Who ever knew that two simple lines on a stick could change your life forever? When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Once the rush of emotions settled down, I realized: I’m actually having a baby in Bangkok! SO exciting, but I literally knew nothing about childbirth in my new hometown.
Flash forward to one year later, I’m sitting at home typing this blogpost next to my 5 months old girl. Both healthy and happy, and while we’re still figuring lots of things out (isn’t parenthood one long learning school?), I’m much wiser now about childbirth in this city.
If you’re about to have a baby in Bangkok, or just curious about my story, you’ve come to the right place!
Tiger balm and lemon soda
Bangkok is not the easiest city to navigate with a baby bump, especially during your first (when morning sickness can hit you) and last trimester (when babe gets heavy).
During the first 14 weeks of my pregnancy I suffered from nausea, which didn’t go well with the smells of Bangkok’s abundant street food. Add up the heat and a bumpy taxi ride.. Let’s just say it wasn’t my most fabulous time.
My advice for this first phase would be: take it easy if you can, and find whatever works for you. I always carried tiger balm and snacks in my bag – having something to munch on when I felt nausea coming up was a lifesaver, and the fresh citric smell of tiger balm helped me in any smelly area (I was so sensitive to smells during pregnancy!). I also lived on iced lemon soda, something cold and sour worked wonders for me. Experiment with a few things and find what makes it easier for you to get through that dreaded first trimester! (Or you may be one of those lucky women that’s just perfectly fine.)
Other basics to take into account in the Thai climate: don’t get too hot and drink a LOT of water to stay hydrated.
9 months feel like a long time (you’ll seriously feel like you’ve been pregnant FOREVER) but actually it’s the right amount of time to prep yourself – and to accept the idea that a little human will be coming out of you sometime soon! That’s a pretty big deal so you’ll want to surround yourself with a small group of people that you feel comfortable with and who will help you make this a successful experience. Know that baby and you are not alone in this, and having an “A-team” by your side makes all the difference!
A key player in your baby A-team will be, no surprise, your doctor. Good news: medical care in Bangkok is top notch so you’re in good hands! There are two types of hospitals, public and private ones, which both have excellent care. Public hospitals are significantly cheaper, but their staff may not speak English (well) and there can be a long waiting time to see the doctor. I delivered at a private hospital (like most expats), and especially if your insurance covers pregnancy/childbirth, I can highly recommend it.
One important side note is that having a baby in Bangkok is a much more medical than natural affair. It’s very common here to have a cesarean – it’s convenient for the doctor, and many Thai women prefer it too. They find it less painful than delivering vaginally, and can pick a “lucky day” for their child to be born.
If you however are aiming for a natural birth, like I did, it’s important to find a hospital and a doctor that support that goal. Hospitals in Bangkok can have quite rigid rules that don’t favor a natural approach, so it’s important to be informed. Two hospitals here are said to be most open for natural childbirth are Samitivej and Bumrungrad. But whatever hospital and doctor you choose, be sure to ask many questions so your views are aligned. During pregnancy you have so many thoughts going through your head already, worries about your medical care shouldn’t come on top!
Personally I had a wonderful experience at Samitivej Hospital. My doctor very much supported my goal of a natural birth – in the end I had an emergency c-section, but with all elements that were important to me: immediate skin to skin after birth, my husband’s presence in the surgery room, and lots of support to initiate breastfeeding. My baby came 3 weeks early so we were taken by surprise! But those few days in the hospital were a great warm-up to start our journey together.
Consider a doula on your team
So you chose your doctor and hospital. Way to go momma! Next to the medical care, I’m very happy I had the support of a doula.
If you don’t know that a doula is, you’re not alone – I had never heard of it before I came to Bangkok. A doula is a woman supporting/coaching you (and your partner) before, during and after childbirth. When you have a baby in Bangkok, she’s a welcome link between you and the highly medicalized hospital environment.
For me personally my doula Anfisa was (and is!) a great addition to my baby A-team (next to my always supportive husband and my doctor). We had childbirth preparation classes with her as well as yoga sessions, which made my journey towards birth so much more relaxed and mindful. I ended up having a c-section but our training greatly helped me to stay calm during the surgery. Postpartum Anfisa has been a great help to get the hang of breastfeeding and help with any question a new and overwhelmed mother may have! We still do yoga with her, together with Cleo, and it’s one of our favorite family activities!
If this appeals to you, I’d highly recommend you to join one of the “Doula in Bangkok” sessions. You can meet the different doulas who are active in this city and get lots of advice on doctors and hospitals. You can find my doula’s website here. It was a great starting point for me!
Bangkok baby nesting
Funny fact: my baby came 3 weeks early and took my by complete surprise! I was convinced she would be late, as often happens with the first one.. I had gotten some essentials, but neither my hospital bag or nursery were ready, oops!
Whether you’re doing your prepping early or late, information is key – here are my go-to places!
First of all, it’s good to know that many big items (such as car seats, strollers and baby carriers) are imported from Europe or the US and are significantly pricier. If you are traveling back home at any stage (or if you expect visitors), bring those over if you can!
If that’s not an option, these are my tips within Bangkok:
- Consider buying second hand: you’ll notice pretty quickly that baby stuff is expensive and some of it gets outgrown in a heartbeat. There are lots of Facebook groups where you can get your hands on pre-loved items for a fraction of the price.
- Look out for fairs and events where you can buy baby items with a discount, like the Baby Best Buy Fair. Exhausting but worth it! (And there’s lots of food, as at any Thai event, which makes a pregnant momma happy!)
- Not very exciting but a trip to Mega Bangna can be useful to drop by IKEA for baby furniture and other baby shops like Mothercare.
- Clothing for bubs: I usually buy from local small shops, as I do for myself. I’ll be listing my favorite local brands in a blogpost soon, stay tuned!
Dress the bump
Ok, you got everything set for baby’s arrival, but don’t forget yourself in the process!
Finding the right clothes during pregnancy can be challenging, as you start growing out of your beloved wardrobe. What an excellent excuse to go shopping – if only you’d know where to go!
It can get especially tricky if you moved abroad to a new city with a pretty different taste in fashion.
One easy option is to go stores like H&M and Uniqlo in the big malls, but here they have a pretty small selection of maternity wear and basics only. Online foreign shops like ASOS have a nice collection, but you can be charged a surprisingly high customs fee on your package (usually orders under 1500THB are safe, but you never really know).
I’d recommend to shop locally – linking some of my favorite maternity and nursing brands below! Treat yourself on some nice pieces that make you look and feel good. Happy momma is happy baby!
(PS it’s very common for local brands to sell directly off their Instagram and Facebook pages. You can contact them though there, or use the LINE app (the Thai WhatsApp), to order your pieces!)
You’re not alone, Bangkok momma!
Bangkok has many social networking groups, including for pregnant women and mothers. Personally I’m happy I found BAMBI (Bangkok Mothers & Babies International), which organizes baby playgroups and other events. It’s a great way to get in touch with experts (like lactation consultants and doulas) and meet other mommies and mommies to be!
Bangkok is definitely an intense city, but I’ve enjoyed my pregnancy here very much. You can satisfy any food craving, pamper yourself with reasonably priced massages, and enjoy great medical care. Oh and I should also mention that Thais love children – and pregnant ladies! Wherever I went with bump or baby in Bangkok, there was always a helping hand and smile around.