If you’re expecting a new baby, you’re probably experiencing a range of emotions - excitement, apprehension, joy, and confusion. If you’re a visitor or expat in the UK and you plan to go through the birthing process there, you’ll want to know what to expect.
Luckily for you, the UK is one of the more pregnancy and baby-friendly countries out there. Around 700,000 babies are born within UK borders each year. With a robust system of support and limited medical expenses, you won’t have to deal with many financial headaches during your pregnancy. However, the system may be different from the one you’re accustomed to back home. Read this guide to understand some details about pregnancy, delivery options, IVF, and more in the UK.
In the UK about one in seven couples, or about 3.5 million people, will face difficulties conceiving. If adopting is too costly or complicated a route to think about, IVF may be a good solution.
In the UK, funding for fertility treatment is available. The decisions for who can have NHS-funded IVF is made by local clinical commissions, who may follow similar or slightly more stringent guidelines than the ones published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (‘NICE’).
If you’re not eligible for NHS treatment or if you decide to pay a private source for IVF, you should expect to undergo treatment at a private clinic. Costs will vary depending on the treatment and the degree to which you undergo various IVF procedures.
Can a non-resident or visitor on a tourist or other visa go through IVF or fertility treatment? Is medical tourism a thing in the UK?
The UK is a popular place for certain expats to visit for IVF treatments because it tends to be cheaper than some other countries. For example, IVF treatment in the UK is, on average, 35% cheaper than it is in the US. As a visitor or tourist, you wouldn’t be eligible for NHS-funded IVF, since you don’t pay into the NHS. However, you could still choose to go the private route.
The UK currency is the British pound. It’s written with the currency code ‘GBP’ or simply the symbol ‘£.’, If you’re looking to compare costs between the UK and another country, use an online currency converter. Here are some average costs pertaining to IVF in the UK:
|IVF fertility treatment in the UK||Average cost (GBP)|
|IVF process (1 cycle of treatment)||£5,000+|
|Genetic testing (per embryo)||£2,000 - £2,800|
|Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)||£1,145|
|IVF using Donor eggs||£5,800 - £8,000|
|Frozen embryo transfer (FET)||£1,200|
|Embryo storage, yearly||£250 - £350|
Is there any type of financial assistance or health insurance that will cover part or all of the IVF procedure in the UK?
You can avail yourself of free NHS IVF treatment if your local clinical commissioning group deems that you meet the standards. General guidelines dictate that the best candidates for IVF are under 43 years old who have tried to conceive for at least 2 years.
For more information on IVF and fertility in the UK, visit the following websites:
There’s a universal healthcare system in the UK called the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS was founded on the idea that healthcare should be available to everyone. Today it has grown into a beloved national institution. The NHS sees 1 million patients every 36 hours.
The NHS is funded through taxation, meaning that all citizens pay into it whether they choose to use it or not. In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund compared the healthcare systems of 10 countries, including Germany, France, Canada, and Sweden, and declared the NHS overall the most impressive for its safe care, coordinate care, patient-centered care, and other areas.
Because of the cost, most women who are pregnant choose to go through the NHS. Once you find out you’re pregnant in the UK, you can visit your GP who will confirm the pregnancy. All pregnancy care under the NHS is free for those who choose to avail it. Women using the NHS will give birth in an NHS hospital. Even certain services that aren’t generally free in the UK are free during and immediately after pregnancy, such as dental care.
Private care is also available for those who’d like extra services and reassurance. Some women ‘mix and match’ with private additions, like supplementary 3D scans, while going through the NHS for routine prenatal care. Women who choose this option may have access to private hospitals and facilities.
Another option women choose is a homebirth. For women planning to do this, it’s common to hire a private or independent midwife. Sometimes NHS midwives are also available for home births, but it depends on the area in which you live.
The following is a breakdown of average private vs. public prenatal care costs in the UK:
- (Through NHS) Total average hospital bill for a regular birth: free
- (Through NHS) Total average hospital bill with a c-section: free
- (Through private care) Total average hospital bill for a regular birth: £2,000 - £6,000
- (Through private care) Total average hospital bill with a c-section: £7,300
Can a non-resident or visitor on a tourist or other visa deliver a baby in the UK? Is birth tourism a thing in the UK?
If you’re a foreign national living and working in the UK, you’re entitled to use the NHS. You’re also entitled to use the NHS if you are an EEA national insured by another European state, or if you’re exempt from categorisation, as is the case with refugees, asylum seekers, legal residents for more than a year, or workers employed by a UK organisation and self-employed people.
