Thursday, December 29, 2011

Having a baby in Taiwan

In the last year we've learned a lot about having a baby in Taiwan, heck, we've learned a lot about having a baby in general!  We went the doctor/hospital route, so I don't know anything about other forms of prenatal care and birthing.  I'll outline what we learned... if anyone has questions feel free to contact me.

When we decided to have a baby here we didn't know where to go at first.  A representative from Kuang Tien had come to our school and explained their international program for foreigners - translators and specialized services offered.  Translators in particular caught our attention - if we were going to have a baby we wanted to make sure the doctor and we were communicating clearly (not always the case when you go to the doctor here, though most do speak medical english).  The hospital was a bit of a drive away from us, so we decided to try it and see if it was worth the drive - it was.  There are, however, lots of hospitals and clinics available.

I called the international phone number at Kuang Tien and asked for an appointment with an obgyn.  The man who answered the phone didn't know what an obgyn was: maybe not the best translator, but once I told him the point - we wanted a baby - he figured it out.  I told them the times I could come in and he recommended a doctor for me who had clinic hours at the times I could come in - turns out he picked a great doctor for us, Dr. Su Chi Feng (we'll always be grateful for that choice).

Once I was pregnant we went in for doctor visits on the same schedule as one would go in the states.  I got an ultrasound every visit so we got to see our baby a lot.  At first we had a translator that went with us to each visit but our doctor's english was great so we didn't need the translator.  Almost all visits and treatments were covered under the national health insurance NHI.  We paid about $3US a visit, and out of pocket for a few extra optional tests (maybe $30US? - not much).  I wrote more about a typical prenatal doctor visit in my last post.

We flew back to the states around 20 weeks and back to Taiwan around 28 weeks - we got a letter from the doctor in english and chinese saying I was safe to fly during that time but had no problems with the airlines.  We also got copies of medical records to take back with me in case something happened while I was home.

When it came time to have the baby we requested private rooms.  At our hospital women labor in a common room with curtains and then are moved into a delivery room.  We preferred our own room - we paid extra for this and are glad we did.  We also paid extra for a big private recovery room and again were happy with this choice.

I had asked our doctor earlier who would deliver our baby if he wasn't available - he laughed and said it was his job so our course it would be him, and it was.  I'm not sure if this is always the case or if we were a special circumstance.

It was important that though labor, delivery and recovery we advocated for what we wanted and how we wanted things to go.  We noticed people got stuck on doing things a certain way simply because that's how its been done before and some of what we expected was different from what the nurses and doctors were used to - anything from bigger medical decisions to simple baby care - and we had to request for things to go a certain way (I'm sure everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally discharged :).

Typical hospital stays after birth are 3 days or 5 for c-section.  We had our baby room in with us and nurses and doctors were always coming and going.  Often when only 1 nurse was required 2 or 3 would come so they could pool their english knowledge.  Doctors would come and translate forms for us, and once even a young ENT resident came to translate for us.  There was a place for Jeremiah to sleep and he only went to work the last 2 days (much to the nurses dismay - who would take care of me???  um.... them!).  Breastfeeding was supported and encouraged.

We have National Health Insurance - NHI.  It covered almost all my prenatal visits, though when I went over the standard amount of covered visits our cost was still only about $9US each visit.  Health insurance for the baby is covered under mom the first 2 months (this is the same for Taiwanese moms/babies too).  However, foreigner babies have to be in Taiwan for 4 months before they can get NHI.  This leaves a gap of at least 2 months (we're having a hard time determining if it is 4 months from birth or 4 months from the time they get their ARC). We looked into private insurance to cover the few months in case something went wrong but this proved difficult.  We will pay out of pocket for health care until NHI kicks in for her.  The out of pocket cost of the birth for us was under $100US and we had the added expense of the private rooms we requested, though this still was so cheap compared to home.

