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Preparing For Birth In A Public Hospital In Hong Kong

hong kong public hospital birth pregnancy delivery
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Giving birth in a Hong Kong public hospital might seem like a daunting prospect. Thankfully, we live in a city with world-class, affordable health care and Sassy Mama is here to help with everything you need to know about prenatal care and delivery in the public hospital system.

So, you’re pregnant? Congratulations, mama-to-be! If you’re a first-time mum or are new to Hong Kong, deciding where to give birth is important and can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what is involved. Sometimes, the decision is made for you, given the prohibitive costs of private hospitals or if you have complications. If you have opted to deliver at a public hospital in Hong Kong, we’re here to help.

Read More: 5 Tips For Birth Partners: How You Can Help During Labour

registering birth hong kong public hospital

How To Register Your Pregnancy At The Hong Kong Public Hospital

Upon confirmation of your pregnancy, you will be provided with a letter from your midwife/GP/obstetrician. With this letter, you will be able to register with the public maternity system in Hong Kong.

At the earliest opportunity, call your nearest Maternal and Child Health Centre (MCHC). These are external clinics associated with some of the public hospitals. You could also call the hospital directly to make your first appointment.

Need To Know: All public hospitals work within catchment areas; therefore you will have a designated public hospital based on your address.

However, if you have a preference for an alternative public hospital outside your catchment area, then there may be the option of registering with them, depending on their capacity (look below for our list of public hospitals, including reviews by Sassy Mamas who have given birth in them). In this case, it would be wise to call your chosen hospital directly to enquire about their availability.

Documents Required To Register Your Pregnancy

Once you have made your booking appointment (there is usually around a 4-week waiting time for this), then you can gather the required paperwork. To register, you will require your confirmation of pregnancy letter, your Hong Kong ID card, a proof of address letter (i.e. bank statement or phone bill), copies of any recent blood tests or scans you may have had done privately or overseas and (if you are married) a copy of your partner’s Hong Kong ID card.

Read More: 5 Ways To Financially Prepare To Be A Parent In Hong Kong

hong kong public hospital prenatal appointment pregnancy

What To Expect From The Public Hospital System During Pregnancy

You will be seen by both midwives and doctors in the public hospital system. These appointments may be at either an MCHC or at your designated hospital. Some public hospitals provide two ultrasound scans – one at 12 weeks and another at 20 weeks. However, these are not provided by all hospitals. Your hospital will advise you to have these scans done privately if they do not offer them.

Sassy Mama Tip: Many mums-to-be choosing to deliver in the public hospital opt to supplement their maternity care with a package at a midwives’ clinic or with a private obstetrician who can cover scans and tests leading up to the birth.

Many hospitals offer tours of the maternity ward and some also provide basic antenatal classes (check if these are in English before signing up) covering things such as pain relief options and positions for labour and breastfeeding. It’s a good idea to talk to your midwife at your first appointment about the hospital tour and classes if you are interested in joining, as they tend to get booked up relatively quickly. Some public hospitals also provide a birth plan template for you to complete prior to delivery (if not, you can download Sassy Mama’s birth plan template here).

Read More: Top Antenatal Classes To Get You Ready For Pregnancy

pregnancy public hospital birth guide hospital

Hong Kong Public Hospital Labour Wards

On arrival at the hospital for delivery of your baby, if you are found to be less than four centimetres dilated, you will be admitted to the antenatal (or pre-labour) ward until you reach active labour. In this ward, partners are only allowed to be with you during visiting hours, which are typically an hour at lunchtime and two hours in the evening. The ward is also shared with usually six to eight beds in one room.

Hong Kong Public Hospital Delivery Room

Once you are transferred to a delivery room, your partner will then be able to join you for the remainder of the labour and delivery. However, some public hospitals do differ in practices and processes, therefore it is advised to discuss this with your midwife during one of your antenatal check-ups to gain an understanding of your chosen hospital’s policy.

In the Hong Kong public hospital system, midwives conduct the majority of deliveries, with doctors on call to deliver should a medical need arise. Once you reach the delivery room, the care is usually one-to-one with your allocated midwife, with other midwives and doctors on hand for assistance. The majority of public hospitals in Hong Kong are also teaching hospitals, so it is likely that you will be asked if you consent to have midwifery or medical students present.

