Many expats are reluctant to give birth in Indonesia due to the unfamiliarity and mistrust of the medical system. Another common concern is simply being stuck in traffic during labour. Expats may also have inadequate medical insurance coverage or prefer to be in the comforts of their home country with family nearby. I had two children under the age of three when I was expecting my third child, so it was logistically easier for us to stay in Jakarta for the birth. Here are some things you may like to consider if you are expecting during your time in Indonesia.
RETURNING TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY FOR THE BIRTH
Flying home can have its own complications. For instance, most airlines will not allow pregnant women to fly after 36 weeks of pregnancy. During the pregnancy, you may be required to fly home on several occasions for further OBGYN appointments and to arrange the administrative side of your labour ahead of time.
Other issues to consider are:
- Where will you stay and who will help take care of you after the birth?
- If you have existing children, will they fly out with you at the same time and be absent from school for up to five months? Will your children stay in Indonesia without you?
- Who will take care of you children during the labour and after the baby is born?
- How much time can your husband take off work?
- When will your husband fly out for the birth? The due date is not always an accurate prediction of the birth date.
- You cannot return to Indonesia until your new baby has had its new-born vaccinations. This may take several months to complete.
- Your new-born must also have a new passport and all of its official paperwork ready to be able to fly back into Indonesia.
WOULD I RECOMMEND GIVING BIRTH IN INDONESIA?
Based on my experience, yes. It is so much more practical than flying home and if it’s a healthy pregnancy with no risks or health issues, then I would highly recommend it. Many of my friends have also had positive experiences here. The births have ranged from easy, natural deliveries to complicated emergency caesarean sections. To put it into perspective, giving birth is a natural process and women have been doing this since the start of human civilisation without too much medical intervention required. In fact, many women from Western countries actually elect to give birth at home without any doctors or medical equipment. The key to deciding is to follow your intuition; do research by talking to other women and hearing their experiences, and then seek professional advice from your doctor.
I had regular check-ups and appointments with an OBGYN recommended by many of my expat friends. This OBGYN is popular in Jakarta amongst expat women because he speaks English, is highly skilled and open to natural birthing options, such as allowing a Doula to be present during the birth.
Compared to my previous pregnancy in America, I found that my Indonesian OBGYN was very thorough with prenatal care and the consultation process was highly efficient. My OBGYN met me for every appointment and spent time to discuss my progress. Every scan or test was comfortably completed in my Doctor’s suite. In America, my prenatal appointments were actually with nurses and not the actual OBGYN. Each test and scan were also completed in various locations and clinics throughout the city.
In comparison to my other prenatal care in Singapore, Indonesia was on par and offered the same level of care and expertise.
LABOUR AND BIRTH OF THE BABY
One of the greatest advantages of giving birth in Indonesia is having immediate access to a private birthing lounge as soon as your contractions begin. In Australia and America, hospitals will generally not accept patients until their contractions are five to ten minutes apart and labour is imminent. As soon as I felt contractions I was able to speak to my OBGYN directly on his mobile phone. He recommended that I travel to the hospital to be monitored immediately to avoid traffic.
I checked into Medistra Hospital with ease and was taken care of by a team of experienced and calming midwives. They spoke English and made me feel comfortable and confident with the process ahead. The nurses monitored my progress, keeping my OBGYN updated. My OBGYN checked in on me regularly and we discussed pain management options, birthing positions and addressed any other issues at hand.
During the labour I was relaxed knowing that our children were safe at home with our trusted nanny and that they would be taken care of. My husband stayed with me throughout the whole experience and was allowed to be in the room during the birth. After eight hours of strong contractions, I reached my pain threshold and begged my husband to arrange for an epidural. It was 4am and there was no anaesthetist at the hospital, so I had to wait a long hour for him to arrive and administer the magic potion.
The epidural was different to the one I had in Singapore, which left me completely numb and paralysed from the waist down. This time I could move my legs, and feel my contraction pains, allowing me to trust my body and push when I needed to. My OBGYN suggested alternative birthing positions that also greatly helped with the birth.
Once my son entered the world, the medical team did the quick new-born assessment on him and then immediately placed him on my chest for skin on skin contact. We were then allowed to bond with our new baby and were not rushed to hand him back for washing or measuring.
The hospital suite was large and comfortable with a great food menu. The nurses and hospital team were very helpful. They assisted my husband in arranging an Indonesian Birth Certificate and gave me exquisite aftercare with breast massages (to encourage breast milk production) and encouraged breastfeeding, rather than formula feeding. I didn’t feel bombarded by midwives offering conflicting advice or telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing. The three nights that I stayed in the hospital were very relaxing and I was isolated from the world, able to enjoy my Babymoon period. Overall, my hospital stay was very comfortable and accommodating and the whole experience from pregnancy to bringing a newborn baby home really exceeded my expectations.