How to choose in which hospital to give birth in China?

Not exactly how it looks like...

Not exactly how it looks like…

The first questions that came to my mind when I found out I was pregnant was: where am I going to give birth? Unfortunately I’ve had some bad experiences with Chinese hospitals, so at first giving birth in China felt like the most dangerous thing to do. Later I realized that going back to Finland to give birth was far away from practical and I didn’t want to be separated from my husband for such a long time.

Prenatal check-ups

Luckily my sister-in-law is a nurse and was pregnant at the same time, so I followed her and started prenatal check-ups in her hospital with her doctor. The hospitals facilities didn’t really convince me, but luckily the doctor turned out to be a very nice woman, although she was very straightforward in a Chinese way, pointing out my weight and not asking any questions of the mental side of pregnancy.

But as my due date kept coming closer, I had a need to decide where I’m going to give birth. The hospital where my sister-in-law works doesn’t allow dads to be present in the delivery room and getting an epidural if needed was far from certain. I also hoped to give birth in a hospital where they have other foreigners giving birth too, hoping they would be more open to different mothers and ways to do things.

Asking for recommendations

I turned to mommy groups in WeChat and asked millions of questions about hospitals and doctors here in Guangzhou. Recommendations are a big thing and the first step to start from when choosing the right hospital for you. What I noticed that different women had different experiences in same hospitals, so you can never find a place that would satisfy everyone. But luckily there was one hospital that had a decent amount of positive recommendations in the mommy groups: Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center.

Keeping in mind the costs

Here I need to point out that without an insurance to cover the pregnancy and giving birth (my student insurance doesn’t cover these) it was out of the questions to visit those international clinics that expats usually prefer. So I was making my pick mostly from public hospitals that we could actually afford.

According to my research online, a natural birth at Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center costs about 6000rmb if you pay everything yourself. In a private hospital the costs can start from 20 000rmb.

Language issues

One thing to consider is of course the language barrier if you don’t speak Chinese. Remember to find out which hospitals have English speaking doctors or at least translators at your disposal. I’ve been dealing with my prenatal care all in Chinese, learning a ton of new specified vocabulary along the way, but I also heard that in my hospital they have English speaking staff and translators for foreigners.

Hospital’s practises

Yesterday I went to the hospital for a lecture in giving birth and pain relief. The main impression I got is that they are very pro natural birth, which is great to hear as many Chinese hospitals and doctors push for unnecessary C-section because they are more convenient, can be scheduled and cost more. In my hospital they seemed to be very against C-sections without a good medical reason.

I also found out that they have two anesthetic doctors at the hospital at all times in case an epidural is needed. Actually it even felt like they recommend the epidural, which of course can be a no-no for mothers who which to avoid medical pain relief.

One important thing for me is also that my husband can be there on my side the whole time, from checking in to the hospital right until we take our baby home for the first time. There’s even a chair that can be opened into a small bed for dads, perhaps far from comfortable, but allows the dad stay for night as well.

Now that I might be getting into labor any day now, I feel confident with my choice of a hospital. Based on my prenatal care and experiences I’ve heard from other mothers, this hospital is well equipped to deal with emergencies and special cases as well if something goes wrong. Of course it’s still a Chinese public hospital and things will be different from back home in Finland, but I have a feeling that me and the baby will be safe there.

I’ll be writing more about the hospital when the baby is here and I can share my own experience.



Giving birth in China and what to bring to the hospital

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Chinese hospital bag for moms in labor

As my due date is getting closer and closer, a bit over month to go now, I’ve been wondering what I need to bring with me to the hospital. In a Finnish hospital lot of things would be just given to me, but in a Chinese hospital you need to buy these items your self.

First of all you need your passport, hospital card and medical records. I’ve understood that these are needed when I will arrive to the hospital.

The first thing you need to buy is the hospital bag that is sold in your hospital, it’s called a 待产包 dàichănbāo in Chinese. The reason you need to buy these items from the hospital you will give birth in, is that the nurses are most familiar with their own bag and know how to use the products inside. So what’s included? I was surprised to find out it only included disposable underpads, maternity sanitary napkins and ID tags for your wrist.

Of course this isn’t enough! You will usually be spending at least two days in the hospital so many other items are also needed to make your birthing experience a bit more comfortable (is that even possible?). According to chats with other moms and researching the Chinese internet, I’ve found the following items to be important:

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, a comb
  • Wet napkins
  • Towel or two
  • Water cup or a bottle
  • Disposable or otherwise comfortable underwear
  • Newborn diapers
  • Slippers
  • Breastfeeding bra and pads
  • Snacks for you and the new dad
  • Clothes for you and the baby to wear when coming home

I haven’t put together my hospital bag yet, but as I’m already 34 weeks pregnant now, I should do it soon! Anything important that I forgot from my list?


The End of a Summer


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It’s the end of the Summer and even though temperatures still rise above 30 degrees, there is a feeling of Autumn here in Guangzhou. Or is it only because the Moon Festival is coming and October starting soon?

My research plan got the approval of my teachers and I have continued forward with my master’s thesis. Finding people to answer my survey has been harder than I thought, but I hope to get the required amount of answers somehow. I wish to do and write as much as I can before our baby arrives in the  beginning of November.

I noticed I haven’t written much about my pregnancy, but that’s because everything has gone so well. I’ve been feeling normal and continued studying and teaching as before. These days at 32+ weeks I need to take it a bit easier after a long day, to remember that I don’t have to run everywhere but can slow down as well.

