I gave birth to my kids abroad. They were both born in Miami, Florida while I stayed with my husband’s parents. We knew from the start that we’d have the kids in the USA, not in the Philippines nor in Qatar.
I know the thought of giving birth overseas can be unsettling. You are far from your family and friends. You have little or no experience and knowledge of the hospital system or giving birth in a foreign country.
So I have made a checklist of things you need to consider before giving birth abroad.
I think it’s good to know your budget, and best to talk about this with your partner. If you know your budget, it will be easy for you to decide on most things. Private or public hospital or home? Home country or host country or another country? How many tickets do you need to purchase? Monthly food allowance? Car rental or public transportation? Daycare or homeschooling or babysitter? Oh, let’s not forget the never-ending baby items – new or used?
Where are you going to give birth? In your host country? In your home country? What about your food, housing, and transportation? Do you need a visa to stay there? How long can you stay there? Remember the whole experience will take longer than you hope. So anticipate. Do your research. Ask other expat moms.
My experience: I was lucky that my husband’s parents were there to support me. Well, that’s the primary reason why we chose Miami. I didn’t have to worry about food and housing. Also since they are retired, they drove me to the clinic or hospital or wherever I needed to go. I went there on my 32nd week until my 6th-week postpartum checkup and baby’s baptism before going back to Qatar, so that’s 4 months of stay in the USA. As an expat in Qatar, we can’t be out of the country for more than 6 months.
3. Flight regulations for flying while pregnant
Each airline has its own regulations for flying while pregnant. So pay attention to this when traveling on different airlines. Depending on the airline and how far along are you, you will need a doctor’s certificate and/or other supporting documents.
I was 23 weeks pregnant here
Do you have insurance? Does it cover maternity? Is it local only or worldwide? Is it full coverage or partial coverage? Do you need to pay upfront and be reimbursed by your insurer later, or will the hospital bill the insurer directly? Giving birth in the US can be very expensive. It will cost you an arm and a leg if you don’t have insurance. If you don’t have insurance, do you have just-in-case money?
My experience: In Qatar, we use Allianz Care, but it doesn’t cover maternity. So we have to use our US health insurance BlueCross BlueShield. I had to send claim forms every checkup towards our $1,000 deductible. I also needed to send them a copy of all laboratory tests and prescriptions. Once I met my deductible, I was covered 100%.
5a. Clinic and Check-ups
Which clinic are you going to visit for your prenatal and postnatal checkups? Remember you may still be making weekly visits there by the last months of your pregnancy. Do you need an English-speaking doctor? Do you prefer a midwife? Do you want a female doctor? Are there laboratory tests you haven’t done in your country? Once you’ve decided on the clinic, give them a call and set an appointment. Don’t forget to bring all your checkup and laboratory records.
5b. Hospital and delivery experience
I know finding the right doctor and hospital while abroad can be quite tough.
If you have insurance, you need to check their network of hospitals and/or obstetricians? Obstetricians usually have preferred hospitals for delivery, so it makes sense to choose the doctor first and then ask where they prefer to do the delivery. Alternatively, if you prefer a particular hospital, ask them for a list of obstetricians that work there.
If you have no insurance and cost is an issue, ask local friends or expat community about the cheapest hospitals and doctors. Do you prefer a private or public hospital? Or would you rather have home delivery?
How long will it take to get to the hospital from your house? Are you going directly to the Emergency Department or to the Maternity Triage Department? At what stage of labor do they recommend you come to the hospital?
What kind of birth do you want? Waterbirth? Natural with epidural delivery? Natural drug-free delivery? Elective C-section? If you are post 40 weeks, do want to be induced?
If you want a birth attendant with you, what are the hospital restrictions? How many people can attend your birth? Do they allow videos or photos being taken in the birthing room?
Is the baby kept in a nursery and just brought to you for feeding? Or do they keep the baby in the mother’s room? How many days do they recommend that you stay in the hospital?
What will be in your hospital bag? Is the hospital going to provide anything?
