When you're living abroad and thinking about a baby, you'll have to deal with all the usual preconception things, but you may have to learn how to deal with the local medical system and government bureaucracy too. Here's a special preconception checklist for women who are living abroad.
Your host country's approach to medical care may be completely different than what you are used to, and you may be shocked even if you have been living in the country for years. If you're an American living in the Netherlands, their laid-back way of dealing with pregnancy may seem careless to you, for instance.
And if you're a Ukrainian living in India, you may still be telling the tale of how your doctor tried to put his fist up your lady parts to check if your pelvis was big enough for a vaginal delivery! These are just two examples of how prenatal care can offer quite the culture shock from my circle of friends. I'm living in a semi-developing country as well, and in my case it was the total lack of patient rights that shocked me most.
I was already pregnant when we moved to my husband's country of origin, so I had to hurry up and deal with it. If you are still trying to get pregnant, now is the time to take a serious look at the quality of the prenatal care you would be receiving, and what your options are. You may have any of the following available, or you could be limited to just one or two options depending on where you are living:
- Private OBGYN prenatal care
- OBGYN care from a state hospital
- Midwifery care from a licensed midwife
- Midwifery care from a lay midwife or a traditional midwife
- Prenatal care from a family doctor
We ended up going with a private OBGYN for our prenatal care, but finding a good one was very hard. In some countries, medical facilities will be hard to reach, while doctors need a bribe to treat patients at all in others. Of course, the quality and type of prenatal care available to you will depend on the country you are living in. Check it out before you get pregnant!
Foreign citizens who are insured in their home country may be able to be reimbursed for medical care they receive in another county. If this applies to you, you may have a long bureaucratic procedure ahead of you, or your insurer may have specific requirements as to where you can receive care. You will want to look into this before you get pregnant. If you come from a country with a national health insurance system like the United Kingdom or Canada, you will be able to call a number to find out. if you are insured privately, just call your insurer.
Giving birth is big when you are living abroad. The birth has medical, personal, and administrative implications. Let's deal with the medical aspect first. If you are hoping to give birth in your country of residence, discuss the options with your doctor well in advance, as your cultural expectations of birth may not math the reality of your country of residence. You'll want to look into things like patient rights, tour a hospital, and see what kind of neonatal facilities are in place in case of complications. Some women will want to travel back to their home country to give birth.
New moms often like to have their own mom or other relative around to help with the baby or the house, and this is something you may miss out on if you're living in another country. That's another good reason to give birth back home and stay their for a month or two afterward. The third aspect is administrative. The birthplace of your baby may have an impact on her citizenship rights, either in a good or a bad way. This varies from country to country, so it's pointless to say much else about it, but citizenship is certainly something you want to look into well in advance. You want to check these rules both with the country you are a citizen of, and with your host country. Things may get particularly complicated if your partner comes from the country you are living in, or from a third country.