When we found out that we were pregnant, of course, after the initial excitement, my next thought was: Where will I get all my pregnancy check-ups and give birth?
We decided it will be China. To be exact, Bozhou, the city we live in.
Oh did I regret that choice many many times during these nine months of pregnancy. But the choice was made and at the very end we had to stick with it.
Why did I regret that choice? Let’s just say, hospitals in Bozhou are quite adventurous. So, not only was I faced with all of the do’s and don’ts during pregnancy enforced by my mother-in-law, but also had I to adjust to the way of how pregnant women are treated in the local hospital.
Finding the right hospital
So, if you live in Beijing or Shanghai or any other big city in China, finding the right hospital to start your pregnancy journey and finally give birth in, will need time and research. Sara from Living a Dream in China wrote a nice post that can help you find the right hospital in China to give birth.
However, in our case none of those suggestions were of any use. Yes, Bozhou has quite a few hospitals. Only one public hospital, but at least thirty or more private hospitals (and that’s not counting the tiny village hospitals). But not all of those have a maternity ward. In fact, when I started asking for hospitals only three private ones and the public hospital had a maternity ward.
Because I had heard so many bad and scary thing about private hospitals, the choice was easy: We will be going to the public hospital.
I have been to Bozhou’s public hospital several times. Not because I was sick, but because my husband was working in one of the departments there for a while studying under his teacher. I have never really paid much attention to the overall condition of the hospital though… I should have though…
The first visit to Bozhou People’s Hospital
Everyone who has been sick in China while travelling and had to visit a local small hospital usually has some interesting stories to tell. I will tell you my story.
When I went for my first check-up (after everyone else was telling me not to), I was in my 8. week of pregnancy. As I am used to in Germany I wanted to get a simple check-up confirming the pregnancy again (just cannot trust those sticks you have to pee on haha), and make sure it’s a normal pregnancy not an ectopic or who knows what.
So here I was all excited making my way up to the maternity ward holding hands with my husband. When I saw the mass of pregnant women in the waiting area and another crowd trying to force their way into the doctor’s office, it was the first shock. I wasn’t prepared at all.
The second shock hit me when I saw the big fat sign saying “Men not allowed”. My husband tried to calm me and slowly pushed me towards the crowd of women saying I have to go inside alone.
I literally waited an hour in front of that door while pregnant woman after woman passed me and just pushed themselves into the little doctor’s room without any consideration for other people and big bumps in their way… I started crying and wanted to just run away. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones, but I was literally in shock and just wanted to leave. In the end my husband pushed his way inside, past the screaming guard, pretending his poor wife doesn’t speak any Chinese.
Then followed the next shock: The doctor looked at me and asked how far along I was. When my husband told her around eight weeks, she looked at me in disbelieve and said to him (believing I don’t understand), I should leave again, it’s too early, I might lose the baby anyway, they are too busy to waste their time on me now. There I started crying the second time.
In the end, we still got our check-up (thanks to our persistency and a few useful connections) and even the first ultrasound, but only after protests by the doctor who said doing an ultrasound so early will lead to miscarriage….
This was my first visit to the hospital and how I started my journey of endless waiting for check-ups and more ridiculous comments about my pregnancy.
The complicated way of Chinese hospitals
After the initial shock it still took me up till the second trimester to slowly get used to the different way hospitals work in China.
Beginning of my fourth month of pregnancy I finally was officially accepted into care and got a little booklet that would be my maternity log until after the birth. Except the beginning, many of the check-ups are very similar to what you get in Germany.
We went for a check-up every Sunday. My husband would always accompany me. Going alone was out of the question. I just didn’t know how things worked, and especially in my last trimester the running around would have been too exhausting. To get a check-up you first have to make your way into the doctor’s room on the second floor of the gynaecology department. That required the previous mentioned pushing and shoving. She will then tell you what check-up you need and if it’s free or has a fee (some tests like urine tests and some blood tests were free every month). If you had to pay a fee, you had to go downstairs again to ‘guahao’, get a number. This was a little card, similar to a bank card, which you will than again hand to the doctor on the second floor (if you can manage to get your way in again). She will than enter the necessary check-ups on her computer and add them to your card, which you than again take downstairs to pay the fees. Only now you can get your check-ups which most of the time are in different departments and different buildings. After you got your check up, you have to take the results back to the doctor on the second floor…
As you can see, the entire process of a simple pregnancy check-up is highly complicated and requires a lot of running around… So, I took my husband who did the running around while I waited and chatted with the nurses.
The Good and the Bad
All in all I can say that my experience in Bozhou’s public hospital wasn’t all bad. Let’s say it was 30% of good. There were times when I met nice nurses (they switched every week, so you rarely had the chance to really get to know one person), and times when the check-up went fast and smoothly (mostly if I got the special “foreigner” treatment).
However, I can’t deny the fact that I did not enjoy the visits there and that I dreaded going every month. When I started the last month of my pregnancy and was required to go every week for a check-up, it was a little nightmare. I am thankful the little one decided to come early and relieve me from getting anymore more check-ups at that hospital.
The best thing about choosing the public hospital for check-ups was that we had a few connections. So when I had to get an ultrasound (for which you usually have to stand in line and wait at least five hours), we always got in right away and got special treatment, and most importantly, my husband was allowed in. Chinese hospitals rarely give the dad-to-be a chance to be part of the pregnancy. Being there for an ultrasound was a great experience for him.
Would I choose the hospital again? No, definitely not. Was it an interesting experience? Yes, definitely. It has taught me how to elbow my way into a room, and grow a thicker skin if it comes to the staring.
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