07/23/2013 03:18 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2013

4 Reasons You Should Have Your Baby in England


Even if you're not giving birth to an heir to the throne (third in line, mind), there's something to be said for the royal treatment all Brits get during pregnancy and birth. This is, after all, the land of Mary Poppins. It's having a baby, pinkie extended.

I know because, while I was born and raised in Texas and spent my single 20's and 30's in New York City, I gave birth to my daughter in London. While I haven't had a comparable experience in the United States, friends' experiences hint at a much different situation. The typical experience here came as surprise. But oh, the rewards -- they're positively queenly.

1. Completely free maternity and birth care.
People complain about the National Health Service, which definitely has areas that need updating and rethinking. If you use the NHS, you don't have one OB through pregnancy and labor and you don't get to handpick your surgeon for a C-section. But picture this: Instead of spending your pregnancy worrying about impending hospital bills, you can focus that attention where it needs to go: Complaining about swollen ankles and feeding your cravings.

2. Health visitors who make house calls.
Yes, you read that right. After you are back at home with baby, professionals called health visitors come to weigh your baby, check on you, dispense advice on breastfeeding and make sure you are getting on well. They can also refer to mental health professionals if the baby blues or worse strike. It's the 1950s, in a good way.

3. Maternity leave that lasts longer than 4th of July weekend.
I expected friend who had babies in New York to be conference calling between contractions. Here, mothers are required -- required -- to take two weeks leave or four weeks if you work in a factory. You are allowed to take up to 52 weeks as a combination of paid and unpaid leave. And if mum goes back to work, dad may be eligible for 26 weeks. Prince William, take note.

4. They have "maternity nurses."
This is one of the only things we paid for privately and it was worth every pence. A maternity nurse comes to live with you immediately after the birth as baby carer and handmaiden. "My main goal is to help you rest so you can bond more with your baby," our nurse told us. She did the baby's laundry, took her for walks, changed nappies and brought her in for nighttime feedings. Brilliant -- and we ended up needing her less than the week she was booked. If you don't have ladies in waiting, it's the next best thing.