Giving Birth In Australia Tips From British Expat Jess Pascoe
Looking for giving birth in Australia tips? I know so many British expats end up moving back to UK when they get pregnant. Understandably, most people want to be near family whilst going through a massive change in their lives.
But, British Mum to be, Jess decided she wanted to stay put in Sydney with her British husband Will. With no family in Sydney, find out why they’ve decided not to move back to England any time soon as they go through their first pregnancy in Australia.
Jess: I ended up moving to Sydney when I got sent to Melbourne for a 2 month project with work in 2016, about six weeks after Will and I got married. It was quite bizarre having just said I do and then packing up to head off to the other side of the world solo! I work as a Technology Consulting Manager which I plan to return to in November 2021 on a part-time basis.
I’d never been to Australia so it was a fantastic opportunity, and I fell in love with the culture and vibe of Melbourne and Australia in general on day 1, calling Will and telling him we had to move.
He joined me at the end of the 2 months and we explored Sydney together, which he preferred as a location. I was just eager to make the move wherever we could and once we started investigating transferring with work, it turned out that Sydney was our best option.
Plus! I love the weather, the people, the beaches, and overall quality of life compared to what I experienced in London. The only downsides to living in Sydney is not realising how expensive property is. I honestly imagined I would live in a dream home right on the beach!
Did You Consider Moving Home When You Found Out You Were Pregnant?
Honestly, I didn’t consider moving home when I found out I was pregnant in Australia, it wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind. I just knew that the quality of care I’d receive here would be fantastic and the opportunity to bring up a child in Australia seemed too good to pass up.
Our plan was always to get Permanent Residency and stay in Australia for the foreseeable future, so we never considered going home to have our baby. We’ve built our careers and lives here and are excited to now raise a baby in this amazing city. I knew the Australian Health Care system would be brilliant and once COVID hit, we couldn’t go home anyway!
Giving Birth During A Pandemic
I was incredibly anxious in my first 12 weeks of pregnancy as I found out I was pregnant a week before lockdown in March. There is still incredibly limited information as to COVID’s affects on a pregnant woman and unborn baby so I was terrified to even step outside for a walk or exercise.
Things have dramatically improved over the course of the pregnancy here in Australia, which I’m incredibly grateful for, and that’s now given me confidence to socialise and go to restaurants and beaches.
I feel thankful to be out here where we have a lot of safety and freedom – if I were in London just having entered a second lockdown I think I’d be feeling very vulnerable. COVID has also been beneficial in lots of unforeseen ways – I’ve been able to work from home for my entire pregnancy which was a blessing in disguise.
It’s also been amazing being able to squeeze in afternoon naps in between conference calls, not have to wear make up and live in active wear!
Not Knowing When My Family Will Meet The Baby
Both of our families knew that we intended in staying in Australia, and have been incredibly supportive. Again, once COVID hit, there’s been a real sense of relief that we’re safely away from large case numbers over here and I know that my mum has worried less about my wellbeing.
Whilst our families are supportive and there are a lot of positives, it is incredibly tough. This has been a real struggle for both Will and I and has affected my mental health at times throughout the pregnancy.
My parents initially planned to come and stay with us for 2 months when the baby was born but were unable to do this, and that was a tough moment when we jointly decided not to pursue an exemption.
It’s a really rubbish situation no question about it, but I’ve been determined to keep as positive as possible for my own sanity as well as the health and well being of the baby. We’re still incredibly lucky during this pandemic though.
We know people have lost love ones and financial security, so if both of our families can stay healthy and well, as well as us and the baby, we’ll be ok and look forward to a large celebration once we’re eventually reunited.
Preparing To Give Birth In Australia
I have been blown away by the level of care I’ve received here in Australia. I started out in what’s called Shared GP care, where you split your appointments between your GP and the hospital. However, Will and I moved from North Sydney to Jannali in the Shire during this time so I needed to book into a different hospital.
I booked into Sutherland Public Hospital who suggested I try out one of the midwife-led models of care available so I didn’t have to trek back over the bridge to my GP. Midwife-led models of care vary from hospital to hospital, but the programme I’m on means that I’ve seen the same dedicated midwife for all of my appointments, I’ll see whoever’s on duty when I go into labour and then my dedicated midwife will come see me in my home for up to 2 weeks after birth.
The midwives work with a full team, referring you to Obstetricians or other medical professionals as required. As I’m a low-risk pregnancy, I’ve only had to see an OB once, who was absolutely amazing and really caring.
