Daily Life > Having a Baby in Korea

Having a Baby in Korea - Pregnancy

Having a Baby in Korea - P...

The following information on going through a pregnancy in Korea has been compiled through conversations with expat parents of many nationalities who have had at least one child here.

1) Pregnancy Tests
Kits are available at all pharmacies. You will generally have to ask the pharmacist for one. Pharmacists, who speak English or who understand some can be found with relative ease, especially in areas with a high concentration of foreign residents.

2) Medical Options
Almost every major university has an affiliated hospital. There are also privately owned hospitals in every area, however these tend to be pricier. (Note: private hospitals and international clinics are generally the most expensive options.)
Local medical centers are located in every district around the country. Everyone is welcome here, including expats, and you might actually find a doctor or other staff  there who have studied abroad. Costs in medical centers are quite low and sometimes free. They offer pre-natal care, but you'll have to make other arrangements for delivery. Most, if not all, of the tests you'll need can be done at your district medical center at less cost than pretty much anywhere else.
Special maternity clinics are also plentiful and many are staffed by physicians and other medical staff who have studied abroad.
Midwives are available. To find one in your are, visit your local medical center or contact the MRS - Medical Referral Service (Seoul area).

International clinics can be found in most major cities in Korea, and even in some not so major one. If you are in an area where there is no international clinic, there is a high probability that there are people in your local hospital, who speak some English. If not, there is a free volunteer interpretation service that may be of help (BBB). In the Seoul area, you can also contact the Medical Referral Service (MRS) for names of obstetricians with experience treating foreign women

3) Choosing a Doctor
You may want to visit a number of doctors and choose the one with whom you feel most comfortable. As doctors are affiliated with specific hospitals, you may find it helpful to visit the hospital in which you would be delivering your baby. You don’t want to find that the hospital doesn’t suit you when you’re about to go into labour.
Some OBGYN doctors will treat you during your pregnancy, but will not deliver the baby. You’ll want to clarify that from the beginning, so that you can find a physician and hospital for your delivery.
If you are enrolled on the Korean National Health Insurance system, you will need a referral from your family doctor for the OBGYN Specialist.

Doula services are also available in Korea. K4E may have some English speaking doulas listed in our Directory. 

4) Medications/Supplements
Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure that you've clearly understood when/how and in what dosage you're to take the medication s/he has prescribed since it is unlikely to have an 'instructions' label, or if there is one, it's unlikely to be in English. In fact, you may want to write down the information while you're with the doctor and have her/him confirm that you've got it right.

If you're a believer in vitamin supplements during pregnancy, you may find it challenging finding what you need/want in Korea. Even if the brand you want is available in Korea, the specific supplement may not be. As with other vitamins/supplements, you might want to bring an adequate supply with you or arrange to get them form your home country. Note that you may have to pay duty if they are sent to you directly from the supplier.

5) Pre-natal Care
Appointments are usually every four weeks.

Many doctors have ultrasound equipment in their office/clinic. If not, you can have them done at a local hospital or at the one where you will be delivering the baby.

English-speaking certified childbirth educators who provide childbirth coaching and labor support can also be found in Seoul.

6) Pre-birthing Classes/Resources
In Seoul, there are pre-natal classes, including hypnobirthing classes, offered by expat women whose spouses are posted in Korea and/or English-speaking Koreans. You can also check the K4E Directory to see if any doulas are currently listed.  

7) Costs
Pre-natal classes in an international clinic: W500,000.
Doctor's visit in maternity clinic around W30,000 per visit (may include basic tests: ultrasound, urine, etc.)
Tests vary depending on the tests, usually between W30,000 and W80,000.
Vaginal Delivery: W7,088,000 (international clinic/private hospital)*
C-section: W10,960,000 (international clinic/private hospital)*
Delivery with national health insurance can be W500,000 to W800,000 (maternity clinic)  - can be a little more or a little less depending on where you live.
* This information is based on the respondents’ experiences and can vary up and down from one area to another. If you have National Health Insurance, the costs will be lower.

8) Cultural Differences (note that the similarities, of which there are many, are not included.)
Physicians are not used to taking instructions from patients. It is not normal practice here to explain what is going to happen or to answer questions.
- Some doctors, even those in international clinics, have a tendency to speak only to the husband and to pretty much ignore the wife. In some cases, the father-to-be has had to insist that the mother’s questions be answered directly and that explanations be addressed to her.
- If one of the parents is Korea, the physician will often follow normal Korean procedures.
- If you are the father in a cross-cultural relationship, you’ll want to discuss with your partner your involvement in the pregnancy and the birth beforehand so that you are both on the same page and if need be, can advise the doctor that you will be doing things in a more ‘Western’ way.
- If the father is Korean, some mothers have found that the best way around the traditional treatment of fathers was to insist on his ability to act as an interpreter. One woman married to a Korean recommends that you not let on to the doctor (from the beginning) if you speak/understand Korean.
- Korean men have traditionally not attended pre-natal classes either. One woman tells how the hospital wouldn’t let her Korean husband attend because everyone had to sit on the floor.

9) Advice from Moms
You may need to be assertive and firm (not necessarily aggressive) to ensure that your needs and desires are heard and met. If not, medical staff  (including English-speaking physicians) are going to follow their standard operating procedures, which may not be what you want. (for example episiotomies or C-section deliveries).

K4E Editor: We try to make the information on Korea4Expats.com as complete and accurate as possible, so if you notice any errors or omissions in the content above, please let us know at info@korea4expats.com.

Last Updated on 2017-01-10

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