I bought maternity clothes from home.  Sizes and styles here didn't really suit me.  I also bought my prenatal vitamins from home though I did see them available at our local pharmacy (not sure of the quality or what is in them though) and a friend bought some at costco here.

As it got closer I packed my hospital bag with recommendations from folks in the states.  Some supplies needed were not provided by the hospital but we could purchase there so we did that.

We bought a Chicco carseat at SOGO.  We mostly see moms here holding their babies in the car (I was told a law is changing this) and a few people laughed at us when they saw we had it in the car early in case I went into labor.  We bought most of her clothes from the states - baby clothes here can be expensive or just not what we are used to.  We also brought basic medicines from home as well as cloth diapers.  There are many baby stores in Taichung that are well stocked with just about everything you could want - some familiar brands and many Taiwanese brands.  Our nursery is furnished from Ikea.

Soon after birth we went to AIT for her passport, SSN and consular birth certificate - their website is very helpful in figuring out all you need and though you can't call to ask questions they are very quick in responding to emails.  what the website doesn't say is you may have to prove that you lived in the states for a period of time (even if both parents are US citizens) and I was told college transcripts is the easiest way to do that, though they didn't actually ask to see ours when we went.  Passport came in the mail in a few weeks, SSN a few weeks after that.  Our employer applied for her ARC (we were told this must be done within 30 days of birth).  The hardest thing about all of this was getting a suitable passport photo of a newborn - we took about 100 pictures to get one of her that met standards.

Other miscellaneous cultural things
-I think our baby will never be dressed warm enough for the moms and grandmas we meet.
-I was asked many times who would take care of my baby after she was born - typically the month after birth is a time for the mom to recover and she has help taking care of the baby, sometimes even staying at a special clinic.  It appeased some when I told them my mom would come visit for awhile.
-No one ever came up to me and touched my belly as often happens in the states but many people were curious and had questions
-Warm water is always better than cold (as is the case also when you are sick) though I stuck to my ice water and cold drinks
-Special foods are given to mom to help her recover from birth - soup is key.
-People laughed when they saw all the baby furniture we had and our nursery set up.
-We get a lot of advice from people when we go out with the baby

I admit I was nervous at first about having a baby abroad but as soon as I met my doctor and got some information I felt very comfortable and we are so happy with the way everything turned out.

*Edit: we also found this forum helpful: Parent Pages


  1. Thank you for posting about your experience in Taiwan. My husband and I may be traveling their soon and staying through the birth of our baby so I found this very helpful. Congratulations on your new little one! I'm convinced nothing in more fun or rewarding than raising children. It sounds like you two are off to a wonderful start as parents. Have fun and Take care!

  2. Hello! My family is moving to Asia soon (I'll announce where when we arrive). And we're hoping to expand our family while living there. So, your post was very insightful. Thank you for sharing your tips and experience having a baby abroad!


  3. Oh how exciting! I will be emailing you shortly!

  4. Hi there - My husband and I will be having a baby here in Taiwan in the next few months. Everyone keeps asking us about dual citizenship. Any insight? We are both Americans and will apply for all of the paperwork for America and for the ARC and NHI here in Taiwan, but were you able to get Taiwan citizenship for your baby? This blog post was extremely helpful and seeing that you guys have traveled internationally with your baby and now moved on to your next adventure is inspiring! It also makes me sigh with relief....this is possible! :) Any information would be great!

  5. Joslyn - Congrats! Taiwan does not offer citizenship to babies of expats born in Taiwan unless one of the parents is Taiwanese. We enjoyed Taiwan as a young family and have found traveling with an infant easy with a little more planning :) Let us know if you have any more questions!

  6. Very helpful article, thank you very much, I am pregnant now of 23 weeks (5 months) and will be living here for 6 months, but actually delivering in 4 which means I am delivering here!!! I don't think I can apply for NHI here and have coverage before the baby is born or now that I am going to need prenatal check ups here so I think it will all be out of pocket. Do you have an idea how expensive that will be?