The Ultimate Guide to Giving Birth in Saigon
My youngest child is nine years old, so all the details of giving birth have blurred a bit with time. However, I do remember that the closer I got to delivery, the more anxious I felt about all the decisions to be made before, during and after labour. As a pregnant woman away from your home country, I can only imagine that these anxieties are compounded. Well, City Pass Guide is here to hopefully set your mind at ease with our Guide to Giving Birth in Saigon.
I talked to a few mums and a birthing coach, and first off, let me assure you, there is a lot less to worry about than you might think. Everyone assured me that hospitals in Saigon are quite comparable to the care you would receive in any Western country. The facilities are clean and well equipped. The doctors are often trained in Western schools and adhere to widely accepted standards. Nurses are caring and helpful and many speak adequate English. As with most things in Vietnam, though, there are a few things to be aware of, so let’s get down to specifics.
Prenatal Care in Vietnam
You can receive prenatal care at any OBGYN in Saigon, though most people recommend FV Hospital or Hanh Phuc. Patients can expect monthly visits with doctors who are accommodating, friendly and willing to answer all of your questions. In fact, you can have the doctor’s phone number and email to reach her when necessary. You can also expect to have regular ultrasounds and prenatal testing. Prenatal vitamins and folic acid supplements are readily available at hospital pharmacies.
Both hospitals offer birthing classes where you can visit the birthing suites and where the midwives give tips for labour. These classes also focus a bit on hospital policy and procedure, which some new mums didn’t find helpful. For a more holistic approach to birthing, try a class at CMI or with Lactation Counselor and Birth Doula, Nellie Pilisi.
Nellie offers a six-hour class for both parents to attend. She covers breastfeeding, aftercare, partner support and creating a birth plan, among other topics. She is also available for lactation consulting, home visits, hospital advocacy and general support for new mums.
Some of the yoga studios in Saigon offer prenatal and postnatal yoga and fitness classes to help prepare your body for labour. Sivananda Yoga in D1, Mandala Wellness in D2, Yoga Sculpt and Shape in D3 and Yoga Joy Saigon in D7 offer prenatal yoga. Body Shape in D2 also offers prenatal fitness classes. Additionally, birthing classes, infant first aid and mummy meet-ups are held at Mandala Wellness. Please contact these venues for scheduling and prices, as they are subject to change based on demand.
How to Create a Plan for Giving Birth in Saigon
Most of the mums I spoke to highly recommended that you have a birth plan in place, especially if you want to have a natural, medication-free experience. Stephanie Cantrell, who has given birth to two babies in the last two years in Saigon, has a wonderful blog about giving birth and raising children here.
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If you’ve spent any amount of time in Saigon, you’ll know it can be difficult for people to diverge from the status quo, so it is helpful if your partner can be your advocate. As Stephanie said, “I think it’s important to have a pushy partner as well as an agreed on and signed off birth plan, if you’re going to really get what you want without constant hassle”. She suggests to be specific about what you want, but also keep it short, no more than one page, so that staff and doctors can take a quick glance.
Both Nellie and Stephanie stress that you need to create the birth plan with your partner and discuss the birth plan ahead of time with your doctor and get them to sign off on it a few weeks before your due date. Remember to keep copies of your birth plan during labour and delivery as a reference for staff. Finally, have a plan B, just in case you need to have an emergency procedure or an issue arises with your new baby.
If you’d like to get Stephanie Cantell’s first-hand account of giving birth in Saigon, check her blog here.
Labour and Delivery in HCMC Hospitals
There are only two choices of hospitals for giving birth for expats, FV Hospital and Hanh Phuc. FV Hospital has more English-speaking nurses; however, many mums still say they had a wonderful experience at Hanh Phuc. You will likely only see the doctor for the final moments of labour. For most of the time, you will be cared for by midwives.
If you have a birth plan, you can have many options for delivery, including if and when you receive pain medication; how you want to push; being free to eat, drink, and walk around; and scheduled C-section. Water birth seems to be the only option that is still not available in Saigon. Just remember to have that birth plan handy to remind all the staff of your wishes.
Be assured that both facilities have the necessary equipment, training and staff to make your labour as smooth as possible. In the unfortunate event that issues arise, they are also well equipped to take care of you and your baby. Premature births are handled onsite as well.
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Post Partum Care in Saigon
The midwives in both hospitals are knowledgeable about breastfeeding and aftercare and are available to help you at all hours of the day and night. In most cases, your baby will stay in your room, and either you or your partner will always have eyes on your new bundle of joy. For an additional fee per night, your partner will be provided a cot to sleep on in your private room. Unlike in most Western countries, mums can expect to stay in the hospital for at least three days for a natural birth and up to five days for birth by cesarean.
Unless there is an issue, there is no real aftercare once you leave the hospital. However, you can arrange for a midwife or doula to visit you. Additionally, Nelli Pilisi is available for visits, calls and Skype calls.
How to Get a Birth Certificate in Vietnam
This will likely be the most stressful part of having a baby in Vietnam. As with dealing with any government agency here, this process will be lengthy and full of paperwork. Unfortunately, laws change quickly and without warning in Vietnam, so don’t be surprised if you encounter some confusion.
To make it a bit easier, start the process before the birth. Prepare certified copies of your residency card and whole passports; a legalised, translated and a certified copy of your marriage certificate; and a copy of your landlord registration book.
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After the birth, you will receive a certified copy of the hospital delivery records. Make several certified copies of this, as you may need these for the passport application and visas. Next, you’ll need an affidavit of nationality from your consulate or embassy. Then, have this legalised, translated and certified.
Take all of your original and copied documents as well as an application to the Local Peoples’ Committee. You must go to the one in your residing district. It is very helpful to have a Vietnamese-speaking friend here, as you may need to refill forms or ask questions. If everything is in order, you will be able to pick up your baby’s birth certificate in a few days.
Finally, get the birth certificate legalised, then have it translated into your home country’s language, legalised and certified. Now you’re ready to apply for a passport for baby. It is recommended that you do not plan any travel for at least six months after the birth of your child, as this whole process can take anywhere from two weeks to six months.
For more detailed information on this process, please refer to Stephanie Cantrell’s blog, “How We Grow: Life with Kids in Vietnam.” You can also find a wealth of information by searching in the Saigon International Families Facebook group.
The bottom line: You can do this! Be prepared, do your research, and don’t be afraid to make your wishes known. You and your baby will receive proper medical care. Dealing with the various government offices may be frustrating, but you can get through that, too. Having kids won’t be easy anywhere in the world, but at least in Saigon, you can get a good start on this journey.
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