them not to break your waters unnecessarily, intact membranes help you to dilate, if they break them early then the pains will kick in hard and that may well scupper your attempts to cope without an epidural. Tell them that you do not want to be on the bed all the time and that you do not want continuous monitoring unless there is a problem, even if you are attached to a monitor you should still be able to mobilise. The epidural will restrict this and if it is a heavy one it will take you off your feet, this does not help a baby to descend. Ask them to let the epidural to wear off so that you can feel to push, that is to say when you are 10 centmetres  dilated (your cervix that is) tell them that you don't want any more top ups. Tell them that you do not want an episiotomy unless it is an instrumental delivery, or absolutely necessary, yes you may tear, most first time Mums do and they are rarely 3rd degree or the most serious tears, these are much more natural occurences than a deliberate cut, and they heal often without suturing. Ask them to allow you to try to empty your bladder naturally, with an epidural you can't feel a full bladder but it is better to be given the opportunity to pee normaly than have catheters passed every few hours, remember you could be on that bed for a long time, a half decent midwife can see a full bladder.If you are confined to the delivery bed, keep moving your ankles and shift cheeks of your bottom, pressure sores have been known to be a complication of epidurals, and if they say, "oh no, not here in France", ask them what kind of hide French women have. Take something with you that will occupy you, it gets boring waiting for something to happen, it could be hours, if you knit take it. Play cards, take scrabble, whatever, a good book, take your favourite music with you, anything, and remember if you are getting bored so will you supporters. Find out the hospital's policy on eating in labour, and make sure you eat while at home, also if they want to site an IV and you have no epidural in ask them why, there is no need for a healthy woman to be hampered by drips when they don't need them. OK, there are some tips, how cooperative the hospital will be is anybody's guess, it's hard to imagine that Michel Odent practiced in France (once upon a time). Remember, the best birth is the one with the least unnecessary interventions and you will have no choice unless you demand it, regards Lynnette

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Posted by grahamt-184180 - 16 years ago



i had  my baby in clinique sy jean here in cagnes sur mer, I had a lovely experience and care, in fact according to my sisters in the uk i was spoilt: I had to have an emergency cesarian and it was fine, the epidural was as if my lower body had been emerged in warm water, i have a lovely little boy and a nice discreet little scar, all i can say is every birth is different but the care here was very excellent.

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Posted by courtiot-185037 - 16 years ago


Thank you you all!!!  I have never seen such long helpful answers and my daughter is very grateful to you all, she feels a lot more confident and happier now because she knows a bit more about what to expect.

Thank you


A good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another up.

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Posted by Pat P. - 16 years ago

