Having a baby in China: 12-week appointment

This was our first official appointment within our package and we couldn’t have been more excited. Due to our anticipation and the fact that I was required to fast we made a very early start with an eight o’clock appointment on a Saturday morning.

We were greeted with the usual cheery welcome, despite our translator not being in sight. We were checked in and I received my hospital issue wristband which they use to scan me into each area of the hospital. Vital signs were taken right away, as well as a urine sample and we were left to wait in the cafe area. We could sense a bit of worry amongst the staff members, and it looked as if they were typing away into their phone translators. I was impressed when someone came over with a preprinted form with Mandarin and English and pointed to the line that said, “May I take a blood sample?”

The nurse taking my blood worked quickly and steadily as they took more blood than I had imagined they could take at one time. I believe about seven different vials! Next to even out my blood sugar I was given a boiled egg, a piece of cake and some warm milk.

Our translator arrived just in time to join us for the ultra sound, this was the bit we were most excited for and it met our expectations fully. It was an amazing moment to see the actual shape of a baby on the big screen and to hear the heart beat for the first time. Any worries were washed away and I enjoyed watching Mr T’s excitement and our translator’s amazement of a husband so eager and interested.

We met with our Dr who examined me and took a pap smear for a few tests. She did have a go at using the doppler to hear the baby’s heart beat but she couldn’t get it. We didn’t worry much as we had just heard it in the ultra sound.

She gave a few instructions to eat healthily and take pre-natal vitamins and that was it! We scheduled our next appointment four weeks from then and left the hospital feeling so pleased and excited about the future.

-Mrs T

Having a Baby in China: How to buy a baby

We realise that embarking on parenthood means the start of constant financial responsibility for another person, however we never thought we would have to leave a Saturday brunch with the words, “We’ve got to go pay for our baby!” Which is exactly what we did late in November.

As we mentioned before we have no insurance coverage for maternity care so our best option was to purchase a package, which covers prenatal appointments and birth. You can visit the hospital and pay for each appointment individually, though buying the package allows you a discount from the al a carte prices. Additionally as AmCare is fairly new to Tianjin they have been offering their packages at a further discount.

As 12 weeks marks the start of official prenatal care we were gearing up to make the purchase at our upcoming appointment. In preparation I had contacted our translator to request that the weekly appointment details be translated into English as so far she had only been able to show us the documents in Chinese. She told me that the documents were only available in Chinese after several times asking I gave up. I accepted I would have to go by the oral translation given when we met and could have a friend translate the page later. I did feel quite disappointed in this answer but decided to not make a big deal of it.

It was a week before our 12 week appointment and whilst out to breakfast with friends we received a call from our translator saying there was a sale on the birthing package but it must be purchased before December (it was the 29th of Nov). We were not planning on heading to the hospital but for a savings of about 2,000 rmb (£210/$320) we thought is was worth a taxi ride.

We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived that our translator had managed to get the documents detailing the prenatal appointments in English. All but two documents were provided to us in English. Our translator went through all the details and answered our many questions.

We signed on the dotted line and with a heavy hand gave over our credit card. 36,244 rmb (£3,813/$5,809) and we had purchased 13 doctors visits and a birth!

Though we weren’t expecting to make a special trip that day it was nice to get the business out of the way. The next time we would visit the hospital we would be able to focus on the excitement of seeing our baby for the first time on the ultrasound and getting to know our Dr and translator a bit better.

-Mrs T

(If you are interested in seeing any of the documents from the hospital please send us an email and I would be happy to share them with you: turnersabroad@icloud.com)

Having a baby in China: 7 week appointment

The waiting from the confirmation of being pregnant until the first scan at 7 weeks felt just unbearable. Looking back it was just two short weeks however it felt so much longer. In that short amount of time there was such surge of emotions yet we mostly kept it to ourselves, which was VERY challenging. Of course we were desperate to share the news with our family but we didn’t to rush into it just in case. I did decide to confide in one co-worker. I felt I needed to have someone I felt comfortable talking to, if I had any questions, who would be as excited as we were and was a mother herself. It was a great moment sharing this news and I will always remember her kind words of support.

