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Updated 8 Apr 2019

Whether your pregnancy is planned or not, the moment you see the little blue line is life-changing. A thousand thoughts flash through your mind, peppered with images of cuddly babies, happy families and buckets of dirty diapers. It is a rollercoaster of emotion, not least because you are already under the influence of pregnancy hormones.

If you are living abroad, away from your home country and the comfort and ease of a medical system you understand, it may well catapult you into a state of panic. First thing's first: let's put everything into perspective.

What will be different about having your baby abroad?

  • You will not have your close family members and friends nearby during memorable and sometimes vulnerable moments

  • You will be thrown into a foreign healthcare system, possibly with foreign doctors, nurses and midwives

  • The language may be different to your own and you will have to navigate appointments and doctor’s visits differently

  • You will need to learn a new way of listening, talking and communicating to eliminate things getting lost in translation (or consider having a local translate for you)

  • You will be faced with cultural differences in the way that pregnancy and childbirth are viewed that may not mirror your own

  • You will have to be very clear about what you want and what you need in order to get it

  • The ease of access to baby equipment, gadgets and paraphernalia may be limited, which means shopping online or planning a shopping vacation

  • The ease of access to care providers who have the same philosophies as you or give you the care and attention you so require at this time may be hard to find

What will be the same about having a baby abroad?

  • You will want the very best care for you and your baby and you will do whatever you need to do in order to get it

  • You will experience the same highs and lows that come with a normal pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations, physical changes and life circumstances

  • You will need to have the same tests, examinations and scans you would in your home country, but it may not be as easy to access them, or you may have to request them. You may even be judged for wanting them, given the cultural differences in the way that pregnancy and childbirth are viewed.

  • Your pregnancy will progress in the same way that it would were you in your home country and you will experience the same physical changes and discomforts

  • You will face fear of the unknown, which will be compounded by the challenges associated with being in a foreign country. Both will need to be addressed separately and together.

  • You will still need to plan and prepare for your birth, but you will be forced to do more research into the available options. This is actually a very good thing.

  • You will be overwhelmed by the ease of access to unlimited amounts of information online, which may scare and confuse you

  • You will be faced with many choices and decisions about your pregnancy and birth (like where to give birth, who to have with you and how you will cope with the intensity of the experience)

  • You will embark on a journey of deep transformation as you watch your body changing, feeling your baby moving inside you and embracing your new role as a parent

  • You will undergo change, and with change there is ultimately loss. Despite the indescribable joy that comes with having a new baby, it brings some necessary losses in your lifestyle, freedom and some of your income.

  • You will need to find someone you can trust to guide and support you through this transformation

Five ways to make your pregnancy abroad a positive experience

  1. Don’t let fear steal your joy – replace fear with curiosity.

  2. Take full responsibility for your health and well being.

  3. Connect with like-minded people and new parents in your local community.

  4. Research and educate yourself so that you know what to expect.

  5. Embrace the differences and prepare yourself for cultural misunderstandings.

Karen Wilmot

After working as a midwife, I left the hospital system in 2009 because I had a vision of creating change. I now work with women online and in person, sharing my wisdom, experience and the many lessons I learned in the labor room so that you are able to have the birth I know is possible with the right preparation. My book, Giving Birth Abroad, will guide you to know that a positive outcome is not just possible, but to expect it and know how to get it. For more info, visit my website, the Virtual Midwife.

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