How to Have a Baby in Bangkok – Expat Style

April 6, 2012 · 22 comments

(This is a guest post by my wife who is in a much better positon than me to pass on information about how to have a baby in Bangkok as an expat in Southeast Asia).  

Step 1: Find somewhere to stay

Where you stay will obviously depend on your personal situation & budget.  We have a 3-year old who sleeps in her own room at home so I was hoping to find a nice 2-bedroom serviced apartment.  In the end, we opted for a 1-bedroom in a nicer, more modern place.

Legacy Suites, Bangkok

The living area at Legacy Suites, Bangkok

We stayed at Legacy Suites on Sukhumvit, Soi 29.  Although probably one of the higher priced options, I can’t say enough good things about this hotel.  The room was perfect – good size (with separate bedroom), very clean, new washing machine in the kitchen and a gorgeous bathroom with a bathtub and shower.   We opted not to pay the additional 800THB for an extra bed and instead brought a small mattress with us, which we had bought at the market here in Cambodia for $20.  We also brought linens, although our cleaner very kindly supplied us with extra when we were in need.

The staff were excellent – very friendly and happy to help with any of our many requests.  There is a simple but really good Japanese restaurant just beside the lobby, which will also deliver to your room.

Pros:

Close to the hospital

New, clean rooms

Lovely pool & exercise equipment

Friendly Japanese restaurant

Excellent & attentive staff

Short walk away from outdoor playgrounds, Villa Supermarket & Emporium Shopping Centre

Cons:

No local market (if you are into buying local produce & cooking)

Not many cheap restaurant food options nearby – particularly if you are vegetarian

Price – more expensive than other serviced apartments

Step 2: Choose a Hospital & Doctor

The hospital most expats seem to favour is Samitivej - and for good reason.  They are well set up and run a very efficient business; the hospital feels much more like a hotel than a medical centre.  Their 2 birthing rooms are each equipped with a large tub, a comfortable bed, cushions of all sizes, a birthing chair, and other various contraptions.

Samitivej Hospital birthing room

Samitivej Hospital birthing room

There are several doctors available (you can view individual photos and profiles online) and again this is a personal choice.  We went with Dr. Nisarath for several reasons.

  • Firstly, she is a woman.
  • Secondly, a good friend of mine had had her baby delivered by Dr. Nisarath last year and was very positive about her experience.
  • Thirdly, both my husband & I immediately liked her at our first appointment.

Her approach seemed very natural – she didn’t make me have an ultrasound but preferred to use human touch to determine the baby’s position, etc., and also didn’t insist on any additional blood work or testing.

Step 3: Book an Appointment

Book an appointment online before you arrive.  The hospital website is easy to navigate and lets you choose a specific doctor, or will assign you one if you have no preference. 

Step 4: To Fly or Drive?

We were able to drive from Cambodia into Thailand.  This obviously cut down on costs and allowed us to bring whatever we needed from home.  It also gave us some more freedom getting around Bangkok although public transportation is very straightforward and taxis inexpensive.   See my husband’s post here for more information on taking your car into Thailand.

Step 5: Prenatal Classes & Doulas

I started out wanting to have a doula – a friend of mine had a good experience and directed me to The Parent Vine for a network of practicing doulas in Bangkok.  I contacted a few, but none of them were available.  I emailed the contact on their Facebook page to find out the date of their next ‘meet the doulas’ session, but never heard back.  Although going the doula route did not work out for me, don’t let my experience deter you if that is what you are looking for.

In the end, I was actually very happy we did not have a doula.  The midwives who work with Dr. Nisarath were top-notch: very encouraging throughout the whole labour and totally supportive of my wishes for a natural drug-free birth.  They were highly skilled and knew exactly what I needed every step of the way.

Midwives at Samitivej Hospital, Bangkok

Midwives at Samitivej Hospital, Bangkok

Step 6: The birthing ‘package’

Most doctors at Samitivej will offer you a birthing ‘package’.  This can work well and will generally set you back around 55,000THB for a natural birth, and 78,000THB for a scheduled c-section (these do not include prenatal care appointments, tests, etc).  Where people run into problems with these packages is if/when they veer off course – i.e. a natural birth turns into an emergency c-section.  You will then find yourself paying full price for procedures and equipment, which could run as high as 215,000THB.