I have my midwife’s phone number and I can contact her with non-emergency questions 9-5pm every day, phoning the birth centre (where I’ll give birth) with anything urgent e.g. if there’s a change in baby’s movements.
Deciding On Getting My Scans Done Privately
I opted to have my scans done privately, so we’ve been out of pocket for these, but that was because you have most of the scans done in early pregnancy and because of COVID my GP didn’t want me going to the hospital unnecessarily in those uneasy few weeks of lockdown in case it increased my risk.
It also meant that Will got to come to scans with me, as the hospital doesn’t allow him in for my antenatal appointments. However, I could have had my scans done publicly in the hospital if I wanted.
We took 2 birth classes – one through the hospital via Zoom which was useful, but the second was my favourite – SheBirths. This is run by Nadine Richardson, a doula and birth educator and is internationally renowned. It was held over 2 days in person up in Vaucluse and is easily the best investment we’ve made in the entire pregnancy.
It’s aim to help you achieve a beautiful birth experience, whatever happens, giving you inner and outer resources to manage an active birth or stay calm in the face of intervention. It really gave Will a role for labour and made us actually excited about the experience, rather than terrified! I highly recommend fellow pregnant women to look into SheBirths – you won’t regret it.
How To Prepare To Give Birth In Australia
We are natural planners due to our jobs, so have been incredibly organised and everything is purchased and set up! We bought most items for the baby from either Baby Bunting or Baby Kingdom, which are the equivalent of a Mothercare in the UK.
We were given a lot of clothes as presents for the baby shower and have tried very hard to not buy too much, especially in newborn sizes as they grow so quickly. We compiled a spreadsheet based on online research of everything we would need for the baby with an estimated price, so that’s helped for budgeting.
A few other mums I know have loved Facebook Marketplace for second-hand items, so it’s probably worth checking that out too. I have spent a lot of time preparing for post-birth – sorting out my doula (see next question), stocking up the pantry and cooking – we have about 2-3 weeks worth of meals in the freezer now!
Finding A Support Network In Sydney
Very few of our friends out here have children or babies, however they have all been absolutely fantastic, offering whatever support we might need. My girlfriends threw me the most special baby shower and have thoroughly spoilt both me and baby – I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
I’ve also made friends with a group of other expectant Mum’s down here in the Shire (either due in November or December) and they’ve been a lifeline of support as we navigate these crazy times together.
We’ve also invested in some paid support – I have a post-partum Doula booked, a lovely caring soul called Emma, who will visit me for a few hours a couple of times a week once baby is born. Her role is to ‘mother the mother’ – making sure I’ve got what I need to be the best mum possible for baby, whether that’s cooking me lunch, running me a bath, or taking baby from me for a few hours so I can get some sleep. It’s a shame I can’t have her all the time 🙂
What Would You Do Differently About Giving Birth In Australia?
I would have booked onto a midwife-led programme of care immediately – I was a little unsure of my options initially – just because midwives are genuine angels!
Whilst my GP was lovely, they obviously deal with a range of medical issues whereas midwives are specialists in antenatal care. I also would have tried to relax and not stress so much in the first 12-13 weeks (COVID-aside) but this is easier said that done!
No Plans On Moving Back To UK
Not in the immediate term no, we managed to get Permanent Residency about 3 weeks ago which means the baby will be a dual Aussie and British Citizen upon birth, which is awesome! I think we’ll be staying here for a little while longer yet 🙂
Reasons Why Giving Birth In Australia Is The Best Decision
The Australian Health Care system, from my experience, is absolutely fantastic and should not be overlooked, especially compared to the NHS. Whilst as a Brit I do love and admire everything the NHS does for us, there’s no way to ignore the fact it’s stretched incredibly thin.
All my appointments in a public hospital have run on time, no more than 10 minutes late, I’ve had replies to my queries over text within an hour at most every time, I’ve had dedicated time from senior OBs who aren’t rushed off their feet and I’ll be able to stay up to 48 hours after birth, more than likely in a private room. All covered by medicare.
If you’re also considering staying in Australia or heading home, think about why you moved here in the first place – I imagine it’ll involve the quality of the life. Australia is a fantastic place to bring up children, with a healthy outdoor lifestyle.
I cannot wait to watch my baby at little nippers on a Sunday, or take them on bush walks to explore the natural beauty all around us. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to raise a child here.
Try and enjoy your pregnancy as much as you can! It’ll be challenging and not always easy, but it’s a really special time. Take care and pamper yourself, and don’t forget that you’ll need to continue this self-care once bubs has arrived.
If you enjoyed reading about Jess’s pregnancy story, check out our other expat interviews here.
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