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need some advice on first birth (in foreign country without support network)

Forum: Labor and Childbirth


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March 26th, 2011, 01:58 AM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 10
Hi there-
I'm new to the boards. My husband and I are Americans living in a city about 2.5 hours south of Seoul, Korea. I'm a grad student doing research here (so do speak Korean) and my husband is doing the English teaching thing (he doesn't speak/understand much Korean). We're expecting our first baby in August (I'm 20 weeks now). I know this is a very personal decision, but I'm having a heck of a time deciding on the best place/way to give birth. We're not going back to the US because it's just not convenient for us, and we have no insurance there currently.

Here are the options:
1) Get a midwife to come down from the Seoul area, bring her stuff with her, for a natural home birth. This will be about $2,200 US. There is also a doula who will travel with her for another $1,200 or so. This option is by far the most comfortable for me, but the cost is the highest. It makes my husband a little nervous, though. There IS a fully equipped hospital with a doctor I know and like literally just minutes from our apartment, in case any complications arise. I like this option because I feel like I would be very relaxed and in control, and not rushed. But the price is, like I said, higher than other options.

2. Go up to Seoul before/while in labor (probably by taxi, fairly cheap here) for a midwife clinic birth with a doula. This would cut about $1,200 off the total cost. But traveling for a first labor does make me a little nervous.

3. Give birth in the hospital near my house, where they have a low c-section rate, but I am still likely to get more interventions (enema, shaving and episiotomy are just routine here in Korea, and very hard to negotiate about). I MAY be able to find one doula who will travel on her own down here. Birthing costs at hospital would be about $1,000 total, and doula about another $1,000. So the costs would be similar to going to Seoul. But it would be more comfortable to be closer to home. The downsides are most likely more interventions, and I wouldn't want to do it without a support person like a doula, I don't think.

What are you opinions? I am having such a hard time making a decision.
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March 26th, 2011, 03:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: New Zealand
Posts: 320
i like decision 2 depending how long the travell time is. if you go while your contractions are furtherist apart it shouldnt be to uncomfortable. alot of birthing centers let u birth ur way (although i dont know about korea lol) and it saves money without going to a hospital. goodluck i hope u have a great birth

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March 26th, 2011, 05:28 AM
Quantum_Leap's Avatar frequent flier
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Seattle area, Washington
Posts: 9,756
Welcome to the boards! I don't come on this particular forum much, but I saw your post and had to respond. It sounds like our stories are quite similar. My first pregnancy and birth (in 2009) were in Kuwait, and I'm currently living in Chengdu, China, and pregnant with my second. For a variety of reasons, we've decided to have this second baby back home in the U.S. this summer with a midwife. I'm not quite sure what the birth culture in Korea is like, but I'd imagine that there are a lot of similarities between there and China -- high C-section rate (here it's 45%! ), heavy on intervention, etc. There are no midwives or doulas available here, either, and I was absolutely unwilling to have the baby in a Chinese hospital, so our choices were either unassisted hombirth here or homebirth in the U.S. So that's where we are. But I totally understand the struggle over insurance, midwife fees, etc.

If I were you, I would probably choose to go with option #2. It sounds like the best middle ground between the three options. Since this is your first birth, you don't really have an idea of how long your labor might take, whether you will go early/late, etc. (Obviously, every pregnancy is different, but at least with having had one baby already I have some idea that I tend to go fast). If you went with option #1, I'm not sure when you'd be planning on bringing the midwife up, but you might end up fronting her hotel costs and stuff for several weeks while you wait and wait to go into labor. That, or you might go super-fast and she might not make it to the birth at all! I would also try to avoid option #3 if I were you, just because at ANY hospital, anywhere in the world, you are pretty much going to end up with more interventions than you might want. Even in Kuwait, where birth culture is quite a bit less interventionist than it is in the U.S., I ended up with an unwanted (and not consented-for) episiotomy, among other things. They're pretty much going to make you lie down on the bed, have continuous monitoring, etc., which means in most cases that labor is going to be more painful and not go as well. That's my personal take on it, anyway (having experienced a hospital birth once, I would never willingly choose one again). Just my

If you DO decide to go with option #3, I would strongly suggest that you try laboring at home for as long as possible and only go in to the hospital after you're absolutely sure that you're in labor and that baby's arrival is imminent! That's what I did (got to the hospital dilated to a 7, and Charlie was born 1 hr. later), and I think I helped avoid a few unnecessary interventions that way.

Good luck, whatever you decide! This is an intensely personal decision, but I just want you to know that there are others who have been/are in your shoes!

ETA: Also wanted to point out that if you do choose to go with a home birth, the process of getting the child a birth certificate and passport afterwards could end up being fairly complicated and frustrating. Not saying it would be impossible, but (as I'm sure you well know) foreign bureaucracies can be a headache to deal with.

Thank you to the SSMC makers for my beautiful siggies!

(x2)(x2)(October 2011)

Last edited by Quantum_Leap; March 26th, 2011 at 05:52 AM.
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April 8th, 2011, 03:41 AM
Mega Super Mommy
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Southern Germany
Posts: 4,654
That's a hard decision. You are fortunate to speak the local language though. I gave birth to my first in Germany (my husband is German, I am American) and one of the hardest things was the language barrier. DH had to translate everything.

I like option 2, but I think 2.5 hours is too far to drive. You never know how fast your labor will go a

And sitting in the car while in labor is extremely painful because you are stuck in one position!

If I were you I would go with the hospital birth. If the hospital is only minutes from your house you can labor at home right up until then end which will hopefully keep you from any unwanted interventions.
He's here!
Cody Ryan
December 3, 2013 at 433 pm
7 lbs 6 oz, 21 inches
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April 8th, 2011, 11:35 PM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 10
Thanks for the replies. I think I have made my decision to go up near Seoul for the birth. 2.5 hours would be long to travel during labor, but my plan now is to go up early (maybe around August 6th- my due date is August 12th, and I have heard that more first babies are late). I would stay in a motel- pretty cheap in Korea.

Of course, if I were to go into labor early and it seemed that it was progressing quickly, it's great that I have the hospital next to my apartment as a back-up (where I will be receiving the remainder of my prenatal care, starting next month). I would love to just labor at home as long as possible and go to the hospital near me (as this would be the easiest option) but I don't think I can get a doula to travel down here from Seoul. I would be much more comfortable with a doula helping me, I think.
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