My experience: I gave birth at Baptist Hospital. It is a private hospital, and I really enjoyed my birth experience. The hospital has state-of-the-art facilities, and all the staff was very attentive and professional. I had pre-registered, so when I showed up for the delivery, they already have my personal and insurance details. My OB adviced me to go to the hospital when the labor pain was longer and more frequent, and straight to the Maternity Triage. Earlier than that, you will be sent home. I had epidural anesthesia for my first birth. I would’ve opted for an epidural again for my second birth, but it was so fast, they didn’t have time anymore. I had given birth within two hours. Both deliveries were normal and natural. For normal deliveries, I had to stay for a minimum of 48 hours in the hospital.
I can have 3 people in the birthing room, but only one person at a time in the private room. The hospital provided many things like maternity pads and panties, Pampers diapers and wipes, baby blanket, and thermometer. I just needed to bring clothes, towel, and toiletries. They have a canteen where I can order by telephone and they will deliver it. It is part of the hospital payment, so I don’t need to pay. However, I had to pay for visitors’ orders. The ward has a water and ice dispenser, so I can easily hydrate myself anytime. The entire maternity checkups and delivery cost me $5,000 – $6,000.
6. Other children
Do you have other children with you? Or are you going to leave them with their grandparents? If they are with you, who is going to take care of them while you’re gone? Are you going to send them to daycare? Homeschool? Or call for a babysitter?
My experience: During my second pregnancy, I had Charles sent to daycare. At least, he was occupied the whole day. My father-in-law dropped him off and picked him up from the daycare. My mother-in-law helped prepare the food. It was truly a big blessing to have the grandparents around.
7. Baby’s paperwork
You need to decide which citizenship(s) your child will hold and if the country they are born into will grant automatic citizenship. Do you need to apply for citizenship by descent and a passport from your own country of nationality?
Depending on which country, you may need to report the birth to the embassy. The embassy can also provide all the information you need for citizenship/passport application.
My experience: One day after the delivery, the hospital applied for Social Security for my kids on my behalf. I am a Filipino, and my husband is Jamaican (now American). But we chose for our kids to only have US passports. We filled out an application form, brought the birth certificate and photo, and parents’ IDs to USPS when applying for the passport. The passport was ready in 2 weeks and the passport card was ready in 4 weeks. The original birth certificate was returned to us in 6 weeks.
8. Baby stuff
Are you going to have a baby shower? What is your budget? Who will attend your baby shower since it’s abroad? Do you have a baby registry? Are you going to open a baby registry?
My experience: Since it’s a ‘foreign’ country, I didn’t need to buy everything new. I was only going to stay there for a few months. There are items which I can buy used. My mother-in-law borrowed a crib for us. My sister-in-law gave me her old electronic breast pump, I just need to buy new parts and bottles. For my first pregnancy, I had a baby registry. I didn’t bother for the second time since I still have a lot of baby items from my first pregnancy. I also didn’t bother buying big items – it’d be a pain to send them to Qatar plus expensive.
Since your support network of family and old friends is physically not available, research what support groups and resources are available in your area – new mothers groups, breastfeeding groups, lactation consultants, and support for postnatal depression. For new expat moms, this may be hard on the initial phase but just hang in there.
My second delivery in Miami, Florida
10. Going Home
Do you already have a date to go back to your country? Are you going to wait for your 6th-week checkup? Are you also going to wait for your baby’s one-month checkup and vaccination? Which airline? How many plane tickets? Who will be traveling with you? Are your bags packed? Feel free to check out what’s in my diaper bag.
My experience: We went back to Qatar after 6 weeks on my first pregnancy and 12 weeks on my second pregnancy. They both had their Baptism/Christening in the USA. My husband was also traveling back with me.
We are going back to Qatar after my second pregnancy.
I hope this post will help you prepare and have a pleasant birth experience abroad. If you’re willing to share your experience, please leave a comment.
Are you considering giving birth abroad? Do you have any questions or concerns? Have you given birth abroad? What other tips you would add to the list?
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