You now have your tessera sanitaria in hand and you’re familiar with the various options for giving birth in your adopted city.
First, it’s important to remember that in a “normal” delivery, i.e., a vaginal birth without complications, the OB/GYN is going to spend precious little time participating in your labor and delivery. She or he will most likely arrive toward the later part of labor, just in time for your baby’s big debut. However, this doctor is whom you’ll be seeing at each of your check ups, of which there are many. In Italy, women can expect to have on average 7 ultrasounds, compared to an average of 4 in other European countries and the US.
If you have an OB/GYN and you’ve determined that she or he can perform deliveries at your hospital or location of choice, you’re well on your way. However, if you have an OB/GYN but have learned that she or he isn’t associated with where you’ve planned to give birth, you might be wondering how to proceed. You should ask the hospital or birth center their policy on collaborating with outside doctors, as it will vary from location to location. Some facilities will allow a non-staff OB/GYN to participate in the delivery, working together with one of the hospital’s doctors, but others will not. In the case of the latter, you can choose to have your pregnancy followed by your current doctor, knowing she or he will not be part of the delivery, or you can choose a doctor affiliated with your chosen facility.
One of the most important people involved in your labor and delivery will be the ostetrica. This is a role that is difficult to translate into English, although “midwife” is the most common translation. In Italy, the ostetrica is a highly trained medical professional and a fully integrated part of the hospital, clinic or birthing center staff, and can also work independently. She plays a pivotal role in pregnancy, birth and post-natal care. Some of the responsibilities of the ostetrica include monitoring the mother’s health and the baby’s development during pregnancy, administering information and education to the expecting parents, providing continuous support for the mother/expecting parents during labor and delivery, and giving instruction and support on breastfeeding and post-natal issues related to mom, baby and family.
Birth and preparation courses
Once you have decided on a location for your birth, you will be able to ask them about any preparation courses they offer, and most facilities will have at least a short course available on birth and delivery. However, there are a number of course options available which are not affiliated with a specific birth facility. These courses are often more comprehensive and can help you learn what to expect, not just through the various stages of pregnancy, labor and delivery, but also after baby’s arrival and how to care for both your newborn and your new self. Two excellent options are available at The Milk Bar and at GEPO (Gruppo di Educazione Pediatrica Ostetrica).
The Milk Bar and Hypnobirthing
The Milk Bar is both a store and center for moms-to-be, new mothers (and dads, too!) and babies. In addition to offering a wide range of stylish, high-quality products and clothes for moms (prenatal and postnatal) and newborns, The Milk Bar hosts a variety of courses, including an 8-week prenatal and birth class conducted in both English and Italian. During the eight sessions, topics covered will include the nuts and bolts of labor, potential interventions during labor, what to expect when arriving home with your newborn, breastfeeding, how to interpret your baby’s cries, as well as many others. www.themilkbar.it
Another birth preparation class offered by The Milk Bar is Hypnobirthing. This is a practical course which focuses on teaching methods to stay calm, in control and stress free during labor and birth. A variety of techniques and exercises are utilized to prepare the body and mind for birth, while simultaneously teaching participants how to relieve the discomfort and stress often associated with pregnancy and birth. www.hypnobirthingitalia.com
GEPO (Gruppo di Educazione Pediatrica Ostetrica)
GEPO was originally founded in 1978 by a Swedish ostetrica and two Italian pediatricians as a facility dedicated to addressing the physiological and psychological needs of mothers-to-be and newborns. In addition to having a staff which includes, among others, gynecologists, ostetricas and pediatricians, as well as a dietician, lawyer and psychologist, they are well-known in Milan for their birth, labor and postnatal course which begins at the 20th week of pregnancy and continues through baby’s fourth month. It’s important to note that all courses and medical visits are in Italian. www.gepoconsultorio.com
The next and final part of this series will address ex-pat life with your new baby in tow, and provide you with some useful resources for medical, emotional and practical support.