Dr. Nisarath did not offer us a package but was able to give us estimates as to what we might spend depending on the outcome of the birth.  We very fortunately were able to have a natural, drug-free VBAC.

Having a baby in Bangkok - Expat Style

Just after we became a family of four

Step 7: Follow-up Care

Our paediatrician, Dr. Olarn, was wonderful.  The hospital generally follows the American immunisation schedule and recommends Hepatitis B and BCG (tuberculosis) vaccines for newborns.  Dr. Olarn asked about our living situation and what we had done for our daughter when she was born, and finally suggested that nothing was immediately needed.  Of course this is a personal choice and a decision that needs to be made on a case-by-case basis.

I personally received excellent follow-up care from Dr. Nisarath and felt very supported and encouraged to continue with breastfeeding.  The hospital also provided us with 2 free vouchers for the lactation clinic.

Total cost of our Samitivej experience: 95,000THB (including all pre and post natal appointments for both me and my newborn, birth certificates, etc).

This equates to $3,065.51, £1,936.79, EUR 2,346.34 or AUD 2,974.77 at today’s exchange rates.

Some tips on saving money:

Spend as little time in hospital as you can.  We saved upwards of $600 by only spending 1 night in the hospital.  Again, we were fortunate that there were no complications and both baby and I were fine to leave.

Say no to any ‘gifts’.  We were given a package as we left the hospital which included nappies, wipes, sterilized pads, pyjamas, etc.  In my euphoric state, I naively thought this was a lovely parting ‘gift’ from the hospital and thanked them profusely.  Only once I had looked at our bill in detail a few days later did I realise that we had paid top dollar for these items – most of which I did not need!  Hindsight, I would have politely declined.

*Of course if you are covered under insurance or have opted for a package, the number of nights you stay & this array of baby items will already be included in the price, so take whatever you can get.

Step 8: Entertaining your older child/children

There are plenty of things to do with your toddler while you’re waiting for baby to arrive.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but includes the activities our daughter most enjoyed and that were close to our apartment.

The playground at Benjasiri Park

The playground at Benjasiri Park

Playgrounds at Benjasiri Park

Where: Beside Emporium Shopping Centre/BTS station – Phrom Phong

Cost: Free!

Tip: You can buy fresh orange juice or a coconut for 20THB from the street vendors.

Jamboree Land (indoor playground for toddlers)

Where: 3rd floor of Emporium Shopping Centre/BTS station – Phrom Phong

Cost: 50THB/child

Tip: Jamboree is very loud.  Don’t go if you are looking for some peace & quiet!

Fun-arium (large indoor playground)

Where: 111/1 Sukhumvit Soi 26

Cost: 180-300THB/child, 90THB for adults

Tip: Sneak into the parent’s room for a drink & some down time while your child runs wild.

Lumpini Park

Where: MRT station – Silom

Cost: Free

Tip: Be sure to check if there are any events going on at the park.  We stumbled upon a free sunset concert with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra – one of the highlights of our stay.

Siam Ocean World

Where: Basement of Siam Paragon Shopping Centre/BTS station – Siam

Cost: Varies depending on which package you choose.  Set us back 1,700THB for 2 adults, 1 toddler + baby.

Tip: Our daughter absolutely loved this place – but don’t go on a national holiday (as we did) as it will be packed.

Baby Gym

Where:  Emporium Towers/BTS station – Phrom Phong

Cost: 700THB/class (first session is free)

Tip: A very expensive hour so we only went twice but our daughter loved it.

Also be sure to check out the BAMBI website which is an excellent resource for playgroups in the Sukhumvit area.  The site also has a very good classifieds section for secondhand baby accessories (which are very expensive to purchase new in Bangkok).

