Moving to another country can and should be an exciting prospect. However, suppose your family has just learned the joyous news that a baby is on the horizon. Now, being far from home takes on a whole new meaning.
The success of any relocation endeavour, whether within one’s own country or to a foreign land, depends on sound preparation. Although medical care should be at the top of the list, advice about medical care providers is more often than not missing from relocation packages, particularly for international moves. If you are having a baby, especially for the first time, be proactive and learn as much as possible about care and caregivers in your prospective country – before your baby’s birth.
Learn the Basics
The “norm” for medical care varies tremendously around the world; therefore, begin by learning the protocol for your country. Be clear about:
1. Who to contact first, i.e. a primary care physician or a specialist such as an obstetrician or a paediatrician.
2. Pre- and post-natal procedures.
3. Typical diets for mothers and formulas for newborns.
4. The thinking and care for breast-feeding.
5. Where to obtain medicines (pharmacists or physicians) and what medicines and supplements are available.
6. Whether the hospital has an Emergency Care or Trauma Care Center (not all do). Know which facility you will need and then mark down addresses (with directions) and telephone numbers.
7. How extensive your health insurance coverage will be. Learn if it will be accepted at both public and private facilities, what procedures are covered, what your out-of-pocket expenses will be and when payment will be expected.
8. The available modes of transportation for the trip to the hospital.
If you are not sure of the procedure to obtain the best prenatal and obstetrical care, contact your local Embassy for recommendations on preferred clinics or hospitals. Also, other expatriate networks such as local women’s clubs can be an invaluable resource to find quality medical care and a doctor who speaks your language. Visit the Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) site for medical information in countries around the world and English speaking doctors in 300 plus cities.
In some countries, you can visit obstetricians without referrals, and in others a midwife is normal for deliveries. Inquire about paediatricians and their roles. For instance, will they commence care in the hospital, or afterward? Arrange an interview in advance with anyone who will be overseeing you and your baby’s care. Give some thought to what you prefer for in-hospital care, i.e. baby rooming, nursery care and breast- or bottle-feeding.
Your ‘To-Do’ List
1. Find a doctor or midwife who speaks your language, and know if the they will be on hand for delivery, or if you will be cared for by whoever is on call.
2. Discuss delivery options (natural or Caesarean-section) and types of sedation (anaesthesia or epidurals).
3. Understand the baby’s neo-natal care while in the hospital, as well as after discharge. You or a close family member should keep a log of activities and care.
American parents must report the birth of any child born overseas to the nearest American consular office to establish an official record of the child’s claim to his/her citizenship at birth. The required document is referred to as Consular Report of Birth or FS-240, and considered a basic United States citizenship document. An original FS-240 is furnished to the parent(s) at the time the registration is approved. This report should be prepared by a parent, but in some instances, could be filled out by the physician or midwife attending the birth.
In 2005, ExpatExchange.com conducted an interesting survey entitled Having a Baby Abroad. Here are some excerpts* from their survey responses:
Paris, France: “Having birth here was a wonderful experience. I was lucky to get into a private hospital, which fills up very quickly. The care was wonderful and the birth mostly by a midwife.”
Hong Kong: “I was in the hospital with our new, very healthy baby for nearly a week. Every day the new Mums gathered in the hall for exercise time. The care was wonderful.”
Bulach, Switzerland: “I had only the lowest public insurance which determined a lot. I had a c-section (kaisserschnitt) and was only given paracetamol (ibuprofen) which did little to help.”
Oxfordshire, UK: “I used a midwife and labored in bath water and aromatherapy oils but gave birth in bed. Later, I was visited in my home by a midwife, until she felt confident that all was well.”
The First Trip Home – Or Anywhere
When booking travel, consider your infant’s wake/sleep schedule. Off-peak times can be less busy, and overnight flights sometimes work well because that is when children naturally fall asleep. Children under two years of age can sit on the lap of an adult, or on a separate airline seat with an FAA approved car seat. You will need to apply for a passport for your baby noting dates of travel.
Take all the staples you usually carry in your child’s diaper bag—enough for at least one full day. Include diapers, wet wipes, plastic bags (for diapers and clothes), a small blanket, change of clothes (maybe even one for you), sweater with a hood (airplanes can be drafty), snacks, formula, water and juice and a pacifier that clips to the child’s clothing. Take any extra items you can manage, and be prepared for possible delays.
A Few Flying Tips
1. Some people choose not to book seats next to each other for long flights, so they can take turns resting and caring for the child.
2. Allow plenty of time for check-in – and connecting flights.
3. Be first on and last off for a better chance of assistance from cabin crew.
4. A few weeks before departure, check your airline’s website for information about flying with an infant.
5. Inquire about whether your flight is full when you check in. If not, there may be a possibility of having the seat next to you blocked out.
The most important aspect for a pregnancy in any foreign country, and especially for a first-time parent, is to be prepared. Understanding the protocol and procedures of the country will go a long way to set your mind at ease and help you to enjoy this special time in your life.
1. Airline seats for children, 1.800.FAA.SURE or www.faa.gov for car seat specifications.
2. FOCUS Information Services.
3. Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) www.iamat.org
4. Overseas birth registration http://www.alleghenycounty.us/wo/foreign.aspx
5. WICE (Women’s Institute for Continuing Education) www.wice-paris.org
About The Author
Beverly D. Roman of BR Anchor Publishing, Jacksonville, FL, has written over 30 domestic and international relocation books for adults and children of all ages. To read sample chapters, book reviews and school studies, visit www.branchor.com. Contact Beverly at firstname.lastname@example.org or Amy Roman, Publisher at email@example.com or 800.735.9209 for more information.
* ExpatExchange.com survey results reprinted with permission from Betsy Burlingame, President, ExpatExchange.
This article first published on www.Expatwomen.com