On our third visit to AmCare the main purpose of the visit was to have an ultrasound to see if the pregnancy had implanted properly. We were greeted at the desk, quickly taken back for vitals and straight into the ultrasound room. Of course there was no baby yet to be seen but it was clear that there was implantation and Dr was happy with what she saw. The gestational age was 7 weeks 0 days, and it measured 6 weeks 1 day. We had a short consultation with the Dr, where we were given some general pregnancy advice and prescribed another months supply of prenatal vitamins.

We were of course elated and still a bit shocked that it had happened so soon. There were smiles and tears as we shared the news with close friends and family.

This appointment again was paid out of our pocket 685 rmb (£72/$109), and 135 rmb (£14/$21) for the prenatal vitamins.

-Mrs T

Smoki & Co

We often venture down to Wu Da Dao for dinner and drinks with Kitchen Igosso, In and Out and Oscar House being our regular haunts.

Last night Plan A was to try the sushi place above Igosso but it was booked so Plan B  was to walk 10 minutes to Geba Geba which is next to Bed Bar, Cafe Sambel etc. Also full!

Plan C was to head back to the old stadium in Wu Da Dao and try one of the new restaurants. It was the first time we had actually been there and to be honest we were pleasantly surprised by the options.There is an English style restaurant and also a place called ‘The Pressroom’ with live music.

We selected a rather rustic looking place called Smoki & Co and it was fantastic! It is also the partner restaurant of Pizza Bianca which can be found on the inside of the stadium.

We ordered a farmers salad to start which was delicious followed by a pulled pork sandwich and steak! The steak was easily one of the best I have had in China and the chips were just like home! You must also try the Apple Pie!!!

The drinks menu is also very good with a huge range of whiskeys and cocktails, with prices average compared to the area. There is also a lovely selection of US and international ales and lagers.

The thing that stood out to us was the service. Coco (I assume is the manager) was on hand to greet us and she provided us with free chocolates and a Kentucky Mule cocktail (in a copper mug!). This was a lovely touch.

We would definitely recommend this place and in fact will be going back again tonight with friends!


Having a baby in China: The big reveal

As starting a family was something I have wanted for as long as I could remember, there was no waiting to find out if my dream had come true as soon as we started trying. It was a Sunday morning the day my cycle should have began and I didn’t wait a moment to open up the home pregnancy test (Watson’s own brand) and have a go. When a faint second line came up we couldn’t believe our eyes. I was straight on the phone to AmCare and had an appointment for that afternoon. One more home test before we left and there it was again, that faint pink line.

The service at AmCare was fantastic. I was greeted at the desk by the translator, my weight, blood pressure and temperature were taken and then my blood work was done. It would be a few hours before any results so we headed home and got a bite to eat. It was an exciting afternoon with a mix of excitement and disbelief. Whilst out for lunch we had a phone call from our translator, she said the levels were quite low and I needed to come in for another blood test in two days. I got off the phone feeling deflated and a bit confused. Were we really pregnant? Was there something wrong? Needless to say the rest of lunch was quite quiet. I had to call her back and ask, “Am I actually pregnant?” She said yes, the hormone levels were just quite low.

Not exactly the, “Congratulations! You’re pregnant!” you see in the movies.

We went home and with a little bit of research we found the hormone she was talking about was HCG, my levels on that first test were less than 200. If when I went back two days later it had increased by at least double we could be sure of the pregnancy.

Two days later I was back on my own for more blood work. Again service was good and I was in and out very quickly, straight back home to wait for a phone call. My HCG levels had increased to 713; we were definitely pregnant! But again it was no big deal to the translator; she was just reporting a number. Next step would be to come in for an ultrasound in two weeks.

That first appointment was paid for out of our pockets: 755 rmb (£81/$123). And the second was the same. Bear in mind that we had paid 1510 rmb for two 10 minute appointments.

Our pregnancy journey had begun!

-Mrs T

Having a Baby in China: Research

Soon after arriving in Tianjin I began looking into our medical coverage and options for having a baby in China. I knew that within the next few years it would be something we would be considering and I would much rather be proactive than reactive. We do receive health insurance from our jobs however there is no coverage for maternity.

