Around 15 months ago my wife and I had our first child here in Hua Hin and we’ve recently received the exciting news that we are to become 4 by Christmas so it’s all very exciting at the moment. Knowing we are to be making our way through this process once more prompted me to write about my experiences and hopefully provide some helpful advice to others in the same situation (whether you are already there or thinking about it).
I come from England. I never had a child in The UK so my only real experience with having children has come here in Thailand. however, I obviously had some knowledge of the process and with it some predetermined expectations (albeit expectations formed in the west). Below are some questions and considerations and some things you can expect when having a child here in the land of smiles.
- How much money can you / do you want to spend? This is very important and could determine whether you have a positive or negative birth experience. In Hua Hin there are 3 main hospitals. Hua Hin Hospital, San Paulo Hospital and Bangkok Hospital. I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge regarding San Paulo hospital. It’s a private hospital and when I called they said they only did C-section births which seems utterly bizarre. Hua Hin Hospital is a government hospital and is therefore a lot cheaper, it’s around 12-15,000 baht for a natural birth. Bangkok Hospital is a new, modern hospital offering care and treatment from internationally trained doctors. It’s also renowned for being very expensive. A natural birth is around 50,000 baht.
- Do you want a natural birth or C-section? It’s worth noting that although Hua Hin Hospital is significantly cheaper it’s a government hospital and the father is not permitted to be at the birth (whether it’s a natural birth or a C-section). My wife wanted both a natural birth and for me to be there which is all I needed to know and we were both on the same page as I obviously had to be at the birth of my child. I was never told why the father cannot be at the birth but my mind conjured up 2 scenarios: many women in a big ward all giving birth in unison and/or my wife alone in a room dealing with it solo. The thought of either triggered anxiety in my core and why anybody would not want to be at their wife’s side for their child’s birth is beyond me. So we were left with one option. Our natural birth cost us 50,000 baht (it would have been more expensive had a C-section been required and i would have been banished) and I was at my wife’s side through the whole process from driving to the hospital amidst the Song Kran celebrations to the delivery of our beautiful baby daughter.
- Where should you go for scans and check ups and how often? Again, the cost of things can be an issue here. We were still living in Bangkok at the beginning of the pregnancy and we went to Paulo Hospital. Although it was a modern hospital with many branches and English speaking doctors there were communication issues. The doctor kept saying things like ‘no guarantees’ and I saw him write ‘threat of abortion’ on his notes which prompted a dash for Bumrungrad which is the Rolls Royce of Hospitals in Thailand. The doctor there was awesome, he set our minds at rest and assured us everything was normal. I was upset but my wife convinced me not to go back to Paolo and throw around some 4 letter expletives.
- Hospitals in Thailand are Businesses. As we all know the aim of a business is to make money which for me meant I was constantly on my guard with any advice being given. I felt like the doctor in a local clinic we went to for scans was pushing us towards having a C-section. C-sections are more expensive and they take up less of the doctor’s time. We had already decided what kind of birth we wanted so this annoyed me. In Thai culture they don’t really question people in authority and everything a doctor says is taken as gospel. I myself have no qualms with such matters. Indeed, just yesterday I made it perfectly clear that we wouldn’t be having 10 scans during this pregnancy (an exaggeration) as every one costs money and you don’t need more than 3 or 4 if everything is progressing as it should.
- Should you do NIPT treatment? NIPT treatment is a relatively new procedure that allows doctors to determine (99 %) if the child has down syndrome or not. The chances of having a child with down syndrome are very low and the procedure costs 17,000 baht. Even though we have already decided we don’t want to do it it keeps getting mentioned. When we sat down yesterday it wasn’t ten seconds before I heard the words ‘down syndrome’. It annoyed me but I kept my mouth shut.
Saying all this our first birth experience was a very positive one which is priceless at the end of the day. Our doctor and the staff were fantastic and it was of course the most amazing experience of my life. I experienced an overwhelming sense of awe and respect for my wife and for women in general and holding your baby for the first time is the most perfectly peaceful, harmonious moment it’s possible for a human to experience, not to mention all the magical moments that follow every day thereafter.
Again, saying that there were a few things I wasn’t prepared for. Our daughter was whisked off somewhere else very quickly and I was left stumbling around like a half-witted ape clutching a decorative name tag for my daughter’s cot. I was terrified she’d get mixed up with all the other babies (there were no other babies). I also expected our daughter to be brought up to our room. Not so, it was hospital policy for all newborns to remain in the nursery. Only parents were allowed in. Security was paramount. We were even accompanied by a security guard when we left the hospital on our way to a new and great adventure as parents.
I could probably go on; I hope all of this is interesting and helpful to you. Do you have any experiences or anything to add to what I have written here?