{FAQ} Having a baby in Bangkok

It’s been a bit quiet on the A Girl in Asia blogging front lately – I’ve been kind of busy having baby number 2! Sofia Camille was born just over a week ago at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok. She’s gorgeous and healthy and doing really well so far!

As I’m often getting emails from readers wanting to know the ins and outs of having a baby in Asia, now seems like a good time to do a Frequently Asked Questions post addressing some of the main things people want to know about. Most questions are relevant to people living in Phnom Penh or Saigon (my Asian homes, past and present), since that’s where most of the questions have come from:

Q: Should I have a baby while living in Phnom Penh/Saigon? What’s the medical care like?ย 
A: Yes! Being pregnant in either city is no different to being pregnant anywhere else, provided you’re careful with the usual hygiene issues and don’t eat anything you’re not meant to! International standard medical care is available in both cities (in Phnom Penh I went to SOS, in Saigon, Family Medical Centre) however keep in mind that in PP you will have to travel somewhere else (like Bangkok) for the two main ultrasounds. They can do basic ultrasounds at SOS and at other clinics in the city, but not the more complex ones like the down syndrome screening. For my first pregnancy I travelled to Bangkok for these and had them done at Samitivej Hospital. Another thing to consider is getting a friend or family member to bring you pre-natal vitamins from home, if you have a specific brand in mind. There is a British brand of vitamins, Pregnacare, available at U-Care in Phnom Penh, but in Saigon it’s a little harder to come across anything reputable unless you get your doctor to prescribe some.

Q: Where should I have my baby?
A: Most expats in Phnom Penh (in fact, almost all!) leave Cambodia for the birth. Reason being – there aren’t any hospitals of international standard – facilities at local hospitals are basic. However – since I left, a branch of a Bangkok hospital called Royal Ratanak opened in Phnom Penh which might be an ok option, but you may need to check it out for yourself! In Saigon, there’s a supposed international hospital, FV, where some expats choose to go, however more seem to leave the country to other Asian cities like Bangkok or Singapore, and many return to their home countries. ย Some accounts of giving birth at FV paint an ”ok” picture, but most are quite negative, with particular concerns about poor communication from and between staff, inadequate aftercare with little help in establishing breastfeeding (and giving the baby formula without permission) to incompetent diagnoses of the baby’s problems resulting in airlifting to Bangkok(!). The idea of giving birth there didn’t fill me with confidence so I chose to return to Samitivej Hospital, Bangkok, where i had my first baby and was really happy with the staff and care and whole experience (except the giving birth bit I mean!).

Q: When do I have to fly to Bangkok/Singapore/wherever else I’m giving birth?
A:
This is entirely up to the airlines, rather than your doctor. You need to find out what your particular airline accepts as the latest you can fly, however most (including Thai Airways) cite 36 weeks as the latest in your pregnancy you can fly. You also need a medical certificate or letter from your doctor stating how many weeks you are and your due date, and that you’re fit to fly which you need to present upon check-in. I also got a letter to show from when I was 6 months pregnant onwards, just in case they thought I was too pregnant to fly. I’m glad I did as after 6 months (and I was flying all the time!) I kept getting asked for a doctor’s letter before boarding.

Q: What are the hospitals like in Bangkok?
A: I can only really speak for Samitivej (where the majority of expats in Cambodia and Laos seem to go, and some from Vietnam) – but it’s great! Like a 5-star hotel turned hospital. The staff (all Thai) are so efficient and offer amazing customer service, the doctors very competent and friendly and wonderful, and the aftercare and rooms are great too (they come with a couch bed for partners to sleep on so they can stay in the room with ย you, there’s internet, a flat-screen tv, and you can get delivery to your room from food outlets in the hospital like Starbucks and Au Bon Pain). Even the hospital food is good! But really, the best bit was the all the advice and support from the nurses and nursery staff in the days after the birth.

Q: Where should I stay before and after the birth?
A: I’ve found the best option considering the duration of the stay before and after is a serviced apartment. We found ours (Tropical Residence) by chance and luck, before our first Bangkok birth, simply by walking around the neighbourhood near Samitivej Hospital going in and asking to inspect any nice looking serviced apartment buildings we came across! Many only accepted stays by the year or more, but fortunately, Tropical Residence is for short term stays too, either by the week or the month. It has a pool, a small gym, mini-golf on the roof, a complimentary tuk-tuk to take you to nearby shops and skytrain stations (and the hospital) which is so convenient, and best of all is walking distance to lots of great cafes and restaurants and massage places in Thonglor (a cool Bangkok neighbourhood). For other hospitals or other cities, it’s best to do some online research, and if all else fails, go and inspect places in person on any pre-baby trips there so you can see for yourself what they’re like.

