You’ve moved abroad and your expat life is everything you’d expected it to be. You feel at home, safe, secure and confident. Then you fall pregnant. It’s fantastic news, of course, but it can put a whole new complexion on things. How do you make sure you get everything you need, when you need it, in a country with whose healthcare system you aren’t familiar?
Making sensible plans
Planning cuts even the biggest challenges down to size. Making a firm plan involved thinking about what you want to do, involving the people who matter and putting in place contingency plans just in case things change. Then you can relax and enjoy the experience better.
You might decide to give birth at home, in your country of origin, where you are surrounded by family and have a trusted personal support network. This will take proper planning, whether it’s booking travel at the right time or moving yourself lock, stock and barrel straight back home until after the happy event. It’s important to bear in mind that if you need a C-section, you might not be able to travel at all for at least a month.
The healthcare system in your new country might be completely different from what you’re used to. A minor illness is an entirely different matter from pregnancy – will you feel safe being cared for by a system that, while it might be just as good, is totally unfamiliar?
What about continuity of care? Would you feel better seeing the same health professionals throughout your pregnancy, in your new home country, or traveling home for part of your pregnancy and handing yourself over to a new set of professionals?
What about your employer? Do they provide maternity leave, paternity leave or any kind of maternity benefits? How do you make sure your job will be open to you when you return to work?
And what about the healthcare infrastructure in your new home country? If you’re healthy and well you may not have had to take advantage of the system yet, and it’s good to find out exactly what’s what as quickly as possible.
Bear in mind it isn’t wise to fly after a certain number of months of pregnancy when booking travel. Think through what might happen if your baby decides to arrive early. Can your husband or partner accompany you home, and if so how long can they stay with you before they have to get back to work? Can your parents or relatives come to stay with you until the baby is born? These are all crucial things to consider before you make firm plans.
Then there are the financial implications. Unless you have good international health insurance, you may need to take the cost of private healthcare into account. If you have health insurance, what exactly does it cover and what is excluded? How much are you covered for and will that amount be enough to cover your expenses? Does your cover allow you to give birth anywhere you like, at home or abroad, or are there restrictions?
On a practical level, the first thing you need to do is review the health insurance you have in place currently – and crucially check to see if routine maternity costs (e.g. antenatal care, delivery costs and post natal care) are covered. You should also check what kind of pregnancy and childbirth costs (e.g. ectopic pregnancy, failure to progress in labour etc), are included as standard. If you’re planning a pregnancy and you don’t currently have routine maternity benefits, then you might want to consider upgrading your plan when it renews. Note that there are always waiting periods associated with any maternity benefits, which means that there will be a period of time (usually between 9 and 12 months) before you will be allowed to access them, so it’s important to plan ahead if you want to have insurance in place to cover the cost.
If you’re already pregnant but don’t have routine maternity costs covered under your plan, it’s very unlikely that your insurance provider will let you add this option so you need to look at the alternatives such as public facilities or paying for the costs yourself.
The most important thing to do is look after yourself and don’t worry. If you take some time to plan around your current situation, you will find a solution that you’re comfortable with.