Having a baby is a joyous occasion, but offers challenges unlike any other. Insurance, health of the mother and baby, finances, child safety, and the whole birthing process can be overwhelming. As terrifying as the experience can be, know that giving birth is international and happens every day, everywhere. It is estimated that 4.45 people are born every second worldwide, which is 267 every minute, 384,000 thousand every day, 140.4 million every year. That's a lot of babies.
As with so many things, a little research will help prepare for the newest expat. Whether it is a first baby, first baby abroad, or another little traveler, being prepared before their arrival is key.
Knowing what's "normal" where you live is paramount to understanding your situation. There are so many options and decisions to be made it is best to establish what is expected so you can make the most informed decisions.
There are sure to be uncertain moments as you plan for the birth of your child. Research is your best friend; paired with enough flexibility to understand the best-laid plans can come completely undone in an instant.
One of the most difficult adjustments in all facets of medical care is the hands-on or hands off approach. In America and many Western European facilities people take an active part in their health. Questions are encouraged and great attention is given to educating the patient about every step that is taken. In other parts of the world, the doctor is the unparalleled expert and they lead the patient through medication and care.
Note what type of care you are familiar with, and what is the norm where you are an expat. Evaluate what would make you most comfortable in the trying times of pregnancy. Many local hospitals may not be familiar with your native language, staff's bedside manner and ideas concerning privacy can be quite different, and cultural differences you thought you had under control can range from irritating to downright scary.
If the pregnancy and birth will only be aggravated by unfamiliar care, you may seek out expat facilities. International facilities are available in most places, and usually mimic the care you would get in your home country. They are also usually much more expensive.
If you need to take a higher amount of control in the process, there are methods you can use to take charge while living in your expat environment.
Exploring your options and making your own choices is one of the best tools for feeling empowered in your pregnancy. The choice really is up to you, and realizing that you have control of your pregnancy options can relieve some of the uncertainty.
Creating a birth plan can help you understand what is happening every step of the way and gain confidence in the proceedings. A birth plan is basically a communication tool that helps define your options and decisions, and shares them with the people involved in the birthing process. They usually include
Communicating these choices beforehand can help you realize what is, and is not, possible. By clarifying these decisions with all parties, you can (hopefully) diminish the stress during childbirth. There are resources for doing this online, or you can create your own.
Birthing classes are common almost everywhere, though they may be quite different from class to class, and especially country to country. Talk to mothers in the area for recommendations, or there are many on-line searches. Lamaze is a popular option and Lamaze International offers a search engine for classes around the world.
Create a support group for yourself. Being an expat is hard! Alienation from members of your family and friends is difficult, especially during a pregnancy. This is a time where you desperately need support. If you are not already established in a social circle in your expat life, being pregnant is an excellent gateway to make friends. Child-rearing classes, forums, blogs, doctor offices, and support groups for pregnant women are great places for advice and finding support. Having a baby abroad is also a great excuse for friends and family to visit and help you through process.
Evaluate the costs before the birth. International hospitals often have extremely high charges and may be out of your range. It is important to understand your insurance coverage as different procedures and medications may or may not be covered. Also note the method of payment. In some countries, you will have to pay first (by cash or credit card) and then make a claim with your insurance provider. Check with your hospitals to see if they have a list of insurers with whom they have direct billing arrangements.
Your local Embassy can often give recommendations on preferred clinics or hospitals. Sites like the World Health Organization (WHO) and MD Travel Health can help orient you with updated health recommendations for every country.
Another factor to consider is citizenship. A second citizenship and passport can offer your child greater freedom to travel, less tax liability, access to more affordable health care or college education, and more employment and investment opportunities. Note that not all countries allow dual citizenship, and many countries only allow dual citizenship with a limited number of other countries. Find out about the dual citizenship regulations of your home country and the country you plan to have your baby in to make sure your child can hold both citizenships at the same time.
EasyExpat's city guides provide extensive information on health care in over 50 cities, plus information on benefits expats can expect concerning children, childcare, social services for new families, and more. In the FAQ section, there are answers to important questions like "What number to call in case of emergency?". You can also communicate with people in similar situations on the forums and share tips, advice, and stories.
In the interconnected world we live in today, you can find "mommy blogs" in almost every country in the world. BlogExpat offers many great blogs of moms, dads, and families in every situation. Reading about other's that have done it successfully (and learning from their failures) can give you confidence to do it yourself.
Have an expat mom/dad blog you'd like to share? Add it here!