The Expat Bump Diaries: Week 21
Halfway there! Despite the nausea and tiredness early on, this pregnancy is going by super fast. I’m beginning to feel much more like a pregnant mama now as the bump grows larger and I can feel the baby moving. In fact, I felt the baby move much earlier than in my first pregnancy. At just 16 weeks I was already starting to feel tiny little prods, almost like the baby was tapping its finger against the inside of my lower tummy trying to get my attention! I’m sure this is because I knew from my first pregnancy what a baby’s movements feel like. At 21 weeks the punches and kicks are getting stronger, and I can sometimes feel the baby shift position.
I’m also dashing to the toilet dozens of times per day and three times each night. It seems that this baby is lying much lower than my daughter did during my first pregnancy, as I can’t remember needing the loo quite so often. Sometimes I go from not feeling I need to go to being desperate within moments. Perhaps it’s also another second-pregnancy thing, as nothing down there is quite as strong since delivering my daughter!
At 21 weeks I have just had the “anomaly” scan, where they check the baby’s development (usually carried out at around 20 weeks but we were on holiday). We saw a different gynaecologist for this appointment as our usual doctor was away. Her English was not quite as fluent but was still good, and she was very friendly. During the scan she took measurements to check the size of the baby, looked for each of the baby’s organs, and the location of the placenta and umbilical cord. She also looked at the baby’s mouth to check for cleft lip and made sure each limb was growing properly, counting ten fingers and ten toes. It’s amazing how the gynaecologist can identify all the organs, as they all just looked like tiny black dots in a sea of white to me.
Thankfully, the gynaecologist said that everything looks normal with the baby so far. We asked how easy it is to avoid knowing the gender, and she said that at this stage you’d have to really go looking to find out. We are managing to control our eagerness – even my husband, who generally hates to wait for surprises – because we want to find out on the day the baby is born.
We were pleased to hear that the baby is currently a normal size for its age, as this is something that will be monitored closely since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in my first pregnancy. So far I’ve been given the all clear, because a retest of my blood sugar after fasting showed that I am processing sugar OK. I’ll have to be tested again in around five weeks’ time, as gestational diabetes tends to start in the third trimester when your body is coming under increasing pressure and hormone levels rise. I’m already trying to keep an eye on my diet, but willpower is not my strongest trait and pregnancy makes me endlessly hungry.
A difference I have noticed recently in the care received in Switzerland compared to during my first pregnancy in the UK is the whooping cough vaccine. Since 2012 this vaccine has been given routinely to women between weeks 20 and 32 of pregnancy in the UK. The aim is for immunity to be passed from mother to baby in the womb, so that when the baby is born it is protected from catching whooping cough during the early weeks, before the first vaccinations at two months old. When I asked my gynaecologist whether this would be given here in Switzerland, she said it is not given routinely and that she would prefer women not to have any vaccinations during pregnancy, but if I was keen to have it I could arrange it through my family doctor.
Intrigued as to whether this was the standard response in Switzerland, I posted on a mums’ group to ask if others had the same experience. It got quite an intense debate going. Some mums said their gynaecologist had recommended it and even pushed for their partners and those who would be close to their newborn baby to have the vaccination, too. Others, even some who had delivered babies very recently, said they hadn’t heard of the vaccine and were never offered it by their gynaecologist. It seems that gynaecologists in Switzerland don’t have one common approach to this particular issue. Swiss guidelines, last updated in 2013, recommend that pregnant women have the whooping cough vaccine from their second trimester onwards if their last vaccination for the disease was given more than five years ago (click here for Swiss guidelines), while the UK recommends having the vaccination during every pregnancy (click here for UK guidelines).
I wondered if perhaps whooping cough is rarer here in Switzerland and therefore less of a concern, but a mum on the forum said she knew of cases of the infection at their child’s school. As a family we are aware of the effects whooping cough can have. My mother-in-law was not vaccinated in the 1950s (before the national vaccination programme was introduced) and caught the infection as a child. In her early 50s she was diagnosed with a chronic respiratory condition caused by the damage whooping cough did to her lungs. So, due to this, and as whooping cough is said to be particularly dangerous to babies aged less than three months, I personally will ask to have the vaccination again here in Switzerland. These slight differences in care decisions between countries can often take you by surprise and make you do a little more research than you might have done otherwise.
Finally, here is an update on the running total of the cost my medical care has reached during this pregnancy so far: 1,554 CHF (1,257 CHF without medications).
By Laura Hollis
Laura is a journalist from the UK who is now living in Richterswil on Lake Zurich. Her daughter was born in October 2014, and Baby Number Two is due in January 2017. Laura also runs Hummingbirds Toddler Music Group. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Samuel Hollis.
The scan is Laura’s actual ultrasound scan taken at 21 weeks.
The fourth installment of Expat Bump can be found here.