I had my first baby, a boy, on 14 March 2003, at Polyclinique Saint Jean in Cagnes Sur Mer [South of France, very near Nice].  I do not speak French, and had been in France exactly one month [I joined my husband here so he could be present at the birth], prior to giving birth.  Prior to arriving, I had a completely uneventful pregnancy, and regular prenatal care right from the very beginning in Northern California.  Although I was advised that my options were much more limited because I was in the South of France rather than Paris, I can confirm that one of the attitudes I was met with here was "of course you'll want an epidural."  Actually, I didn't want anything and if I had been a bit younger (I turned 40 three weeks before delivering) and would have had the time to made appropriate arrangements, I would have done a home birth.  Given the situation, my plan was to stay at home with my two dogs as long as possible so they couldn't pump me full of drugs.  I did, however, have an open mind about the complete unpredictability of pregnancy, and it was a very good thing.  Things turned south very quickly about a week before I was due, and induction was strongly urged.  [Since I was also told you can't get a second opinion although you can change doctors here, I got a second opinion from a family practice doctor in Seattle I know very well and trust.]  After a very full day of a failed induction attempt (being pumped full of hormones for nearly 8 hours and then given a smooth muscle relaxer after about 60--the latter I felt was without my consent), and an extremely difficult next day due to communication glitches and all sorts of ugliness I won't get into [I'll just say that having a baby in Northern California is extremely different than doing so here.  In CA, it is very much patient-controlled v. doctor who knows all, can't do any wrong, tells midwife [not even the patient] what's going to happen and when], I finally went into labor shortly before 5 p.m. the next day.  [This occured shortly after self-administered accupressure  although I certainly admit that it could have been that all of the drugs finally kicked in].  Despite all the drugs in me that I didn't want, and my water breaking immediately, I was able to manage the pain until I had to lay down for a fetal monitor check.  After 10 minutes on my back, it became very clear to me that given my sleep-deprived state, there was no way I could effectively manage the pain without an epidural given that the only way they allow you to deliver in most clinics in the south of France is on your back with your feet in stirrups, with an IV and a fetal monitor, from about 6 cm on.   Since I was at 6 cm, I decided that the epidural was the smart thing to do given all the factors.  My husband tells me that the pain relief was instant, although I don't remember it quite that way.  What I vividly remember, however, was how magnificantly skilled and kind my anesthesiologist was, and how superb the midwives were throughout the entire process.  [I think I've said enough about my OB. . .]  The most negative thing I can say about the epidural is that I do think that it interferes with pushing because although I definitely felt pressure, I didn't feel the damage I did to myself until the next day.  [I definitely felt it the next day, but just said no to the very liberally offered drugs although I was assured that same would not interfere with breastfeeding.]  I think that part of delivery likely would have been quite a bit different without the epidural.  For what it's worth,  based on the extensive research I did prior to arriving here, I felt that the epidural would be the best pain relief alternative if medication were absolutely necessary.   I would very strongly encourage your daughter to keep an open mind about pain relief, as one never knows what will happen, and to explore all options available to her, and to do what SHE thinks best.  I would also say that at least to me, having Greg [my son's father] with me at least most of the time--they always took me in first, and he had to wait and then get into scrubs-- [it's true that the French seem to think men really shouldn't be involved in childbirth] made everything I went through seem trivial.  I would also concur with Kate who said that the epidural was absolutely worth the cost.  Finally, as to cost, because of when I arrived, we had to front all costs and then get reimbursed.  Talk about a nightmare!  We are still not fully reimbursed, BUT carte vitale paid 100% of the cost of my anesthesiologist BUT not 100% of the cost of the drugs.  If I knew exactly what it cost, I'd tell you, but I honestly still don't.  [Fortunately, I have supplemental insurance through my husband and it has picked up nearly all that carte vitale didn't.]  The way it seems to work is that there is a base fee that carte vitale will pay, but if you use more than this base and don't have supplemental insurance, you pay.  At least, that's the way it's been so far with reimbursement.   If I were a betting person, I would bet that the Doctor is quoting your daughter the price that an epidural usually costs--or could cost--over and above what carte vitale pays.   One final point--as I've gone on far too long--in my opinion, the care one receives in France after giving birth is sooooooooo far superior to that in the United States, it isn't even funny.   Although I do feel they push the drugs way too much for my taste in France, my experience was that the clinic staff really took the time to teach me everything I needed to know without making me feel ignorant, and made sure I got the rest I needed.   I even had midwives calling pharmacies, scolding them, when the pharmacy gave my non-French speaking husband something other than what she wrote down on the list.  Then again, I was a novelty--an American, not only new to France, but one who didn't want drugs and didn't speak French, and who named her son a name she had to be taught to properly pronounce [Laurent Andre].  Best of luck to your daughter--I'm confident she'll do just fine if she ignores most of the advice and does what she thinks is best!   

Pat P.

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Posted by michael and kate - 16 years ago

Hello all:

We were "lucky" enough to be doing the baby thing between here and the UK. It AMAZING how the whole deal seems to be viewed completely differently between France and the UK. The UK has a warm fuzzy approach to childberth - water birth, TENS machines, skydiving - whatever - If you feel that it would make you feel more comfortable, then it's made available to you.

Here in France you will be in for a shock if that's the style you are expecting. Here it is about getting the package delivered, period. FYI men are NOT welcome at any of the prenatal classes, and are only just suffered in the delivery room. Most French men wait outside, as per the 50's movies, chainsmoking.

We went private, to get the best care possible, and used the old E111 to try and claim back some of the cost. (Jury's still out on the final tally after 7 mos) The Gyno was reported to be the best in the region, but had the bedside manner of nurse Kavorkian, only she was in touch with her feminine side. He was a grumpy cold git, who's constant refrain was "you are pregnant, not ill, so suck in your bottom lip, and don't put on any more weight. Clinically excellent, and the best guy to have around on the day, but NOT interested in any of the frou frou business of making you feel comfortable.

The whole process is seen in terms of the mechanics here. Be aware that the consultant's job is to get the baby out, healthy first, quickly second, and warm and fuzzy features about 99 on a scale of 1 to 10. Forget water births here. Consultants on the CdeA don't appear in public in wellies.

We DO have a lovely, healthy baby girl for our and his efforts, and wouldn't hesitate a second to go back to the same place. They are professional, extremely competent, fully kitted up, and miserable. Tant pis, it's the result that counts surely.

The very best of luck to your daughter in her great adventure, and apologies to midwifery everywhere for the perceived s;ight.


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Posted by courtiot-185037 - 16 years ago


First of all I would like to thank you all for your really helpful replies!!! A midwife too – WOW!!!

Secondly, I am sorry that I have not replied to you all sooner but I have had a really bad virus (not the medical type) on my computer and yes, I did have an antivirus on it. J

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I think in my post I misled you all – my fault……  My daughter did not particularly want or ask for the epidural, it is all they have, all they do, except for paracetymol or a polo mint!!!  I just do not understand that in a fairly up-to-date with technology country that they just do not have simple pain relief for childbirth, like gas and air, she has heard a few of the scare stories about the epidural and to her the cost is a little scary too.


