I am very happy to have Olga – the blogger behind The European Mama – visiting my Special Guest Thursday today!
Olga is a fellow Multicultural Kid Blogger and I love her style of writing, as well as her straight-forward ways of expressing her ideas and thoughts. Today Olga is sharing with me and you some tips and thoughts on Giving Birth Abroad!
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Having a baby is no small undertaking. There are so many questions to ask yourself: Where to have the baby? Who will be present at birth? But above all, how will life with baby look like?
Now imagine that you are having this baby in a totally strange country. This situation raises many additional questions and can be problematic for many couples. As a mom who has had all of her three children abroad, I have learned a little about having children in a different culture. Here are some tips and advice for all of you who are expecting a baby abroad.
1) Cultural differences
Many cultures approach birth differently. In some countries, birth is considered a normal part of a woman’s life and doesn’t need extensive care of a doctor. In others, birth is dangerous and you need all the testing you can get to make sure you and you baby are OK. There are also many customs and traditions related to birth and the postpartum period. Pregnant women may be allowed some foods in certain countries and forbidden the same foods in others. This may be an additional reason for culture shock but also an opportunity to learn about other cultures.
2) Differences in quality of healthcare
While a lot of the customs and traditions surrounding births are cultural, some countries are definitely better to give birth in than others. This is not necessarily a West/the rest type of thing as many countries all over the world have fabulous healthcare systems and do their best to support moms and babies. On the other side, some expats find themselves in countries where the healthcare system is of bad quality, and labouring women are treated badly.
3) Your own expectations
I live in the Netherlands and have talked to many women about their experiences of giving birth here and what struck me is that they all had different expectations about what giving birth here will be like. In the Netherlands, women will have a midwife and will only be referred to a doctor when something goes wrong. Many women were very happy with this natural approach to birth while others were left worrying that the maternity system is of low quality and they felt that their access to pain relief was very limited. Depending on where you come from, your expectations may vary.
4) Money can be a problem
Unfortunately, your birth experience could depend on the amount of money you have available. In some countries you need to pay out-of pocket for the birth, in others you have insurance that covers everything. In yet others, you may have to give bribes in exchange for a better treatment (a separate room, an epidural, etc.) and in yet others, you may be treated better because you are a foreigner. I know it’s sad but in many countries this is the reality.
5) Your support network
If you are an expat mom, you may not have your family nearby. Likewise, your husband may not be welcome in the delivery room. Some countries offer a wonderful support network for expat women, consisting of doulas, birth educators, postpartum midwives and other birth professionals. If they are available, make use of them, they will make a huge difference in your birth experience. Think of your friends as well- they know what you’re going through, and will do their best to support you. And you can always consider asking your family to come.
6) Place of birth
While hospital birth is becoming the norm all over the world, some countries support out-of hospital births and women can have their babies at home, or at a birth centre (that can be either free-standing or attached to a hospital). Some friends of mine made the decision to go back to their own countries for the birth because they feel they will be better supported there- and may also receive better quality of care, and also because they’d have families to help out after birth.
There are so many decisions to be made when you have a baby abroad. Some women have more choices and possibilities than others, but there are some things all women can do. Try to gather as much information as possible to get an idea of how the system works in the country you are in. Be aware of your expectations and see if they can they be met- or maybe change your mind and go local! Consider the amount of money you’re willing to spend- and if it’s going to be reimbursed by your insurance. If you’re afraid that in the country you live, the healthcare system is not of good quality, consider going home for the birth if possible, or ask around to have the safest, best birth possible.
And when you’re giving birth abroad, you have the unique experience to learn how other cultures approach birth, what the challenges are. Learn from these experiences and use them to help other women who are pregnant after you.
Thank you for sharing, Olga!
As for the readers – have you given birth abroad before? What was your experience?