Congratulations, you have a new bun in the oven! But what now? Here’s a simplified six-step guide to giving birth in Hong Kong:
1. Maternity Care – The first step is to decide whether you want to use private or public maternity care. Factors which may affect your decision include:
- Your medical history
- Previous experience
- Cost and insurance
- Where you live
- How you would like to give birth
The government system provides all basic and more high-risk care for a limited cost (less than $500 usually) including pregnancy checkups, tests and ultrasounds, labour, birth care and aftercare for you and your baby. The hospital as well as Maternal and Child Health Centre you are assigned to is determined by your location.
In the government hospitals, most of the births are attended by midwives but doctors will deliver the baby if the case is high risk. These teams of professionals work in shifts so you may not know the doctor or midwife attending you (decide whether this is an important requirement for you beforehand.) The birth is restricted to one birth partner and only in the delivery room.
In the private system, the same doctor will care for you throughout and in a hospital of your choice. The father is also allowed to join the mother throughout the whole process. While the doctor is in charge, midwives will take care of you through labour with the doctor attending to the birth itself.
Private midwives provide a service that complements and supplements both systems, bridging the gap between the families and the hospitals and other caregivers a mother may have, at a cost that is affordable to most. Specialist midwives clinics can provide early consultations to decide which system will best suit the family, including guiding couples to ensure that their birth plan is realistic for their hospital choice. They also provide routine antenatal checkups throughout the pregnancy, antenatal and babycare classes, labour support and postnatal care.
2. Get registered – Once you have decided on using a private or public hospital for the birth, it is a good idea to get registered way ahead of time as some tests need to be done quite early in the pregnancy.
If you are planning to use a private hospital, you need to see an obstetrician who will book you in at your chosen private hospital and schedule the rest of your care.
If you are planning to give birth in a public hospital, you also need to see an obstetrician, or a GP, to get a letter confirming your pregnancy as this is needed to register with the public / government hospitals.
3. Regular Check-ups – Once in the system, you will follow a programme of antenatal checkups which are important for both you and your baby’s health. You will need checkups every four weeks until you are 34 weeks pregnant, then every two weeks and weekly for the last month. Most of them are routine checkups (urine is checked, blood pressure and fetal heartbeat, as well as position and estimated growth of baby, and your own well-being), but some require extra testing. Those are:
- Around 12 weeks – You may choose to have a Nuchal Fold ultrasound, an Oscar test or a NIFTY test to determine the risk of some conditions, such as Down’s syndrome.
- Around 20 weeks – A comprehensive developmental ultrasound is recommended.
- Around 24 weeks – A glucose test is usually done, to check if otherwise undiagnosed gestational diabetes is present.
- Around 36 weeks – A Group B streptococcus test is done. If the bacteria are present a mother may be given antibiotics during labour.
You should also book yourself in for antenatal classes at around 25 weeks.
4. Giving birth – You’re in labour! Knowing the right time to go to the hospital is tricky, especially for first-time mothers, and this is where midwives are particularly useful. Midwives support mothers in the comfort of their own homes until labour is established, and then accompany the mother to the hospital and in some cases, stay with her for the birth.
5. Register the birth – After the birth, an automatic registration will be sent from the hospital to the birth registry and one of the parents will need to make an appointment to register the birth, which includes registering the baby’s name.
6. Postnatal checkups – Typically checkups after the birth for mother and baby are scheduled at 10 days, then for the baby at one, two, four and six months with private pediatricians or GPs, or in the government Maternal and Child Health Centres around town. A six-week checkup with an obstetrician is also recommended for the mother.