Step 9: Places to Eat

Sushi at Isao in Bangkok

Sushi at Isao in Bangkok

Some of our favourite places to eat/order take-away:

Pizzeria Luigi – Italian

Sukhumvit, Soi 25

02-204-1223

Al Ferdoss – Lebanese

77/1 – 3 Sukhumvit, Soi 3/1, BTS station – Nana

02-255-8200

ISAO – Japanese Fusion

5 Sukhumvit, Soi 31

02-258-0645-6

Food Courts – Thai

Emporium Mall – Sukhumvit, BTS station – Phrong Phong

Terminal 21 – Sukhumvit, BTS station – Asok

Sakinoya – Japanese

12 Sukhumvit, Soi 29 (Legacy Suites)

02-690-1900

Khun Churn – Vegetarian Thai

Sukhumvit, Soi 42 – Bangkok Mediplex Building, BTS station – Ekamai

02-713-6599

Step 10: Where to buy food

Eating out in the Sukhumvit area is not cheap unless you are eating street food (which can be a challenge if you do not eat meat).  At home I am used to buying all of our produce from local markets, so I struggled not having one nearby.  Having to rely on supermarkets was definitely more expensive and often offered imported produce rather than locally sourced options.

After checking out a few different supermarkets, we ended up doing all of our food shopping at Villa Market on Sukumvit between Soi 33 and Soi 35 (opposite Emporium), BTS station Phrom Phong.  It’s small – in a nice way – and carries pretty much everything you need.

All in all having our second child in Bangkok was a very positive experience and one we would have no hesitation in recommending. 

Please ask any questions in the comments.

(NB. This post is under copyright from Talesfromanexpat.com – please do not reproduce any part of it unless you have asked permission first)


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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Bethany Mandel April 6, 2012

This was really interesting – thanks for posting! I would love to hear more from Mrs. O about natural childbirth in general, maybe that’s not an expat post, but I like hearing more from women who have done it.

Also – she’s beautiful immediately after childbirth! That’s incredible!

Third – I’m amazed at how low the cost was considering my coworker’s birth billed our insurance well over $10,000 for a much less pleasant experience it looks like.

Reply

Simon Oliver April 9, 2012

Thanks Beathany. Lindsay is happy to talk to you more if you want drop me a line I’ll pass it on.

Actually we were quite surprised too with the price – had expected to pay more.

These hospitals are, however, quite savvy. If they know you have insurance they will do as many test as possible and keep you under the roof also for as long as they can.

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Ericaangela May 22, 2012

Hello, I’m in the process of planning this exact trip in September.  I have Dr. Nisarat as well (really like her).  Just wondering how long you guys stayed over there, and how long the passport process took?  Thanks so much for this blog post!

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Simon Oliver May 23, 2012

We stayed there for 2 months in total. We got there November 16th and he came Dec 6th. Then as it was Christmas we stayed for that, New Year and for a few more weeks. The British passport officially takes up to 6 weeks, the Canadian ages but you can get an emergency passport if you have to get back quickly.

We met some French families who were leaving within a week of having their babies after getting their emergency passports.

I guess the length of time you stay there depends on if you have to get back for anything in particular. I luckily can run my business online and as we were enjoying Legacy so much we were quite happy to stay until our 2 month visa expired.

Simon

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Graham January 28, 2013

 Hi Simon,

Could you explain or give details the process of getting a British passport for a newborn from the British embassy in Bangkok. What documents do I need? etc…

Thanks,
Graham

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Mjconway May 30, 2012

Hey there!  I live in Kazakhstan and am considering going to Thailand to have our baby instead of back to the U.S. If we were to do it in Thailand, do you know anything about Bumrungrad, whether it is also a good option for natural birth or not? THANKS SO MUCH for sharing! I really enjoyed reading this as we are praying about whether to have the baby at home in the U.S. or in Thailand! Blessings on y’all! Jonna Conway

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Simon Oliver May 31, 2012

All the people we know (or have heard of) have had their babies at Samitivej. It seems to be the most popular place to go for (expat) child birth in Bangkok.

We were originally planning on going back to Canada to have our second as our first was born there but Bangkok worked very well for us all round.

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Maria July 15, 2012

Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and giving very useful tips!! I am actually seeing Dr Nisarat being in the same case as you (VBAC), would you mind sharing your cost estimate with me? Mine for VBAC + emergency C Section already skyrocket at 266,000 to 305,000 Thai baht and she has not been able to provide me justifications!! I am worried… My email : maria_cha75@yahoo.fr

Reply

Simon Oliver July 16, 2012

Our costs did not include emergency C section. We just paid for the consultations as we had them and then the procedure and the 1 night in hospital.

