Blogs | Expat Stories
My Hong Kong childbirth experience
Preparing for childbirth and going through labour can be stressful at the best of times. Add in unfamiliar surroundings and processes, while being far from friends and family, and the expat maternity experience is potentially even more challenging.
Kate Robertson, who is a clinical psychologist living in Hong Kong, knows exactly how different things can be when planning a birth in another country. Back in 2013, Kate was living and working in London with her husband Duncan and their first child Elsie.
By March of 2014, however, she had swapped London’s more familiar skyline for the harbourside views of the Mid-Level area near Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak. “We moved here because Duncan was offered a new job as Portfolio Manager for an asset management company,” she explains.
“We thought it would be a good cultural experience but we mostly moved for the job opportunity. I was initially less keen on the move given we had a young baby, but I’m glad I was persuaded as we love it out here.”
In early 2015, Kate was happy to discover she was again pregnant. Determined to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible, Kate took time to do her research and explore the available options under her health insurance plan.
One of the first and most important things Kate and Duncan did when they found out she was pregnant was choose their doctor, something that required a bit of homework. Finding the right doctor is particularly important in Hong Kong, as this is the person who will be with you throughout your prenatal care and birth experience.
“Here there’s definitely more choice,” she says, “so I did some Googling and found a good forum called Hong Kong Moms, where a lot of people go for advice. The hospital where I had my birth was very well known and other mothers told me that I would have a great experience.”
“One of the first things I noticed was how much quieter the hospital was than my previous birth in London. It was more of a one-to-one set-up and there was an anaesthetist available so if I wanted an epidural I could have one. At no point did I feel that I wanted to be back in the UK while I was going through labour.”
Lowri – Kate’s youngest child and her first to be born abroad – was safely delivered at Hong Kong’s Matilda International hospital and is now just over a year old. Kate says, “The quality of care was very high and the period immediately after the birth was great as I got to spend three days in hospital. There was a nursery so the midwives would come every three hours and take the baby away so you could rest and then they would bring your child back for breastfeeding. The food was also amazing and there was an incredible view from my room over the ocean.”
Post-natal care in Hong Kong, however, is less well defined. Kate highlights the lack of formal care after you have given birth, saying, “In Hong Kong you don’t get anything post-birth unless you pay for it, unlike in the UK where a health visitor will come and see you and you’ll be expected to regularly visit your doctor. Lowri probably had fewer health visits after she was born, but she was also my second child so there was less anxiety in general.”
Kate’s eldest child Elsie, who is now three and a half, was delivered in London through the National Health Service (NHS) in 2013, about a year before she moved overseas. Kate makes it clear that “while the hospital staff in the UK were good, their sheer workload meant I was unable to have an epidural. A childbirth without much in the way of pain relief wasn’t great,” she adds.
Other people that she’s spoken to have had mixed maternity experiences in Hong Kong, explains Kate, saying, “It can depend on if you have health insurance or not. The local hospitals are decent, and people who don’t have health cover have had fine experiences, but it was more of a local system where you’re not really allowed to have your partner in the room with you.”
Kate concludes, “If I was talking to someone who was going to have a baby while in Hong Kong, I would say that it is great to have insurance as the total value of our package was the equivalent of £14,000 of care, which is a lot of money. I would definitely say that if you can afford it then health insurance is the way to go.”