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.
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.
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.
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.