Once you have delivered your baby, you then usually remain in your delivery room for around an hour and a half before being transferred to the postnatal ward, which is similar in set-up to the antenatal ward.

hong kong public hospital newborn with dad birth pregnancy labour

Hong Kong Public Hospital With A Newborn

Partners are again limited to visiting hours here and you will be in a shared ward. You should expect to stay for around 36 hours following a normal delivery and for at least 48 hours following a Caesarean section. There will be midwives and lactation consultants on hand to assist with breastfeeding, so be sure to ask should you require any help from them during your stay in the hospital. Your baby will be checked by a paediatrician before being discharged and you will be asked to return to the MCHC in the first week for your baby to have a weight and jaundice check-up. There are currently no at-home midwife visits provided by the public system in Hong Kong.

Read More: Breastfeeding And Lactation Consultants In Hong Kong

Hong Kong Public Hospitals

Now that you understand the process, it’s time to weigh up your options. We love that the Hong Kong public hospital maternity services come at a minimal cost (you can even pay for the delivery with your Octopus card!). Cost aside, most of the public hospitals in Hong Kong are well-equipped for any sort of medical emergency. You can find a full list of Hong Kong’s public hospitals and a review of the admission procedures here. These are a few worth considering.

However, giving birth at a public hospital in Hong Kong is definitely not for everyone. The language barrier, lack of pampering, the food (yes!) and the strict rules and regulations concerning visitors and birth partners can deter some. So, to help with your decision, we asked a few mums to tell us about their birth experiences at some of the reputed public hospitals here in Hong Kong.

Read More: Prenatal Yoga And Fitness Classes In Hong Kong

Hong Kong Public Hospital Birth Experiences

Emily Chu, mum of one. Delivery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2022

I had a really great experience at Queen Elizabeth Hospital despite giving birth at the height of COVID restrictions. It did mean that birth partners weren’t allowed to be in the delivery room and there were also no visitors. I delivered via emergency c-section after an eight-hour labour. The public hospital team were really kind, always checking on me and helping me call my husband (mobile phones are not allowed so I had to use their landline). When I had a bad reaction to the local anaesthesia during surgery, the team held my hand, distracted and reassured me that everything was fine (and it was!).

“I think if my husband was with me, he would have freaked me out more!”

The staff were generally really friendly (although I think being able to speak Cantonese did help) and would respond quickly when you called them. The Queen Elizabeth hospital lactation consultants were available once a day and were a great help, although you may have to seek them out actively. The best part, paying the $600 bill by octopus card!

Sassy Mama Tip: Prepare yourself as much as you can in terms of what to expect, the procedures, any COVID restrictions, and what to pack in your hospital bag (eye mask, earplugs, power bands and snacks are a must!).  I attended a brilliant public hospital workshop at Annerley and I think this really help set my expectations and allowed me to have a positive birth experience despite not having my partner with me.

Read More: Birth Stories, The Veggie Wifey — “I gave birth in the hospital lobby”

Farrah De Sousa, mum of two. Gave birth at Queen Mary Hospital in October 2022

I found the overall experience at Queen Mary Hospital and in the public system to be good. In my experience, the doctors were informative and caring on admission for my c-section delivery.

“The nurses in the ward were very busy and you need to speak up if you require assistance.”

It’s also quite noisy on the ward at night so take earphones if you want to get some sleep. It’s no secret that the food is awful so it’s better to have someone bring you meals and snacks. Visitors were allowed during visiting hours and drop-offs and deliveries were accepted anytime.

hong kong public hospital birth pregnancy newborn baby

Tarana Desai Shah, mum of one. Delivery at Queen Mary Hospital in 2013

“Queen Mary Hospital has given me a second chance at life.”

This is no exaggeration – my experience of the hospital pre and post-delivery has been nothing short of the gold standard. I had a very smooth pregnancy and had planned to deliver at a very prestigious private hospital. But an emergency at 36 weeks saw me transferred to Queen Mary Hospital. The doctors were experienced enough to deal with an “Aortic Dissection“ (even though they had not come across a case like mine in decades) as they patiently explained to us what was wrong with me as a layman.

“They worked fast to plan an emergency c-section, followed by a gruelling 12-hour heart surgery, all within 24 hours of admission.”

