Giving birth in another country gives a whole new meaning to “birth plan”. If you decide to go this route you are not alone. Birth tourism and migrating is becoming less expensive than rising healthcare cost in America. A birth plan abroad will require more than visiting hospitals and picking out a medical team. There will be legal and cultural obligations that one will become acutely aware of. My top ten list is meant to be a universal check-list for Americans that could be used in any country. However, my own experience is based out of Austria. Please, do you own research when deciding on a country to give birth in and trust your own instincts.
- Check with an immigration lawyer before leaving America. Immigration laws can change greatly with political climate. Do not rely on family/friends to give advice based on how it was for “Mrs. Johnson”. Every situation is unique, find out what your family is legally entitled to. Giving birth in another country does not necessarily entitle a baby to citizenship to that country and being born to an American citizen may not be enough for American citizenship. If you are an American having a child abroad, upon leaving the hospital register the birth with the local embassy as soon as medically possible.
- Educate and compare healthcare systems. Healthcare outside of America can cost less money, time and can be more comprehensive. No one system is perfect. Public healthcare can create longer waits and some doctors who are more concern with the amount of people they see verses quality of work. Healthcare providers are different and developing a relationship with doctors is very important.
- Start learning the dominate language to the country, if you are planning migrating permanently. Languages opens door professionally, personally and culturally. On one of the most stressful days a woman will encounter, an English speaking birthing team will be a lifesaver. In some countries, one will pay more for this luxury. It is also harder to find English speaking staff in rural areas. Find a hospital with nurses and a doctor that understand English fluently before the big day. Be flexible and speak slowly. Show appreciation for their efforts when hospital staff makes an effort to explain procedures in English. Nurses will be who you spend most of your time with in the delivery room.
- Visit the local embassy to the country you wish to give birth in. Learn about visas, resident cards and legal rights before leaving America. If you are married to a person from that country; have them come with. The person you are meeting from the embassy will trust a native more than a foreigner and will make the process easier.
- Bring copies of your criminal records. FBI checks and any other documents supporting legal documents. It is easier to receive these items in the US than it is abroad. FBI reports expire after three months. Try to hold off on retrieving these until a couple weeks before leaving.
- Have your fingerprints archived before leaving America. This is an insurance policy for anyone living outside the US and for any reason need criminal background check. It will save time and money.
- Do a hospital visit. Find out what the hospital will test for after birth, policy, how long is the typical stay in the hospital, vaccination process, and whatever you find important. Hospital policy on the birthing process is not universal. There are no stupid questions when it comes to giving birth.
- Create a birth plan that is flexible. Try to only pick a couple things that you wish to be concern with. Lengthy birth plans are hard for a medical team abide to. Remember that the medical team is at work, they have other patients and are human. Show them gratitude for their work, even if they cannot full fill all requests. If they already have a negative stereotype of Americans, one will not want to feed into it. People work harder for people they like.
- Prepare for cultural norms and the unexpected. Every country has their own cultural norms that might be different from what you are use to in the US. Try to assimilate as much as possible before the birthing process to avoid unexpected stress.
- Air travel while pregnant can be exhausting. Plan for lots of rest, lots of fluids and good nutrition. Get up and walk around the plane to avoid swollen feet. A note from medical staff, in America will help you get through international security. Plan for extra time, in air ports to avoid x-ray machines. Waiting for a female officer to do a pat down can be time consuming. However, one maybe unlikely to encounter a x-ray machines outside of American air ports
No Matter where in the world you give birth. Expect the unexpected. Birth plans can change in heart beat. Stress comes from how a person perceives a situation and unmet expectations. The more flexible a woman is with her birth plan will directly effect her perception of her birth experience. This top ten list is way to prepare.