Q: What about visas? And the citizenship and passport for the baby once it’s born?
A: These things depend on where you’re going and your nationality so a little research is called for. I got a 2 month visa in advance from the Thai embassy in Saigon before I came to Bangkok, otherwise (as an Australian) I would have only been stamped in for 30 days upon arrival. I did the same in Phnom Penh at the Thai embassy there before I left for Bangkok for baby number one. As for the citizenship and passport process, it can be easy or painfully long, depending on your nationality and the whims of your country’s embassy! Unfortunately I fall in the latter camp, with the process for Australians a long one. First, Samitivej gets the Thai birth certificate translated into English and they also take the baby’s passport photo (so cute!). The translation service takes up to 7 working days, however this time we got ours back around day 5. Then – it’s paperwork aplenty before applying at the Australian embassy for citizenship (this is the stage we’re up to now). They say it could take up to 10 working days. Then once we have that, it’s passport application time (more paperwork, more red tape) and another wait of up to 10 working days. So overall – with the arrival in Bangkok at 36 weeks and all the waiting afterwards, it’s around a 2 month stay away from Saigon. Don’t be put off though – it sounds like Australians have the worst deal. Other people we know who are French and German have had their baby’s passport all done and ready much, much quicker. To find out exactly what you need to do and how long it will take, you need to contact your embassy in the country you’re giving birth.

Phew! That about covers the main things I’ve been asked. If you’re having a baby in SE Asia (or thinking about it) I hope you find this a useful starting point!!

Useful links

Tropical Residence (serviced apartments near Samitivej Hospital, Bangkok):
http://www.thaiapartment.com/ServicedApartment/The_Tropical_Residence_Detail.asp

Samitivej Hospital (Bangkok):
http://www.samitivej.info/sukhumvit/birth_unit_en.aspx

My article in AsiaLIFE Guide Phnom Penh on giving birth in Asia:
http://www.asialifeguide.com/Feature/what-to-expect-when-expecting-in-phnom-penh.html

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14 Responses

  1. Kristina August 13, 2010 / 7:53 am

    congrats liz – i hope you, baby sofia camille and the rest of the family is well!! this is an absolutley beautiful name, i love it!!
    viele grรผsse, kristina

  2. laura August 13, 2010 / 10:26 am

    I delivered at Bumrungrad in BKK – it was closer to where I lived than Samitivej – and from the sounds of it, the overall experience was very good as well. And very similar in terms of the services and amenities offered by the facility, even if the main waiting areas of the hospital are not as swanky ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Little Miss Moi August 13, 2010 / 10:29 am

    Congratulations on your beautiful girl!

    Okay random question – what about blood if a blood transfusion is required? After much deliberation, I erred on the side of caution and returned to Australia from Ukraine to have my baby. My insurance company was fine with Ukraine, but a friend’s insurance company refused to pay if she stayed in Ukraine to birth, because they have inadequate blood screening processes in that country. Turned out, lucky I went home, as I lost about 2.5 litres of blood. Considering a move to Asia in the near future, but birthing there would be a concern for me if I found myself in the same post natal situation…

  4. henno August 14, 2010 / 9:27 am

    Congratulations, she looks beautiful ๐Ÿ™‚
    Interesting FAQ too, I have a few expat friends who’ve had babies here in Saigon, but also have a few who’ve gone to KL or Singapore (the former being a much cheaper option).

  5. A Girl in Asia August 17, 2010 / 5:11 am

    Kristina – thanks for your lovely message!

    Laura – I’ve been to Bumungrad for another medical appointment and it’s also world-class! Good to hear the birth experience is good there too.

    Little Miss Moi – interesting question! When I was about 37-38 weeks pregnant, I had to give blood (at Samitivej) that was for me in case of an emergency, so I received my own blood back! It’s something I never really thought about to be honest and I didn’t end up needing it. I wouldn’t be concerned about at that particular hospital, but of course, it pays to do some research first and find out what their screening process is as I never actually checked!!

    Henno – welcome back to Saigon and the world of Saigon blogging! I haven’t known anyone who’s gone to KL but I hear Singapore’s quite pricey, especially for accommodation before and after..

  6. Cate September 1, 2010 / 7:41 pm

    A little late but congrats!!! A cutie indeed, hope life is going well for the newcomer and yourself.

  7. Marie September 4, 2010 / 5:00 am

    Congratulations on your wee girl, Liz! I’m so glad you’ve had such a positive experience. I hope your return to HCMC goes smoothly as well:-)

  8. Joe September 5, 2010 / 11:46 am

    Which package did you go for at Samitivej as I see there are a few different ones but its not too clear what the differences are?

    Thanks

  9. Simone Fisher September 8, 2010 / 4:47 pm

    Just read this now, but just wanted to say congrats! glad to see everythign went well for you in Bangkok ๐Ÿ™‚ Simone

  10. The Parent Vine Thailand November 18, 2010 / 4:51 pm

    Thanks for this post, which I’ve linked to in our newly launched site. It’s primarily for expat parents in Thailand – but as it has detailed information about childbirth, breastfeeding, hospitals, doctors, etc, it’s also very useful for regional expats coming to Bangkok to birth.

    Please see our “Travelling to Bangkok for Birth” page under “Birth in Thailand” for more information.

    We also have a specifically designated forum for regional parent visitors to connect.

    Please check it out – I hope that you will find it useful!

  11. Michelle November 25, 2010 / 9:42 am

    Thanks for this fantastic information!! This is really useful. Michelle (also living in Saigon)

  12. Anonymous July 2, 2011 / 2:45 pm

    Hi Liz, I just came across your blog while searching for info on this topic. I was wondering, at what point can you take a baby home on a plane? I’m living in Bangladesh and am considering having my baby in Bangkok.

    – Jolie

  13. A Girl in Asia July 3, 2011 / 12:30 am

    Hi Jolie – we were told you could fly 10 days after giving birth (but probably best to check with your doctor to be sure). We found we needed longer than this anyway to get the paperwork side of things in order before we could leave. Best of luck!

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