Royal Baby: How American and British Birthing Practices Differ

By ABC News

Jul 10, 2013 7:58am

The future British monarch is due to be born any day now. Kate Middleton will deliver her child at Mary’s Hospital in London, in the same wing where Princess Diana gave birth to her own children.

“It’s a beautiful unit,” Regina Curran, a British midwife, said. “It’s got all the facilities that any woman would need in labor. She’s going to be very comfortable and very well looked after.”

Buckingham Palace announced in December that Middleton and her husband, Prince William, were expecting their first child. Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will give birth sometime this month.

From Kate’s pregnancy fashion to the odds on the name, click here for full coverage of the royal baby.

When the 31-year-old duchess goes into the hospital, her experience could highlight the vastly different birthing experiences of women in the U.K. and U.S.

For one, all prenatal care and birthing is provided free to women in the U.K., and while Middleton will use two obstetricians for her delivery, most women in the U.K. use midwives.

In the U.K., the emphasis is on a natural approach.

We aim for … natural childbirth as much as possible, with as little intervention as possible,” Curran said.

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In fact, once labor starts, many hospitals in the U.K. encourage women to use as little pain medication as possible or none at all.

Also in the U.K., epidurals are given less frequently. Patients are offered laughing gas and birthing tubs to reduce their pain.

C-sections rates in America are three times higher than they are in the U.K.

But one American hospital – Roosevelt Hospital in New York City – has C-section rates that are much lower than the U.S. national average. Home to the only in-hospital birthing center in the city, Roosevelt encourages natural birthing.

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“Well, natural is the way women were designed to have babies. Less complications, faster recovery,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, the hospital’s director of gynecology.

Rita Wagner, a certified nurse midwife at Roosevelt, said the hospital has its own floor with larger rooms to allow women to labor on their own, “as if at home, without medication.

But I’m sure that labor and birth, as long as the person who is attending the birth is educated and supports the body and the woman and her choices, then it’s a good experience,” she said.

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