Having a baby abroad can be a momentous decision for an expat woman. So what if you just moved to China and find out that you are pregnant? Should you opt for giving birth in China, or should you plan to return home for the delivery?
Those who can afford it, with regard to both time and money, often go for private maternity hospitals in such major expat destinations as Shanghai. Not only do these Chinese clinics have English-speaking medical staff – at times, they may also feel like a hotel or wellness spa rather than a hospital.
However, all the pampering for mothers giving birth in China comes at a very hefty price. Moreover, if you don’t actually live in the same city, you have to commute there for every check-up. Last but not least, you will incur travel and accommodation expenses for staying in town for a couple of weeks before and after giving birth in China.
Some expat women living in smaller cities may decide upon giving birth in China at a local Chinese hospital. Once you go to see your ob/gyn to have your pregnancy confirmed, they will hand you a red booklet for prenatal care. Don’t lose it, as the doctor uses it to track important details like your blood pressure, weight, and the baby’s vital signs.
Your prenatal health check-ups will be scheduled at regular intervals: first every month, then bi-weekly, and weekly for about the last month. At week 20, you will get an ultrasound exam, and you’ll be able to see your child for the first time.
However, always make sure to find out what exactly the doctor is checking at these exams. In many cases, you may have to request extra lab work to get your blood or urine tested, and you will also be charged extra.
The closer your date for giving birth in China is, the better you should prepare yourself for what awaits you at delivery. If you are giving birth in China, you might have to cope with some additional challenges.
The language barrier will be just one of the obstacles to overcome. Moreover, cultural attitudes with regard to pain management during delivery, birthing methods, the doctor-patient relationship, and the role of spouses may differ widely from your home country.
For example, Caesarean sections are ever more common among women giving birth in China. Natural births, on the other hand, aren’t very popular. You may also be expected to share the birthing room with several other patients, while your partner might not be admitted.
And what if the worst case scenario should happen and something goes wrong during delivery? It really depends on the hospital in question: Standards of medical care for neo-natal emergencies differ wildly from Chinese clinic to clinic. But fortunately, most children arrive more or less smoothly, no matter if you’re giving birth in China, or elsewhere.
After giving birth to a healthy child, you’ll usually stay in hospital for a week. Please be aware that you aren’t only expected to bring your own pajamas and children’s clothes. You may need to provide your own bed linen, towels, and hospital gowns, as well as hygiene products for yourself (sanitary napkins, breast pads) and your little bundle of joy (diapers, baby wipes).
Most public clinics don’t provide for the patients, either. After giving birth, your family is expected to come in, visit you, and bring you regular meals.
In addition to food, make sure that you have enough money. You’ll mostly have to pay in cash for all services. But do insist on getting a tax receipt (fāpiào) for each and every hospital bill! Depending on your health insurance plan, the provider may reimburse you for the costs of giving birth in China.
After giving birth, you have to take care of various administrative issues. If the baby is born at a public hospital, make sure to sign it up for the official immunization schedule, so your child will get all necessary vaccinations for infants.
Moreover, check as soon as you can if the hospital issues the Chinese birth certificate for your child. If it doesn’t, ask the staff how and where to get the official certificate. Then get in touch with your embassy to find out how to officially register the birth of your child there. Both procedures may be a bit of a bureaucratic hassle, but they are obviously very important.
Not only will you need a non-Chinese birth certificate for your child once you decide to return home; you also have to get a passport and a Chinese exit visa for your kid, so you can leave China without further trouble. Your embassy or consulate will issue the passport, so you can then get the visa from the local immigration authorities.
Please note: If one parent is a Chinese citizen, there may be further complications. China doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, but every child born in China to a Chinese parent is automatically a Chinese national.
So you have to officially renounce your child’s Chinese citizenship first, so you can get their foreign passport and leave the country with your family. In such cases, please get in touch with the embassy responsible for the non-Chinese parent and ask for legal advice.
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