Natural birthing in Hong Kong
What’s to stop you from getting a natural birth in Hong Kong? According to Hulda Thorey, founder and head midwife at Annerley, it can be many things but not a lot if you know how to ask for it.
The first thing a mother-to-be should know is that having a natural birth experience in Hong Kong is not necessarily a matter of finance and being able to pay for what you want. Whether you go public or private, it’s more about having the knowledge and the confidence to work with the doctors or the system, and being able to ask for the right things at the right time.
A simple way to put it is that doctors and hospitals are programmed to use their medical skills and technology to get patients through procedures following the route of minimal risk, least pain and in the quickest timeframe.
On first investigation, natural birth doesn’t appear to match these criteria. With the best intentions and without your consent, doctors usually follow the path they feel most comfortable with.
However, do remember that if allowed, labour can be shorter and less intense if a woman is allowed to find her own positions. Studies also show that the trauma to the body of the small tear, which may occur in a birth, without an episiotomy is less traumatic than a routine episiotomy.
There is a lot to learn when it comes to natural birth and without that knowledge, our natural respect for the authority of the doctor will usually result in a mother, for example, accepting an epidural without knowing about the side effects of the procedure.
Public or private: It’s your choice
Going public If you use the public system, you will not be able to choose your doctor, and your choice of hospital will depend on where you live. The attitude towards natural birth in the government hospitals has come a long way in the last decade; Queen Mary Hospital, in our opinion, leads the way as they seem to be one of the most accommodating when it comes to the birth and breastfeeding. Other government hospitals can also be good options depending on personal preference and where you live.
Going private If you go private, you can choose your doctor but make sure that you can cover the overall costs. We recommend that you calculate the cost of the worst case scenario e.g. a premature baby requiring special care and be sure that you or your insurance can cover that. You do not want to be worrying about this in the middle of giving birth.
Choosing the right doctor is essential, but how ‘on board’ your partner is with your preference for a natural birth is equally as important. You may find that if you work as a team, you will have a wider selection of doctors to choose from.
You should plan your birth together, agree on what you both want and then see one or two doctors to make sure they are a fit for the care you want during your birth. Don’t be fobbed off with an easy: “Yes, I support natural birth”. Ask direct questions about their cost and statistics, and how they prefer things to be at the birth e.g. what their C-section rates are and what their views are on induction, epidural, the use of drugs in general, episiotomy, monitoring during labour, using a bath for pain relief, moving around, positions at birth and late cord clamping etc.
The benefits of midwife care
The public and private option is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as you may need to see a professional to help you understand what you want from a natural birth so you know the questions to ask. This is where seeking the help of a midwife before you see a doctor – whether you choose public or private can be invaluable!
Combining your doctor’s or hospital appointments with midwife-led checkups/consultations – where the approach will be more holistic – can truly give you the best support towards achieving a natural birth.
Midwives can also provide support during labour meaning that you can stay in the comfort of your own home. The midwife will monitor you and allow things to proceed naturally for longer before moving you to hospital at the optimal time. If you arrive at the hospital when you are already 5cm dilated, there is less need or opportunity for pain relief or induction to be offered than if you arrive not dilated at all. In some cases, if you go private, you can have midwife support in the hospital itself.
Educating yourself and your partner
The secret to an enjoyable natural birthing experience is to know what you can ask for. It will be beneficial for expectant mums (and their partners) to know what is reasonable, what risks are acceptable, and what is really going on with your body before the big day.
Prepare yourself and learn as much as you can about natural birth as possible. Take birth preparation classes, understand the different stages of labour, do yoga, practice your breathing and learn about the nature of your perineum and pelvic floor.
If you are going public, educate yourself about the system - what are its limitations and what services do they provide? It’s also worth giving hospitals a call to find out more.
Like most things in life, knowledge is power and having a natural birth is a powerful experience. As long as you prepare yourself for the experience, we definitely believe it’s one not to be missed.