Category Archives: Babies

Six Things to Know About Prenatal Hospital Visits In China

For reasons that are no longer clear to me, with both pregnancies I didn’t go to the hospital until I was three to four months along in the pregnancy. Maybe this was because we were nervous about another miscarriage and didn’t tell anyone right away, unlike the first time. Or perhaps it was just to avoid all the chaos that is going to the maternity department at a hospital.

 

One of the biggest surprises I had was when we were walking outside one night, pregnant with our son, and I commented on how nice it was that our house was just a five minute walk, if even that, to the hospital. It’s where my husband works and I assumed that it’s where I’d give birth.

 

Oh, no, he informed me. They no longer have a maternity department since it’s a smaller community hospital  and the larger General Hospital wants to be in control of things. At that point (2008) there were just two hospitals at which babies were delivered. Our son was born at the GH and our daughter at the other one in 2012. A year later, that department was shut down and all the doctors and nurses reassigned positions or transfered to the GH.

 

That said, there are some private hospitals on the other side of town, but they aren’t regulated in the same way and are much more expensive. I imagine this situation doesn’t happen in larger metro areas, but if you’re in a smaller town, make sure you know where you can go to get prenatal care and have the baby.

 

Now, once you find a hospital, here are some things you need to know:

 

Go early. Hospitals tend to open at 8 am but people’s start queuing as early as 7 am to ensure that they are seen before the staff goes home for their two hour lunch break (at least that’s the norm in smaller towns like mine). Here there are no appointments, though there are some things are only done on certain days of the week. For example, the blood glucose testing is only done on Tuesday’s, at the hospital where my son was born.

 

Take your medical record book to every visit. Pen and paper still rules when it comes to medical care in Chinese hospitals. They only use the computers for citizens who have medical insurance cards, which need scanned to deduct the money. On your first visit you’re given a booklet that they fill out with your name, age and all those other stats that are important. This book includes space for all the details of your future visits as well.

 

You’ll see lots of doctors, all female. There’s no such thing as a primary care physician and the same holds true for prenatal care. Expect to see lots of doctors on each visit, but you can feel relaxed knowing that they’re all female. Men aren’t allowed to work in this department, and male nurses in China are about as rare as foreigners in my city. I know they’re here, but I never see them!

 

Exam rooms are also female only. Unlike Western clinics, where appointments are done in the privacy of an exam room with one patient and one doctor, and the dad is welcome, in the Chinese hospitals I had my kids at, there was one large room with several desks and tables. It finally clicked why so many women were accompanied by their mothers in law; even if the husband didn’t have to work at that time, he could only sit in the hall and smoke. (Yes, smoking is allowed I the shot pails, though it’s starting to be banned in top tier cities).

 

Take plenty of cash. The Chinese health insurance system provides a prepaid card to I discuss, though foreigners are not allowed to be part of this system. One resound its good to have a person accompany you to your visit is that they can go to pay the bill while you wait in line. I have records from one visit with my daughter where I needed both a bloody test and ultrasound.

 

In both cases, I went to queue up while hubby paid the bill and then returned with the recipes which we had to give to the doctor before they’d serve us. Fortunately, routine services are cheap. The ultrasound was around 100 RMB. Blood tests are similarly priced.

 

Return in the afternoon for results. While you can get your test results back on the same day, you have to return to the hospital after a set time, usually 3-4 pm to get them.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve only been to public hospitals and this has been my experience. I know lots of ex pats who’ve given birth in international hospitals in China and private Chinese hospitals where they had different experiences.

 

Have you had a baby in China? Share your experience–no matter what type of hospital–in the comments!

 

Other posts in the Having A Baby In China Series:
the American Embassy regulations
prenatal vitamins and radiation smocks
•prenatal hospital visits
•birthing classes
•breast feeding
•shopping for baby
•delivery
•the Chinese zuo

Having A Baby In China: Prenatal Vitamins and Radiation Smocks

pregnancy in China
A two-part smock that pregnant women in China wear to keep the baby safe.
Prenatal Vitamins and Supplements in China
With my son I didn’t take any supplements or extra vitamins besides the regular woman’s daily and extra vitamin C that I always took. I ate a very healthy diet of mostly vegetables and some meat (we were paying off my student loans that year, so money was tight) and I walked everywhere and exercised daily. Apparently we didn’t feel that I needed anything else.

 

Fast forward to finding out we were expecting our second child, and my husband bought me some prenatal vitamins. They were a pink chew-able that I took daily for the rest of the pregnancy. By this time I was more familiar with the pharmacy and bought calcium supplements as well, since I don’t like milk and only drink it when mixed with iced coffee and cocoa powder. 🙂
But since there are lots of questions about the safety of medicines and supplements in China, and since they don’t weigh all that much, I’d suggest bringing them along or buying some online and having them shipped here.

 

Radiation Proof Smocks (Fang Fu Yi Fu)
These are massively popular as Chinese are very concerned about radiation. When I was pregnancy with our first, my husband told me to stay out of the kitchen when I used the microwave. Because of this inconvenience, and because Chinese food does not reheat well at all, I slowly stopped using it and by the time we moved two years later, I no longer used it at all.

