Tuesday, June 6, 2017

BEING PREGNANT AND GIVING BIRTH IN A CHINESE HOSPITAL

My third son was born in 2015 at Kowloon Hospital, Suzhou. Why did I choose a Chinese hospital? 


I could say it was because I wanted a genuine experience, but the truth is that the luxurious clinics in Shanghai are deadly expensive and I didn’t want to go bankrupt. I already knew I would have had a C-section, and spending more than 20.000 Euro for the delivery was not really the case. The Chinese hospital was much more affordable.

Having a baby in China, for foreigners, is always a matter of money.  If you are a young couple and you are already planning a pregnancy, you can take out a maternity insurance (usually not included in the normal plans), but this is also very expensive, and sometimes your employer doesn’t agree to include it in the benefits. We didn’t have a maternity plan, so everything was on us. We did the math and discovered that giving birth in the hospital would cost more or less like buying a return plane ticket for me to go to Italy (and having the baby there) and for my husband and my other two children to visit me a couple of times. So, we decided I would stay in China. 

What is it like to give birth in China? What are the differences compared to Europe?

The hospital I chose had a VIP section with nurses who could speak good English. They translated everything and were nice. They accompanied me as I did all my tests: blood tests, ultrasound – basically all medical test you may need when you are pregnant. The quality of the medical experience was fine and I didn’t notice any lack of hygiene.

I saw the doctor every month as I did in Italy for my first two children. She measured my belly, asked me about weight, asked me if I was feeling fine. The usual questions. Strangely enough though, nobody EVER visited me inside the place where children come out. And they told me to stop swimming from the 24th week. And they made me sign a paper in which I declared I didn’t want to take my placenta after the delivery and I agreed to donate it to the hospital. 

I didn’t do the amniocentesis because they offered to run a special DNA test, with which they can see if the baby has chromosomic syndromes. In Italy, this test is still uncommon and very, very expensive. 

But when it came to be checked into the hospital, things changed. The room was different as I remembered when we visited the ward: it wasn’t in as good condition as I remembered – and it was rather dirty! And the nurses and doctors barely spoke any English. 

Luckily, that was my third child and I was feeling relaxed enough not to worry about it. 

I had the chance to practice my Mandarin and learned many useful medical words, so not only did I give birth to my third child, but I also had a crash course in Chinese medical terminology. Lucky me!

And, moreover, while my friends who gave birth in the well-known clinics of Shanghai had a real chef preparing food for them, I could eat (?) some traditional and healthy soup instead.

Chinese soup
Yummy and healthy


Sometimes communication was a problem, me not understanding Mandarin and them not speaking English, so the only way to communicate was through the phone translator. But as you may imagine, automatic translation is not always correct and more than once I burst out laughing in front of them (and their surprised expression made me more and more amused). Actually, I wasn’t so amused just before the surgery, when my body had already been tied to the operating table: what if I couldn't tell them something was wrong? What if I couldn’t explain my feelings? As these thoughts went through my head, I began to feel dizzy and my eye span blackened. I took a deep breath and tried to calm down, I closed my eyes and waited for that bad sensation to dissolve. A few minutes later I was fine again. They had taken the baby from my womb and I heard him crying: the best sound a mom can hear from her new-born son! I suddenly felt relaxed: he was fine.

Postnatal care was also slightly different from the one I had received in Italy. For instance, they press your womb a couple of times after the C-section, to make all the blood flow away quickly. This is very painful and I hated it! The nice thing is that they give you painkillers (in Italy they didn’t!).

They don't wash the baby immediately, but only when he (or she) is ready to go back home. And they make them swim a little bit in the warm water like in this picture.

Isn't he cute?


In China there is a very specific postnatal routine that a mom should follow: they call it the “to do the month”, but I will tell you about this in one of the next posts!

6 comments:

  1. Congratulation on your new baby! i agree as you said most of the private hospitals are in shanghai extremely expensive if you don't have maternity insurance! but you are lucky that you found a nice government hospital! but that is not the common case for many! the great pricing for private international hospitals in Shanghai/ China comes with great responsibility and even greater liability, where if anything goes wrong in government hospital will stay mystery forever and you are the only person blamed (in most cases governments will never make mistake in china :S) here in give you a recent story happened to one of my Chinese colleague: as she was 9 months pregnant the baby was perfectly heathy and she were seeing the doctor each week, and just 2 days after the recent ultrasound she found that the baby is not making any move on the belly! so they rushed to hospital and they were told that the baby is died in belly! and the reason for death is that the baby's neck was straggled by umbilical code (stage and very very rare) so she were admitted to the hospital and few hours later they gave a much strange reason for the baby's death which is baby died of umbilical code blockage. and at the end they took the baby out by pushing the belly!! and this case will stay mystery forever and the only answer you get from hospital is blaming the mother! anyway this is the most biggest problem with the government hospitals! and on the other hand things still can go bad in private international hospitals but they are liable for it and at least you can take them to court. of cause this kind of cases mostly won't happen in first tier cities (SH, Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and so on) but still if let me choose between life and money, i choose to stay alive!! the good thing most Chinese hospital in first tier cities are very good with quality of healthcare and facilities but with the 2nd child polity baby booming its a nightmare to get into that crowed just for a ultra sound or general checkup. anyhow it's a good this you found a nice hospital and everything went well! :)

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    1. Yes, you are right. I prayed every day for everything to be fine, otherwise it could be a bigger problem for me than having complications in Italy or in foreign clinics. I was blessed that everything went well!

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  3. Totally off topic (and it is meant as a question and not as a criticism) but I always wondered how you deal with the topic pollution? How did you protect yourself during the pregnancy and how are you doing it with your baby? :) I'm just interested because I might move to Shanghai as well

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    1. We have air purifier at home, and when the level is high we stay inside. One should also use a mask when outside (I never did though!)

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  4. I have posted comments here two times, but something always seems to go wrong... So let's try a third time. I just wanted to say congratulations to your baby! <3 Must have been an experience to go to through pregnancy and birth in China.

    I plan this for myself too, but planning to wait at least another year. What f rightens me the most is the language barrier... I plan to create a little list of useful words and phrases to study beforehand, haha.

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