Every pregnant woman wants a healthy baby and a good childbirth experience, and many will also want a ‘natural’ birth.
The term ‘natural’ can mean different things to different mothers-to-be. For women in Hong Kong (depending on factors like budget and location), there are several different options available for natural birth that we go through in this blog.
Natural births in Hong Kong
If we assume natural birth to mean a birth where there’s no intervention, then most midwives will agree that preparing well for birth is important. This is because the location where you give birth, along with those who are present in the labour room, will strongly influence the outcome of the childbirth process – so thorough planning and researching will mean you can be best prepared for your big day. We recommend choosing a doctor and midwives who have good statistics for normal vaginal births, and also a hospital that has staff and facilities to support a natural birth.
Other factors that will contribute to the likelihood of you having a natural birth are:
- Whether you can stay at home during the early stages of labour
- Whether you are being mobile and active at this time
- Eating and drinking regularly
- Choosing a position that feels good when you are actually giving birth
We often find that many women are quite vulnerable when they are in labour, so as a result, they fall into the role of a patient rather than following their own instincts, making all of the above hard for them. If you’re seeking a natural birth, it’s important to thoroughly do your research about available birth options in Hong Kong and what they have to offer. Our midwives can help you decide what might work best for you.
Where to give birth in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, mothers-to-be have the option of giving birth in the private or public healthcare system. Here are some important notes on both systems – for more details you can download our public vs private guide.
Public hospitals in Hong Kong
Public hospitals in Hong Kong offer excellent maternity care with a high degree of professionalism. Generally, they have excellent statistics when it comes to natural birth and interventions. They’re also very well equipped with staff and tools for serious complications, such as a premature baby or illness – luckily though, most babies are born healthy and well! In recent years, public hospitals have also started to offer more support for natural births – providing birth balls, yoga mats and the options for breathing methods. The routine of performing an episiotomy has also now finally been discontinued, which is great news to all childbearing women!
- Public hospital staff are very professional and practical and being teaching hospitals, they follow protocols; things are not done for personal convenience or financial gain.
- Most public hospitals have private labour rooms and allow ‘props’ to be taken in, once you are in established labour.
- Most wards have TENS machines and the midwives are trained to give massages and support natural births.
- You can usually get your way if you are polite and resourceful.
- Major medical interventions are much lower than in private hospitals.
- Epidural rates are much lower than in private hospitals, but they are available.
C-section rates are much lower than in private hospitals.
The main disadvantage is that the public system is, more often than not, very busy and swamped. Staff can’t provide continuous care to each individual patient, which leads many mothers to say that the childbirth process is not as personalised as they would have liked. There are also a few ‘rules’ and protocols that are followed more strictly than in private hospitals that limit your freedom to choose certain aspects of your care.
Other possible challenges:
- You can only have your husband/one support person with you when you are in established labour, i.e. after around 3 cm of dilation.
- Sometimes mobility is restricted.
- Drinking and eating are not encouraged.
- You cannot take showers or baths during labour, there is no access to toilets or baths.
- Episiotomy is very common in some hospitals, but you can usually say no to this.
- There is less privacy and sometimes staff will come and go.
- When your baby arrives, it’s usually taken away for a check-up. Again, you can suggest otherwise.
- Breastfeeding is supported, but sometimes the staff don’t have much time to assist.
Private hospitals for childbirth
Private hospitals in Hong Kong offer a high degree of care. The primary mode of care is usually given by the doctor you’ve chosen yourself and who you have consulted with throughout your pregnancy. This means that you know and trust who will deliver the baby.
Those who are considering private care will need to consider their budget, as private health care in Hong Kong is expensive, and insurance does not always cover the costs. And although very good, being at a private hospital does not necessarily mean you have more chance of a natural birth. In fact, the statistics for most private hospitals show us that C-section rates, epidural use, induction, forceps and vacuum deliveries are much more common there, with C-section rates between 50 to 85 per cent.
In our experience, both models are good for different reasons; and you should prepare and select your choice depending on what works for YOU.
In some countries, home births are becoming increasingly popular and have been proven to be a safe option for healthy mothers in low-risk pregnancies. Those who fall into this category can expect to have an undisturbed birth in a private and quiet environment, and should not expect to be induced, medicated or have any other intervention. And should these be needed, they would be transferred to a hospital.
Women who want a truly natural birth often opt for this option and prepare accordingly. Outcomes are generally good, with only 5–10% of cases requiring a hospital transfer because of medical complications.
Many believe that home births are illegal in Hong Kong. And although this is not the case, they aren’t usually supported here, nor is it easy to find staff that are willing or trained for home births to assist. As a result, home births are probably not as safe an option in Hong Kong as they would be in many other countries.
Having appropriate support while in labour is so important. This can be your husband, family member, friend, midwife, or doctor – but whoever it is, good support is invaluable (and by good support we mean support that is on your terms). This is why it is important for those who are with you during labour and birth to know you and understand what you want.
Lastly, prepare well for your childbirth
To all pregnant women, at Annerley we would suggest:
- Before birth, ask the doctor/midwives about their practices and how they routinely work.
- Ask how much they will be there during the labour.
- Tell them in advance what your thoughts are.
- If you make a birth plan, ensure that it is short and only contains the things that are very important to you, but not the details of medical care.
- Be firm, but polite.
If medical intervention is suggested ask: Why? Can we wait? Is the baby in danger? Are there any other options? Remember that this is your birth and you want to look back on the experience with positive memories.
If you’d like more information or help about natural birth or navigating the systems in Hong Kong, please get in touch with us at Annerley. We have a range of classes available and a free ebook about the HK healthcare system.
Based on the experience of Hulda Thorey – original article written in 2012.