After a bit of digging we found that there were four options:

-Go to one of our home countries for the birth

-Increase our medical insurance by taking out an additional policy

-Go to a Chinese public hospital

-Go to a private hospital

We spent our first year speaking to others, and researching these options and this is what we discovered:

Give birth in the UK or the US

We did not do extensive research on this option, as it did not feel like a real option for us. Many expats here in Tianjin that I spoke with did go home for their births but most of them had less complicated situations than us. For example, firstly we would have to choose which home country would we go back to? If that choice was the UK, I (the prospective birthing woman) am not a UK citizen nor a resident, what kind of services would I get from the NHS? Without being there we could not pinpoint the answer to this question.

For similar reasons the US did not seem like a good option, I could imagine the costs quickly adding up for a non-insured woman giving birth. But besides these financial reasons giving birth in our home country was never an option as it would mean there would be a chance of Mr. T not getting back in time for the birth, which is a risk I would not be willing to take. Not to mention being away from our home (in Tianjin) at such a special family time.

Increase our medical coverage

I initially thought this would be the way. I did approach our employer to ask if it was possible to add maternity coverage and if it was something they would consider doing as a benefit for staff. Unfortunately at that time it was not an option. I did get in touch with the insurance company and taking out an additional policy was possible, a full policy, including the maternity coverage, would cost around 30,000 CNY per year (£3,190/$4,830). Not too bad of a price considering what you got, the catch was that the policy had to be in effect for 10 months before using any of the maternity benefits, therefore requiring two years of policy to be purchased to span the length of pregnancy and birth.

Go to a Chinese public hospital

Being the adventurous type I did not initially shy away from this option. My teaching assistant was very encouraging to me and she had supported many a pregnant western teacher over the past few years. She was willing to accompany me to appointments and translate for me. And of course the cost would be very low. We had heard that the queuing could be extensive and often long wait times for appointments. The standard of cleanliness would most likely not be up to our standard (not in all hospitals of course), we even heard it was common practice to pass a red envelope (full of money) to the Dr to ensure you were well looked after. We decided that we didn’t want to have to depend on (or burden) someone to help us every step of the way, we craved a bit more independence.

Go to a private hospital

Upon first glance we thought there was one option here, United Family Hospital, which is a very good option. It is where most expats go for any medical care, although our insurance does not cover maternity care. We were lucky in our time here that we had no reason to visit, our first time was to tour the hospital and have a look at the birthing facilities. We were very impressed with what we saw. It is a lovely hospital with organized friendly English speaking staff and good facilities. The drawback here was that all this comes at a price. Prenatal care is 13,600 CNY (£1445/$2190) plus 42,888 CNY (£4,556/$6907) for a vaginal birth and 72,888 CNY (£7743/$11,740) for a cesarean birth.

Through our school we were made aware of another option, AmCare, a hospital new to Tianjin but well established in Beijing. We thought it would be worth a look. It was a bit challenging to get someone speaking English on the phone to arrange a visit but finally we got it sorted. As we were walking up to the hospital we heard our names shouted from across the street, we looked to see one of our old colleagues from our school in Qatar, with his very pregnant wife. We knew they were here in Tianjin however we had not seen them. We crossed over to say hello to discover they had just came from their 39-week check-up at AmCare and would be giving birth there very soon. This moment was very valuable to us as what recommendation can be better than one from someone you know. We were toured around by one of the two translators on staff. AmCare is a women’s and children’s hospital so its sole purpose is prenatal care, birthing and caring for small children. The majority of clients are Chinese, those who do not wish to have birth in public hospitals and choose to pay privately on their own. Again we found the facilities to be modern, clean and organized. Something a bit different than the traditional room with loads of infants that you can look into, they have a viewing area where they bathe and massage the babies each day. We were there in time to join in a large family oohing and ahhing over their new addition. We got a laugh from one rogue English speaker when Mr T asked if they have the same facilities for adults! Our overall impression was a good one, the main difference we found from United Family was that most of the staff do not speak English, however there is support from the translators on staff for every appointment. The cost for the package from 12 weeks to birth was offered at a discount, as they were still a new hospital here in Tianjin. 38,151 CNY for a vaginal birth and 48,888 CNY for a cesarean birth.

Our decision

We decided to go with a private hospital, AmCare. We felt the service provided would be just as good as United Family and at a lower cost. We even had a bit of further discount; we have paid 36,244 CNY (£3850/$5837) for prenatal care from 12 weeks to birth, with 3 nights stay.

We will keep you updated as things move along!

Mrs T

Mad Kite Skills

-Mr T