Five things you should know about maternity in Hong Kong

Picture of a pregnant woman

Being pregnant in a foreign country is not always a smooth experience. To help you enjoy your pregnancy peacefully, discover everything that you need to know about maternity in Hong Kong, from choosing your hospital and doctor to some useful advice to make your 9 months a pleasant experience.

Where to give birth: Public VS Private Maternity

Hong Kong possesses one of the best healthcare systems in the world and you will be able to choose between many reputable private facilities as well as excellent public hospitals. But in order to be fully aware of all the differences between the public and private sectors, here are the main pros and cons of each of them:

Pros of private hospitals and clinics

  • First of all, you will receive a great support throughout your pregnancy. Prenatal visits with a private obstetrician are regular and consistent. You can also enjoy the services of midwifes, who will help you maintain your pregnancy smoothly and be fully prepared for your delivery. In public hospitals however, antenatal checkups are kept at a minimum and you often have to wait a few hours before each consultation.
  • You can choose to stay in a private room, while in the public sector you will most of the time share the space with someone else (there can be up to 10 patients in the same room!).
  • All practitioners speak fluent English. In public facilities, most staff only speaks Cantonese and/or Mandarin.
  • While only Chinese food is on the menu in public hospitals, you will have access to many international food options.
  • If you choose to follow-up your pregnancy in a private facility, your obstetrician will also be the one who delivers your baby. In the public sector, you cannot choose your doctor and there are chances your baby will be delivered by a midwife or a doctor-in-training.
  • Finally, in public facilities, partners are not always allowed in the labor ward or in the delivery room.

Pros of public hospitals

  • The biggest advantage of public hospitals is probably the very low cost of deliveries. Having a baby in the private sector is indeed extremely expensive.
  • In case of emergency, public hospitals are the best-equipped to handle unusual situations. Private hospitals actually transfer their patients to public facilities in case of complications or medical emergency. As a result, if you have a complicated pregnancy, the only solution might be to go public.
  • If you choose to give birth in a private hospital, note that your spot is not guaranteed on the day of your delivery and the hospital has the possibility to turn you away. On the contrary, a public hospital has the obligation to admit you and provide you with labor facilities.
  • The C-section rate in much lower in public hospitals, which is a great thing for women who prefer natural birth.

In Hong Kong, both models are great for different reasons. To balance the costs, some women also choose to do their prenatal routine in the private sector (checkups, labor preparation…) and to give birth in a public hospital. Just make sure that you establish your priorities to choose the right solution for you.

How to choose the right doctor

There are many questions that you need to ask yourself before choosing your obstetrician. First of all, note that if you choose to give birth in a public hospital, you will probably have a different doctor for every prenatal checkup as well as for the day of your delivery.

On the contrary, in the private sector, you will have plenty of options regarding doctors and midwives. Don’t hesitate to visit several hospitals and meet with a few obstetricians/gynecologists. Depending on the kind of birth that you favor (natural birth or C-section), you can start by asking them about their statistics and how they routinely work. Also, them tell in advance all your requirements and preferences regarding your delivery but also your prenatal follow-up. Ask them how much they will assist you during labor: some can be there during the early stages of labor, while some others will only assist you for the delivery. Finally, simply ask them all the questions that you have in mind, even if they are about small details – you will feel much more confident on the day of your delivery.

Living your pregnancy in Hong Kong

Living your pregnancy away from home can sometimes be a little stressful, so make sure you get all the help you need. To begin with, know that in Hong Kong it is very common to use the services of a midwife or a doula (a woman whose role is to help you live your pregnancy smoothly and be fully prepared for your delivery). If you choose to follow up your pregnancy in the public sector, birth preparation classes are often given in Cantonese and they can sometimes be quite basic. As a result, many women hire a private midwife to have more in-depth preparation and advice. Your midwife can also be there during your labor and delivery, which can be a great support and make the situation less stressful for you.

In addition to medical follow-up and advice, don’t forget to take time to relax during your pregnancy. Many studios in Hong Kong offer for instance pre-natal yoga classes, which will allow you to feel less stressed and overwhelmed, but also to meet other pregnant women who you will be able to share your experience with. Prenatal massages can also be a great solution to get rid of your pregnancy aches and pains or get advice on simple exercises you can do at home to prevent back or joint problems.

Your delivery

On the day of your delivery, simply go to the hospital or clinic you chose. On arrival at a public hospital, you will be sent directly to a labor ward (or to a delivery room if the moment has come). There are chances you will share the ward with other women and most of the time, husbands and midwives are not allowed in.

Even if you can’t choose your birth plan in a public hospital, medical intervention rates are extremely high and the rate of caesarian deliveries is among the highest in the developed world. However, note that epidurals are not really encouraged and many women complain that they had to wait for a very long time and ask several times for pain relief.

Your partner might then be able to join for the delivery itself, but once the baby is born, he will only be able to visit you on very limited hours and most of the time, other relatives or siblings won’t be allowed in (including your other children or close family). In public hospitals, mothers are encouraged to keep their newborn with them at all time after the delivery. If no complication arose, you should be able to go home with your newborn two to three days after the delivery.

On arrival at a private hospital, the staff will make sure that the birth plan you chose is followed. Your baby will be delivered by the obstetrician who followed-up your pregnancy, often assisted by a midwife. Your partner will be able to be with you the whole time as well as your private midwife if you have one.

In private hospital, babies are often kept in nurseries, although you also have the possibility to keep them with you. Your partner is allowed to be with you without restriction and can even sleep at the hospital if you booked a room in advance. You will also receive regular checks from midwives, pediatricians and nurses.

However, as private hospitals have their own advantages, if any complication arises or if the maternity ward is full on the day of your arrival, you will be sent directly to the nearest public hospital to deliver your baby.

The real costs

If you are pregnant or consider having a baby in Hong Kong, you probably had the occasion to look into the costs of a pregnancy, which are known to be extremely high in the private sector. The costs of prenatal care and giving birth in a private facility are usually ranked between HK$70,000 and HK$300,000, or sometimes even more. Also, in case of complications, the bill can mount up extremely fast.

In the public sector, you can benefit from a maternity care for around HK$300 to HK$1,500, regardless of any complication, emergency care or how much time your baby needs to stay in the ICU. The only condition to enjoy these minimal costs is to be a Hong Kong resident and to hold a valid HKID card.

How to cope with maternity costs

In Hong Kong, every woman has the privilege to access world-class medical care, in both private and public sectors. However, maternity costs can mount up really fast and be a real burden for mothers-to-be.

What solutions does APRIL offer you?

To help you cope with your maternity expenses no matter what option you choose, APRIL offers you two tailor-made solutions:

  • If you are covered by our MyHEALTH insurance plan, APRIL will cover all your expenses up to your plan’s limit (consultation fees, midwife services, vitamins and supplements…)
  • If you give birth in a hospital of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, MyHEALTH also offers you the possibility to receive a maternity cash benefit. This cash envelope up to the value of US$3,000 will cover all your medical expenses in a public facility. With the rest of your money, you can enjoy any additional service you like: additional checkups, services of a private midwife, even prenatal yoga classes or massages – there is no restriction, you can spend this money on whatever you like to help you live your pregnancy smoothly.

To learn more about our solutions to cover your maternity expenses, don’t hesitate to contact [dot] hk [at] april [dot] com (contact our advisors) today.

 

Date of publication June 26, 2017