 

He also asked me to go to the shopping center to buy a smock that protects against radiation which is made of special material that makes it more difficult for the radiation to affect the growing baby. I went, unsure of what I’d find, and even though there were ones that would fit my size-14 body, the price tag didn’t fit our budget. They ran about 500 yuan, so I decided that I’d just keep the internet off unless I was using the computer. I’m not sure how much of this is hype, since most parents only get one shot at having a kid, they want it to be the best, brightest and healthiest, but some Western websites say that the amount of radiation that a person is exposed to on a daily basis is minimal and Fit Pregnancy says that you should keep your cell phone a safe distance away from you since does pose the most risk.

 

By the time I had my daughter, I was freelancing and using the computer several hours a day. Online shopping had also developed to where people trusted sellers and weren’t afraid to use sites like Taobao.
One day he came home with a package for me: a navy blue smock, the same as the one pictured above except navy, complete with an inner piece, to wear whenever I was at home. You wear them together, with the silver one inside.

 

Most Chinese women wear them all the time, but I had something against wearing it out in public–not to mention that it was so hot–so I agreed to wear both pieces at home, and the inner layer even at night. You can’t wash them, so I made sure to always wear an apron when cooking and cleaning.

 

Afterwards, my husband sold it on a local Craigslist-like site for something like 50 yuan.
Other posts in the Having A Baby In China series:
the American Embassy regulations
•prenatal vitamins and radiation smocks
•prenatal hospital visits
•birthing classes
•breast feeding
•shopping for baby
•delivery
•the Chinese moon month (zuo yue zi)

Having A Baby In China: Embassy Regulations

I know a few people that were born abroad and had dual citizenship as kids, so I just assumed that things worked the same in every country. Not so. China doesn’t allow dual citizenship, so if you’re having your baby in China, you need to decide if she’ll stay Chinese (which is automatic due to birth) or transfer to your or your spouse’s nationality.

For Americans there are different requirements based on which parent is American and if/when the couple got married. I suggest checking your country’s embassy’s citizen services website as soon as possible so that you know all of the requirements and can get everything in order. For couples who were married at the time of the baby’s birth, things are pretty easy and straight forward. There’s a lot of paperwork involved, but just make a checklist of everything you need, go through it one-by-one and it’s not so bad.

We decided that our kids would get American citizenship, and at the start of my third trimester I filled out all of the necessary papers and had my mom send a new transcript from my college and tax returns for my whole adult life (proof that I am indeed American). I also put together a photo album documenting our marriage and the pregnancy. Even with all of this I was still interrogated beyond what I’d expected and was terribly nervous the entire time. It was a woman who questioned every little piece of paper and up until she signed the papers approving his citizenship, I wasn’t sure he would get it.

So I prepared even more with my daughter. I updated my photo album, got a new transcript, added the most recent tax forms and job records and, wouldn’t you know, it was a breeze. The very personable guy that we interviewed with didn’t even open my new transcript (had to order another because it was opened) or look at any of the records beyond our passports. He looked through the photo album and commented on photos in a friendly, conversational way and then congratulated our baby on becoming an American citizen.

As I noted previously, regulations changed slightly between my pregnancies. One was that photos documenting the pregnancy are now required. For my son it was just something extra I did. I’m not too into maternity photos, so I’m glad I caught this change or else I probably wouldn’t have had more than one or two. I took monthly photos and added them to my photo alubm, along with updating it to include pictures of my son’s growth over the years.

The American embassy does recommend you file for the report of birth abroad and citizenship and Social Security Number as soon as possible, but you can wait too. Most American couples make this their first stop on the way home from the hospital, but if you’re part of a Chinese couple, mother and baby may not be allowed out for the first month to 40 days. For our son we waited until he was 3-months old but with my daughter we took her a week after my zuo yue zi was over.

Other posts in the Having A Baby In China series:

Having A Baby In China

There’s so much to share about living in China…with or without kids! I should have started this blog years ago, but now’s better than never.

First up, I’m going to tackle the subject of having a baby in China. Yes, I know that a lot of Western women go back to their home countries to have their babies (and a lot of Chinese women are going abroad so that their kids get foreign citizenship), but for some of us, it’s far more practical to have them here.

Both of my kids were born here, in local small-town hosptials, and had great care. A different kind of care than you’d get in the West, but we were well taken care of.

Due to the cost of going back to America, plus the fact that I don’t have any sort of health insurance, going back was never an option or came across our radar until I was about 7 months pregnant with my second child. The law is kind of murky about second children, even for foreigners since any child born in China is considered Chinese.  Even after transfering foreign citizenship to your child, in the eyes of the country, the child is still Chinese.

That said, get your baby’s citizenship changed as soon as you can. I had to follow the Chinese practice of zuo yue zi where women can’t leave the house for a period of time, usually a month to 45 days. But I know most couples who are both foreigners and live in Beijing will make the embassy their first stop on their way home from the hospital.

That said, my first piece of advice is to find out what your country requires for transfering citizenship to your baby if he or she is born abroad. The American embassy has different policies depending on if the couple are both Americans, the father is, the mother is, they are married or they’re not married. And remember to check their site throughout your pregnancy. I’m sure they don’t change things all that often, but we did find some significant changes between our first and second child.

In future posts I’ll talk about:

  • the American Embassy regulations
  • prenatal vitamins and radiation smocks
  • prenatal hospital visits
  • birthing classes
  • breast feeding
  • shopping for baby
  • delivery
  • the Chinese zuo yue zi (Moon Month)

Your turn: What questions do you have about having a baby in China? Leave me a note or email me at CharlotteEdwardsZhang (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know.