Having a baby in China for an expat is a unique experience. In general hospital experience here is very different from the one in the “West”: long lines, impatient patients, sometimes rude nurses, sometimes incompetent doctors… But overall, I must say the experience of having 3 babies in Zhuhai, prenatal, post-partum and general medical care so far has been mostly a positive experience.
In this series of posts I will summarize certain experience of that and those of my friends, plus share some important information on what to do birth registration and obtaining visa. One of the posts I will write exclusively in Russian as I wanted to summarize the experience and procedure of getting a Russian passport for my children in all details – I had such a hard time collecting all the information and it was given to me in bits and pieces. But… that’s for later.
So… you took a test. You found out you are pregnant. You are in Zhuhai. What’s next?
Step 1. You go to the hospital and take a test to confirm the pregnancy. If you are over 6 weeks, you will be offered an ultrasound to check for the heartbeat. Once it is established that you are indeed pregnant with a viable fetus… you’ll be sent home and asked to come back at 12 weeks. Before 12 weeks the pregnancy is not observed, unless there are complications, such as bleeding, in which case you will be given a course of treatment accordingly. There is no blood test offered to check for beta/HCG levels, however, you can insist on getting one.
Note: you can always request more tests based on your previous pregnancies or family history. E.g. I had to get progesterone treatment with my first, so with my 2nd I insisted on checking my beta and progesterone levels and after discovering they were on the lower side, I took a short course of treatment.
Step 2. Once you have reached 12 weeks in pregnancy, you will see your obstetrician and given a bunch of blood work papers and other tests. Your SO will need to come in as well to check his blood type (they are just looking at your and his Rh). Then you just see your doctor once a month until week 27, then every 2 weeks until week 36 and every week until birth.
Estimated cost of prenatal care is close to 3-4 thousand Chinese yuan. That includes several B&W ultrasounds, 2 growth ultrasounds (3D). However, you will not be told the gender of the baby. It is strictly prohibited in China and punishable by law if a doctor or a technician tells you the baby’s gender. So many people go to Hong Kong or Macau if they want to find out the gender and the gender ultrasound costs anywhere between 400 and 800 Chinese yuan.
Step 3. Birth. If you are having natural birth, there is no way to book a room. You will have to suffice with what is available at the moment. Good thing is that you can see a doctor anywhere, even back home, and then just show up at the hospital for birth (either natural or a c-section).
If you are having a c-section, you need to book the surgery. However, you can’t book it more than 1 weeks in advance. If you want a particular doctor to perform a surgery on a day he/she is not on duty, prepare to give a “red envelop” to said doctor – a monetary gift for him/her to take “trouble” to change his/her schedule. Or you can inquire when said doctor is on duty and have the hospital book for you accordingly.
You will also need to book the post-partum room. That can only be done 2-3 days before the surgery. Unless you have a friend who has strong ties with the hospital and can guarantee you earlier booking, usually even with regular connections it is not possible to predict when and how many rooms, and which rooms will be free.
Estimated birth and post-partum care cost:
Natural birth – 3-6 thousand Chinese yuan
C-section – 7-15 thousand Chinese yuan
The cost depends on a doctor who performs birth/surgery, type of the room you get (common room where you share with 2-3 other women; regular VIP room; or Super-VIP room which some hospitals offer; number of days you stay; procedures and medicine you get during the stay).
Normal duration of stay:
Natural birth – 3-4 days
C-section – 4-5 days
You can, however, insist on being discharged earlier. For example, with the 3rd baby I was only given antibiotic drip plus other stuff for 2 full days. On 3rd day there was absolutely no treatment. So I insisted on being discharged a day earlier as I didn’t see a point of paying for an extra day where no procedures were offered to me or the baby.
Step 4. Once you are discharged, for the first 3 weeks, once a week you should have a nurse/doctor visit you at home to check on how you are healing, check on your baby’s weight gain, growth and umbilical cord stamp. It is also a good opportunity to get some practical advice if you are a first time parent and register anything abnormal. These visits are free of charge. However, the doctor may not speak any English (though mine did a bit plus u can speak some Chinese.)
You will also be given some papers from the hospital that you present at yours and your baby’s 42 days check up. Note: it should be preferably be done at the hospital you have birth at as they have your record. But another hospital would do.
Here is a list of 3 hospitals which have had foreigners give birth in before and are considered the best in Zhuhai:
Short review: by far considered the best for maternal and child care. To see the doctor one needs to wait in line. It is possible to prebook your visit, however you will still need to get a number in the queue.
Offers 3 types of post-partum rooms:
– common room (2 to 4 people share, offers a bed for a mom and a baby, shared TV set, bathroom & shower shared; you can pay a small fee extra to get a folding bed for daddy or a family member to stay overnight);
– VIP room (2 beds and a baby bed and a simple sofa, own bathroom & shower);
– Super-VIP room (own little kitchen or/and living room, microwave, own bathroom & shower).
No food is serve at the hospital. There is a new renovated wing with better rooms. Excellent NICU, however parents aren’t allowed inside (general policy in China).
There is no English speaking service but some doctors and nurses can speak some English and guide you through the process.
#1 People’s hospital – also known as Ren Min hospital
Address: 79 Kangning Rd, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
Tel: +86 7562222569
Short review: decent care. To see the doctor one needs to wait in line. It is possible to prebook your visit, however you will still need to get a number in the queue.
Offers 2 types of post-partum rooms:
No food is served at the hospital. However it’s location is close proximity to many good restaurants and Aeon shopping mall (with Jusco supermarket inside – a franchise of Japanese chain of supermarkets).
The English speaking service aka VIP department is in a process of being established. There are quite a few English speaking staff who can help guide you through the process.
Short review: it is located quite far away from downtown. The main positive thing about this hospital is the foreigner- oriented VIP department: a nurse will assist you through the whole process and there is no need to wait in long lines to see the doctor nor to do tests. However, the rooms are quite old (though more or less clean), so may not deem attractive to everyone.
KEEP IN MIND: you can’t really expect “Western” standards in Chinese hospitals. The system is far from perfect but it works. At some point or another you WILL get frustrated with the system. But this is the best you can get at the moment and there are quite a few foreigners who managed to have quite successful birth here, myself included.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will write in more details on how to obtain your baby’s birth certificate and what to do next.
If you have more questions – leave a comment and I will get in touch with you!