Despite all the excitement and joy that comes with having a baby, the thought of giving birth can be unnerving. And even more so if you are going to have your baby in a foreign country far from home. But there’s no reason to fret. With a vast number of highly qualified hospitals, doctors and experts on hand, Shanghai offers great support and services for people who wish to begin, or grow, their family in China. We spoke to new mother Tes Larson, from the United States but currently living in Shanghai with her family, on her experience giving birth to her first child in Shanghai.

What hospital did you choose to make your birthing hospital?

I gave birth to my son Vance at Shanghai Redleaf International Women’s & Children’s Hospital. My husband and I decided to go with Redleaf because some of our expat friends had great experiences at Redleaf. It’s also very close to where we live, so it was easy to go there for my regular check-ups and when I went into labor.

Why did you choose this hospital?

Talking to friends about their experiences was a really important factor for us. There is only so much that you can determine from reading a hospital pamphlet. We also preferred to deliver at an international hospital as the doctors, nurses and staff would be more understanding of Western practices when it came to pregnancy and giving birth; it was very helpful that all of the staff spoke English. I also really liked that they had an on-site pediatrician clinic. There is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), as well, which was reassuring just in case there were any complications, but of course, no parent ever wants to visit it.

What support/services from the hospital did you find most helpful throughout your pregnancy?

Definitely the prenatal classes and lactation support were a big help! As first time parents, these classes were extremely helpful in answering all of our questions, qualms and fears that came up during my pregnancy. And all of the information that we were taught was up-to- date with current practices and trends, so we were very happy with that. Overall, we were very comfortable at the hospital and working with this team of doctors. Everyone was very respectful of our choices, and as first time parents in a foreign country, what better support can you ask for?

How was your overall experience being pregnant and giving birth in Shanghai?

Despite the obvious discomforts of being pregnant and having a baby, the experience was excellent. I had a great support network of family back home and friends in Shanghai. Also, when I was out people were very kind offering me their seats on the subway or even while waiting at a restaurant. Shanghai is a very child-friendly city, so life has been pretty great with a newborn. We are also blessed to have an ayi here who helped us prepare for our baby and works part-time to assist with some tasks around the house, which allows me to focus my attention on Vance.

Giving birth at a local Chinese hospital in Shanghai

There are 3,600 maternity beds in hospitals across the city equipped to manage up to 250,000 births every year, according to the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission. However, given that China’s family planning regulations changed in October 2015, allowing couples to have a second child in order to help address the aging issue in China, the country is preparing for a baby boom. So, if you’re planning on delivering at a local hospital, it’s best to book early.

What to expect at a local Chinese hospital

Those delivering at local hospitals, in the VIP wing or regular ward, should expect vast cultural differences and limited English-language support. C-sections are common and breastfeeding support may be minimal. Typically, private rooms at Chinese hospitals have a small sofa, intended for an ayi or your mother-in-law, not your husband. While international hospitals come at a price, many women find familiarity during birth invaluable.

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