The fact that I’m being pregnant in China shows in a few ways. I usually get a seat in the bus or metro, some people are even overly friendly and jump right up when they see me stepping into a metro. My doctor’s appointments are fast and to the point, no extra small talk about how I feel or how does the father to be handle the life change. Coffee shop staff always confirms if I really want my drink cold, as it’s not advised in China to drink cold drinks when pregnant. My mother-in-law makes special soups when we have dinner at their place once in a while. Other than that my pregnancy is going forward as anywhere in the world.

As the arrival of our baby is coming closer, I might not be as active here on the blog or can’t find the time to answer my emails. At the moment the fastest way to contact me and follow my life in China is through my Facebook Page. I do have lots of plans for my blog though!

I’m planning to write a series of Chinese textbook reviews to help all of us learning Chinese to find the right book to study Mandarin. Later I’m also going to write more about prenatal appointments and giving birth in a Chinese hospital. If you have any ideas for blog posts, leave a comment and let me know!


A boy or a girl?


Second hand baby clothes bought in Finland

Being pregnant is kind of strange feeling, suddenly you have someone poking around in your tummy and you love him or her even though you haven’t really even met yet. Many parents want to find out the gender of the baby before giving birth so that they could start thinking names and the baby would seem more real to them. It’s not an “it” anymore, but a she or he.

In China it’s prohibited to find out the sex of the baby on an ultrasound, because traditionally boys have been favored and girl fetuses even aborted. Xinran has written a heartbreaking book about the lost girls of China in Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother. The traditional views are slowly changing and in bigger cities families have even started to favor baby girls.

But the differences between boys and girls are still seen in my husband’s generation. He as the big brother got often treated differently from his little sister, for example more money was used to his education than to hers. In other matters it can also be seen that his parent’s generation still value the paternal family line when it comes to different assets in the family.

My husband’s sister has a cute baby boy now that the whole family adores. Against tradition her mother took care of her during the one month confinement and continues to do so during her maternity leave. People in the villages have talked how it’s “not right” that a daughter who is already married spends so much time at her parent’s house, but my in-laws enjoy having their grandson next to them. Even though in Chinese he is considered to be an “outside grandson” or 外孙。

Me and my husband think that children should be treated equally no matter the gender or if they belong to the paternal or maternal family line. I’m also more sensitive to not to limit activities or even colors based on gender. In China is much clearer that boys do boy stuff and girls do girl stuff, but I wish that our kid can choose the hobbies she likes without thinking if it’s suitable for a girl.

So yes, because of family connections in a hospital and curious family members we found out that we are most likely having a baby girl. My husband’s family has been guessing it’s a girl since I got pregnant and are very happy of the news. But of course what we hope the most is that she will be healthy.


Questions to consider before having a baby in China


Speaking of China just posted a great guest post by Charlotte about the questions to discuss if you are having a baby in China and especially if you are in an international marriage. I thought it would be an interesting discussion here on my blog as well and wanted to answer to her questions my self.

1.Which maternity and postpartum customs will you follow?

Both Chinese and foreign friends have asked me if I’m going to 坐月子 zuoyuezi, meaning “to sit a month” or “postpartum confinement”. There are may rules and customs to follow in China if you sit the month, depending how traditional you or your family members are. One of the main things seem to be that you can’t go outside during that time and you need to rest as much as possible.

In Finland during the Summer you can take your baby outside right away if you protect your baby from the sun. During Winter you should take it slower and stay indoors if the temperature drops to -10 Celsius. There are no strict rules about what to eat or not like there is in China.

I think it’s best to follow your body and your instincts. I don’t have a reason to label the time after giving birth, but just do what I think will be right when the time comes.

2.Which nationality will the kids be?

We will apply for a Finnish citizenship, but because of the laws in China, in the eyes of the Chinese bureaucracy the kid will be seen as Chinese. This is a rather complicated issue and you can get a feeling of it by reading this blog post by Ember Swift.

3. Who and how will you name the baby?

We want our baby to have an international name that is easy for everyone, Finland and China, to pronounce and use. My husband’s parents said they can help us to choose the Chinese name, perhaps visiting some kind of master who can give recommendation based on when the baby is born. I’m still wondering should we follow the international first name – Chinese first name – Chinese last name method like Charlotte did with her children.

4. How many kids will we have?

We haven’t decided on a number and I think there’s no need to. What we do agree is that we don’t want to have too many kids, but at the same time would like our kid to have a sibling some day. My husband has a little sister and I have a sister and two brothers so we are both used to having siblings around.

5. Will you return to work or will one parent stay home with the child?

Because of financial and scholarship reasons, I need to continue my master’s thesis and teaching quite soon after giving birth. I’m planning to stay at home full-time from November till end of the Chinese New Year, but after that need to see how the situation looks like.

Who takes care of the baby then? This is a huge question that still doesn’t have a definite answer. Our ideas of child rearing differ from the in-laws quite a lot, so asking them to take care of the baby would probably bring way too much family drama. We are going to see if we are able to find a nanny to come to our home on those hours I need to teach.

In China mother’s usually can’t afford to stay at home long, but in Finland most will stay with the baby full-time until he or she is 9 months old. Many continue staying at home after that as well and will continue to get certain monetary help from the government. Lot of moms in Finland consider you not-s0-good-mother if you take your baby to daycare before he/she is 1-year-old, at least that’s my understanding.

6. Where will they go to school?

It’s going be yeas before we need to consider which schools to enroll them. Good international schools are very expensive in Guangzhou and out of our reach. We have been discussing moving to Finland when our kid needs to go to preschool, but nothing is set in stone as things might change as years go by.

There are tons of questions to consider before having a kid, no matter where you live. I hope that by considering these questions before hand we can be tiny bit more prepared to the huge life change in front of us. Thank you again Charlotte for the excellent guest post!