Having a Baby – Hong Kong Style
If you are already pregnant, or hoping to be in the future, then now is the time to look at antenatal options in Hong Kong. The choices you make will be driven by whether you have maternity health insurance or not. There is always hot debate about which hospital and which obstetrician is the best, and ultimately these choices are very personal but underlying these choices is the ever present issue of cost.
If your costs are covered by private medical insurance, then you will be able to have private obstetric care with the same consultant through your pregnancy and birth. This care is highly specialised and will be tailored to your needs throughout the pregnancy and you will be able to review care with your doctor all the way through. Some may consider this option to encourage the over-medicalisation of straight-forward pregnancies, but for those more complicated cases, you will have access to a fantastic network of medical professionals. You can expect transparent discussions about your birth plan and priorities, ultrasound with printed pictures each time you attend and the doctor’s personal contact information made available to you in case there is an emergency (24 hours).
However private obstetricians, particularly the most popular, can be extremely busy and it is likely that you need to book your doctor the day that you have a positive pregnancy test. The costs are also very high, so examine your insurance policy very carefully before taking the plunge and signing up with a particular doctor. Although there are a large number of obstetricians in Hong Kong, there are often certain doctors favoured by expats and people have differing opinions of their personalities and professional abilities but there are enough of them that you should be able to find one to suit your needs, both medically and emotionally.
The quality of post natal care varies between hospitals and it is worth doing your research before choosing your hospital on things like breastfeeding support and whether baby is placed in with you or in the nursery. You may also want to look at support for when you return home with the baby as this is not provided unless you arrange it separately.
A point to note though is that in an emergency, the best place to be is at a public hospital where they have the expertise and equipment to deal with it. If you or your baby are in need of emergency care, it is likely that you will be transferred from a private to a public hospital.
Hospitals offering private obstetric care: Matilda International Hospital, The Sanitorium, The Adventist, Canossa Hospital, Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital and Union Hospital
If you are choosing the public system then you will have the choice of several hospitals Queen Mary Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital and it is unlikely that you will see the same doctor throughout your pregnancy. However the quality of care is excellent although the surroundings may not be quite comparable with the Matilda!
Giving birth at one of the public hospitals is certainly favourable to the wallet, however there are a few other things to consider when making your decision. Firstly there is a reduced c-section rate in public hospitals so if you are keen to have a c-section, you should consider a private delivery or run the risk of not having the birth that you want. Secondly birth plans are not always respected so make sure you have a birth partner who can ensure your wishes are followed through. There may be a language barrier particularly with the midwives which can make communication difficult. Finally, there is a high patient to staff ratio which can affect breastfeeding support and may result in your sharing a ward with up to 10 women which some will find very difficult at such a vulnerable time.
If you are in an emergency situation and in particular if labour begins earlier than expected, then a public hospital cannot turn you away and has to find a bed and delivery suite for you. This is different to the private system where you may be turned away if the facilities are busy. Private hospitals will often transfer emergency cases to public hospitals due to the expertise and facilities available.
Overall, having a baby is a very personal process and the decision will need to be made after carefully considering the options available . The one thing that you do have in Hong Kong is choice, so that should give you some control over your pregnancy and birth.