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I'm a New Zealander who gave birth in Thailand. I felt supported, and the Thai food was delicious.

Elen Turner and her baby
Elen Turner

  • I'm from New Zealand and my husband is from Nepal, but our baby was born in Bangkok.
  • I arrived in Thailand at 35 weeks pregnant and gave birth in a private hospital.
  • I was sent home with an enormous basket of baby essentials.

Despite being a New Zealander married to a Nepali and living in Kathmandu, I gave birth in Bangkok

The most important thing is that my obstetrician in Kathmandu told me that if I had the financial means to leave Nepal to give birth, I should. My pregnancy was uncomplicated, but this was the advice she gave all her patients. 

With expat medical insurance that covered childbirth, I had the means, so I went.  

I arrived weeks before giving birth

After arriving in Bangkok at 35 weeks pregnant, I met my Thai obstetrician at the private hospital I'd booked. She was a gentle woman in her 30s who put me at ease. 

I was given a questionnaire about my birth preferences. I could opt for a vaginal or cesarean birth, but my insurance only covered caesareans in emergencies. 

My doctor reviewed my files from Nepal, gave me a scan, confirmed that everything looked good, and scheduled another checkup in a week. 

At about 37 weeks, I went into a brief false labor. After that, I was called back in for more regular checkups. 

Early one Sunday morning, my doctor took longer than usual with my scan. I was told we had a problem. I started to cry, but my doctor explained that it might not be a big problem. But I'd need an emergency cesarean as there was something wrong with the placenta. 

They considered inducing birth, but my doctor thought this would probably fail, and that I'd need surgery anyway — so better to cut to the chase.

I wasn't emotionally attached to giving birth vaginally, so I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was relieved to bypass a potentially long, painful labor. The cesarean wasn't unnecessary or forced on me, as I'd heard they often were in Nepal and elsewhere. 

I felt supported and encouraged by the doctors and nurses, and I felt confident relying on their knowledge and experience.

The postpartum care was excellent

After my daughter's birth, I stayed in a private room with an en suite bathroom. I was visited by a lactation consultant, given help with showering and going to the toilet, and given an elasticized girdle to support recovery from surgery, and my husband slept on the spare bed. 

I was served meals that were more like restaurant food than the colorless, smelly boiled cabbage I'd heard about in New Zealand. The only problem was when they served a Thai curry too hot for me. My husband ate it instead, and we laughed about how Anglo New Zealanders sometimes advise pregnant women or nursing mothers not to eat spicy food. It wasn't the last bit of parental "wisdom" we realized was totally culturally constructed.

The only thing I'd do differently if I had that time again was ask for my daughter to be kept beside me. She was taken to the nursery when I wasn't feeding her, although I'd assumed she would sleep in the same room as me. But I was overwhelmed and tired and willing to go along with what everyone else thought best. At least I got a tiny bit of sleep.

I was discharged after four nights with an enormous basket of newborn essentials and not-so-essentials, barely able to walk after the surgery and wondering how on earth I was going to look after this little creature without round-the-clock help from professionals. 

We managed, I recovered from surgery well, and we now have a 5-year-old who is incredibly proud to have been born in Bangkok. I'm so grateful for the experience, too.

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