My daughter was initially kept in the NICU for observation. They encouraged breastfeeding as soon as I got back my strength post my heart surgery. The positivity of the staff and constant encouragement around me helped me recuperate faster than I could imagine. I was ready to go home and put this entire ordeal behind me within 11 days of being admitted.

The icing on the cake was the fact that giving birth to Isha was cheaper than a meal at one of my favourite restaurants! I still continue to be a big fan of the public hospital system as I regularly visit them for six-monthly checkups, CT scans and medication collection. 

Elly Liu, mum of one. Delivery at United Christian hospital in 2018

I’d say the facilities are very good there and the fees are great. However, overall the experience was average. I was feeling really unwell after giving birth and it was really hard for me to move.

“They only provide basic care and comfort services which I personally think was not enough.”

I attended public hospital classes about what to expect after delivery and how to check if the baby is hungry or full. I did all the checkups they provided before giving birth. They also taught me how to breastfeed and what exercises I should do to recover better.

hong kong public hospital birth queen mary hospital

Jess Mizzi, mum of two. Delivery at Queen Mary Hospital in 2018, second delivery at Matilda Hospital in 2020

I didn’t have the best experience at Queen Mary Hospital. I practised Hypnobirthing as I knew that getting an epidural was highly dependent on the availability of an anaesthetist. Unfortunately, that meant I was a little too calm and the staff didn’t really take me seriously, even though I’d laboured at home for 12 hours. No one checked how far along I was until I screamed out and they realised I was ready to push.

“They told me “we’re a bit busy today, you’re going to have to wait a while!” My son was having none of that and was born within two hours.”

Unless you make a fuss you won’t get much attention (take note, anyone doing Hypnobirthing or CalmBirth). That said, I chose to go to the public hospital because of the medical care and it was good, as expected, and the pregnancy and delivery were without complications. 

Because of my experience, I took out a very comprehensive maternity insurance policy so I could give birth privately the second time around.

Read More: Your Guide To Family Health Insurance And Maternity Cover In Hong Kong

Maura Thompson, mum of two. First delivery at Queen Mary Hospital in 2013, second delivery at Matilda Hospital in 2016

The medical care at Queen Mary was great. If I were to change anything it would have been to ask for an epidural earlier. Once I decided I wanted one, my request came in too late and the anesthesiologist was busy so I couldn’t get it. The strict visiting hours made it hard to feel comfortable when you have to be away from friends and family. But for me, I actually turned this into one of the most positive parts of my public hospital stay as it allowed my daughter and me to have an amazing bonding time.

I opted for a public hospital birth after realising that my medical insurance didn’t cover the cost of delivering at a private hospital. We knew we would want another baby at some point so we made changes to our insurance plan ahead of time so it would allow for more coverage the second time around. I have no complaints about either decision.

hong kong public hospital birth pregnancy delivery skin to skin birth plan

Anthea Fernandes, mum of two. First delivery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2014, second at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2016

“Don’t go to a public hospital expecting to be pampered like a Princess.”

But it will help you get into the groove of motherhood super quickly. The medical care I received in both hospitals was excellent! I preferred the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to Princess Margaret, but only because it was less crowded at the time I was there.

Anita Balagopalan, mum of two. First delivery at a hospital in India in 2013, second at Queen Mary Hospital in 2015

My first delivery was a disaster. In comparison, the medical care at Queen Mary was outstanding! I  didn’t get an epidural (though I had been harping about it for two hours), but active labour happened in such a flash, it wasn’t missed either. I didn’t have a birth plan but verbally instructed the staff that I wanted immediate skin-to-skin contact. That was done and most of my requests were listened to (except the epidural, of course!). The staff dealt with my panic about breastfeeding very gently and it ended up being so easy and natural.

Read more: The Fourth Trimester: What To Expect When You’re No Longer Expecting

Editor’s note:  Preparing To Give Birth In A Hong Kong Public Hospital was most recently updated in January 2023.

  Main image courtesy of Christian Bowen via Unsplash, image 1 courtesy of Pexels, image 2courtesy of Getty, image 3 courtesy of Robert Bussey on Unsplash, image 4 courtesy of Jonathan Borba via Pexels, image 5 courtesy of Charles Eugene via Unsplash, image 6 courtesy of Jess Mizzi, image 7 courtesy of Solen Feyissa via Unsplash.

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