If you don’t belong in any of these categories, you may need to pay for your care. As a policy, the UK doesn’t refuse maternity care, even if you can’t pay in advance. You may be put into debt after the fact, but you won’t be barred from delivering your child.
Any resident of the UK can have access to the NHS. For that reason, most people go through the entire pregnancy, labour, and delivery process without ever seeing a bill. You’ll even have access to free prescriptions for things like dental care and prenatal vitamins.
You can also choose the have your baby at a private hospital. You will pay for the privilege, but you can access one-to-one care in more luxurious surroundings, and you may feel more reassured by this option. Here are some of the costs you can expect to see:
|Baby delivery medical procedures in the UK||Average cost with private insurance (GBP)||Average cost with NHS (GBP)|
|The Obstetrician Fee||£3,500 - £8,000 (total)||£0|
|Birth and delivery in the hospital||£1,600 - £5,900||£0|
|Cesarean section in the hospital||£7,300||£0|
When you’ve had a baby in a UK hospital, you’ll be attended to by midwives and, if necessary, physicians. Once you’ve delivered your baby, you may try nursing the baby, and you’ll be encouraged to do skin-to-skin contact. You’re encouraged to bond with your baby as soon as possible after they’re born.
You’ll also be offered a Vitamin K shot for your child, which helps prevent a bleeding disorder. If needed, you’ll also be given stitches and you’ll be examined for any labour-related issues.
After you give birth, your medical staff will conduct an Apgar test, to assess your baby’s health. After these newborn checks, if there’s anything found that’s of concern, your baby might be required to stay in the hospital for another few days. If all is well, and you’ve had a normal delivery, you’re free to go home. If you’ve had a caesarean birth, you should expect to stay about 2-4 days, since it’s a more serious operation and you’ll need more time to recover.
Some things, such as pads, medication, and robes, will be provided for you at the time of your birth. However, you may want to plan to bring some or all of the following items:
- Loose, comfortable clothes
- Supportive bras and nursing pads
- A few outfits for your new baby
- A swaddle blanket
- A hat for the baby
When you have a baby in the UK, you don’t need an abundance of documents, thanks to the streamlined record-keeping process. For the most part, you should plan on bringing to the hospital:
- The folder given to you at the beginning of your pregnancy that holds all your records, appointment notes, and relevant information sheets
- A form of ID
- Any pamphlets or helpful information you’ve acquired from birth classes and maybe want to have as a resource
You’re required to register the birth of your baby within 42 days of their birth. You should do this in your local register office in the area where your child was born. You should take with you the following documents:
- Your child’s health record - the ‘red book’
- Your passport or form of UK identification
- The child’s birth certificate (issued from the hospital)
- Your child’s name
If I am not a British national but have a baby in the UK, will my child have to choose between nationalities or will they get British citizenship?
If neither parent is a British citizen or does not have indefinite leave to remain, your child won’t acquire British citizenship by birth. If one parent receives indefinite leave to remain, they will gain the right to apply. If at least one parent is a citizen or has indefinite leave to remain, they will get to register as a British citizen. Alternatively, if the child spends 10 years in the UK without leaving, they also acquire the right to register as a British citizen.
The UK allows dual citizenship with many other countries. You don’t have to apply for dual citizenship - you can keep your British citizenship and gain an additional citizenship. However, other countries may have rules around dual citizenship that forbid it. Check with your home country’s consulate to understand citizenship restrictions and rules.
The UK maternity leave policy is generous. Eligible employees can take a year of leave. The first 26 weeks are known as ‘ordinary leave’ and the second 26 are additional. It’s mandatory that you take at least 2 weeks after you give birth (4 for factory workers). In terms of pay, you’ll receive 90% of your salary for the first 6 weeks of your leave, and then a small lump sum for another 33 weeks (around £140). You’re entitled to another 12 weeks off with no pay, but with the guaranteed right to return to your job.
Paternity leave also exists in the UK, but it is quite short. Eligible parents may be entitled to 1-2 weeks of paid leave and shared parental leave. This leave must be coordinated with your partner, and you can take on some of her maternity leave.
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If you’re having a baby in the UK, you’re lucky. There’s a strong, supportive culture built around maternal health, and the experienced midwives and medical staff of the NHS are there to help you every step of the way. What’s more, you have cost-effective care available to you. While the system can take some getting used to, you’ll be in good hands. Refer back to this post as your guide through the British pregnancy experience.
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