When the day arrives for her to go to hospital she may be one of the lucky ones who could have given birth in the jungle but it may be long and hard too, without a little help it can make it hard and long, nobody wants that surely?  Pain is not one of my daughter’s favourite things and to be honest as her mother (you know, typical worrying, nagging mother) I am quite shocked that they do not have anything other than the epidural.  I don’t want to wave the English flag too much on here but if she were in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />UK they would at least make it as comfortable as possible – they did for me. (Many, many moons ago when King Henry the 8th was still a boy)  They are much better at it now, my daughter-in-law said they were wonderful when she had her baby.  I thought France had much better hospitals than the UK, so I had heard? 


The TENS machine sounds wonderful but they have not offered that and I do not know if they will allow it either, water sounds really good too but again……..

I have told her your advice to walk around and wait for as long as possible before going to the hospital.  I think that it is harder for her too, as I am so far away from her and like all first time mothers she does not really know what to expect.  Her friend had the epidural and she said that it was all they offered.


My two sons in England have said she could go and stay with them and have the baby there but she will not leave her partner (understandable) and she says that the French women have to have the same so………..she will have to put up with whatever they give her.

What I really want to say is that I cannot thank you all enough for the advice you have given, I will email her with all your help that you have given on here.  I am really grateful to you all!!!!  Thank you.  Anything you can help with is really appreciated.


A good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another up.

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Posted by eurokiné-187861 - 16 years ago

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electro Nerve Stimulation.It comes as a walkman type box with 2 or 4 electrodes attached by wires which are placed on specific sites according to the localisation of the pain (electrodes similar to those used on the "slimming type flat tummy exercise without trying" thingies). When the current passes there is a tingly sensation in the area of the body between the electrodes, either continually or pulsed according to the setting used. The idea is 1) to use the technique of distraction that we all use instinctively when we rub a bumped elbow/head/knee as the friction stimulates the nerve endings which drown out the finer pain receptors (I'm trying not to be too jargonish here)or 2) stimulate the endorphine production (natural morphinics produced by the body)The machine is extremely effective for otherwise intransigent sciatic pains and other "neurological" pains and also for chronic tendon/articular pains after sports injuries. As a chronic pain relief treatment there is no real limit to the time you can use the machine nor the number of times a day that it is applied. As it is small & portable it can be worn constantly and switched on when the pain becomes too much In an acute situation I've only heard of it being used in childbirth, where, as I've said, I can personally vouch for its efficacity.The machines cost around 150€ (from most good parapharmacies) to buy but can be prescribed by a specialised pain relief centre(there's one at the CHU at Nice)and be reimbursable by the Secu for those of you who may have other than obstetric designs on the product:-))@+

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Posted by Alison665 - 16 years ago

By the time you've 'tried' everything else, they'll tell you it's 'too late' for an epidural as has happened to many of my friends. 

Of course there will be those cases where there are complications and problems.  I had a root canal once - I was in so much pain, I thought I might die - I had complications - should I have not had the root canal?

Not the same, I know, but I'll tell you something, I had an epidural and childbirth was a piece of cake, I promise.

I'm all for being sensible, but I'd have an epidural again before I had a root canal.


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Posted by feefaerie - 16 years ago

lynnettejane I have to say your reply was excellent. As it was mentioned several times I'd like to know what "TENS" is - I've never heard of this. Would you please enlighten me?


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Posted by lynnettejane - 16 years ago

As has been wisely pointed out by one wise responder, the epidural is not an innocent jab in the back. I know of one lady who lost the use of her leg following an epidural, whether she would get it back again is anybody's guess. Another lady had similar symptoms and during the first few days following the procedure lost control of her bowels to her understandable dismay, it took weeks for her to improve. Then there is the risk of a dural tap which results in the most horrific disabling headache that can last for 7 days if left to resolve itself, or the woman may be offered a blood patch which is usually successful, but necessitates a trip to the anaesthetic room for the procedure. In the meantime the woman's contact with her baby is obviously reduced and breast-feeding made vey difficult. All of our epidurals are administered by anaesthetists who are very experienced, but these are the risks and should be pointed out, I have seen the above mentioned problems plus back pain following an epidural since qualifying only 3.5 years ago, so they are not things that happen only once in a blue moon or every now and again in a long career. Added to all of this the trauma that babies experience at being delivered by forceps or ventouse can only be imagined, the bruising left by a ventouse cup can be very extensive. I'm not for anyone toughing it out I promise, but please explore the alternatives. Is gas and air available, is there a possibilty of a waterbirth or at least lobouring in water, TENS is effective too, what about the possibility of a home confinement attended by a midwife. Distraction is also recognised as relieving pain, stay at home as long as poss. keep busy, eat, have people around for support accept that this pain is doing a job, mobilise as much as possible, being upright as much as possible uses gravity to aid the descent of the babe. If all this fails, and the woman is desperate, then consider the epidural, after perhaps trying an injection(many women bless pethidine)I hope this sets things a bit straighter, in the end I hope the young woman in question has a safe and untraumatic delivery what ever type of pain relief she chooses, but I'm still in favour of paying for epidurals, and elective CS, the cost for the latter is atronomical compared to vaginal delivery, and the good old NHS is strained enough, good luck, regards Lynnette