I will ask my wife to email as soon as she can.

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Lincsong July 23, 2012

My wife was a perfect candidate for natural childbirth, and it was one of our main reasons for choosing Samitivej, having heard (wrongly) that they had a low c-section rate. We discovered, too late, that they are a C-section factory, where every sigle person in our birth class had a C-section… I have done a ton of research, and I feel very strongly that my wife did not need to have the c-section, but in the moment of birth pain, any doubt gives the doctor a chance to do their “job” and tell you to have a c-section. The WHO recommends a 10-15% c-section rate, one Samitivejj nurse told us it was 50%, but since I can not find even one natural birt parent here, I think it is much higher. There are some blogs, which influenced our choice to give birth at this Samitivej, but I now believe they are propaganda , paid for by this hospital to generate business. whatever you choose, please be strong, know what is supposed to happen, do NOT go to the hospital too early!!!! It is your choice, don’t let the doctors, or anyone else control you against your will.

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Simon Oliver July 23, 2012

That’s a real shame and I am sorry you didn’t get the natural birth you obviously wanted.

We were also concerned about having our 2nd in SE Asia as our first was breach and so my wife had to had a C-section in Canada. That and we knew that in this part of the world C-Sections seem to be quite common.

We were actually quite surprised and relieved to find that our doctor supported VBAC and at no stage during the birth suggested we needed to have a C-section.

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Ero July 29, 2012

This situation could happen anywhere, (most private Thai hospitals have massive c-section rates) and especially in the U.S.  You are right in saying do not go to the hospital too early, it pays to read as much as you can about labor and/or get in contact with a doula or midwife.  But I disagree about the blogs being propaganda.  The hospital does not deny that it is for-profit.  I am looking forward to my birth at Samitivej, and have had good experiences with the prenatal care there.

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june May 6, 2013

hi just to let you know i had two natural births at samitivej, with no issues. very supportive staff, excellent facilities. i know many who have had natural births and some who had c sections. the only issue for me was extra hidden costs – so keep on top of those! for perfectly normal delivery with no probs and no painkillers still ended up 100,000B

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Jodie October 9, 2012

Loved this post! Dr. Nisarat delivered both my boys and Dr. Olarn is still their pediatrician. I can’t say enough positive things about either one of them. 

To respond to the comment below about c-section rates in Thailand, yes they are significantly higher than the WHO recommends and higher than the average rates in the western world. I too was a “perfect candidate” for natural birth and I chose Samitevej because they are the only hospital in Thailand (or where at the time four years ago – perhaps that’s changed) to offer “water-birth” as an option. Without going into too many details here, suffice it to say that things did not go according to plan. I would most certainly have lost my baby, and my own life would very well have been in jerpardy, had it not been for the experience and skill of everyone who attended to me in hospital. I realise that mine was an extreme case but I have no regrets. I can, hand on heart, honestly say that I was provided with several options and the ultimate choice concerning medical intervention was mine, and my husband’s, alone to make. I never felt pressured in any one direction whatsoever. 

When it came to my second child, I was completely supported by my doctor to try for a VBAC. It was very much my decision (knowing also that this would be my last pregnancy) to not take that route after the difficulties with my first delivery. 

Moreover, I personally know at least three out of four other women who’ve had vaginal births in the last 6 months alone at Samitevej. And while I’m at it, I hate the term “natural birth”. I feel it somehow diminishes my birth experience and implies that my two beautiful, healthy babies were somehow “unnatural”. 

 

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Henry Buell February 25, 2013

Hello.  My wife and I just learned she is pregnant with MoMo twins.  As with all things Google, a quick search has shown us that this is the highest risk type of twin pregnancy.  Having said that, the hospitals of Kyrgyzstan aren’t much better than say, Afghanistan, so we’re looking at where else we might go.  The Samitivej hospital is one we are considering.  Do you have any recommendations as concerns the visa process, any insurance options, or similar thoughts?  If you have the time, an email would be much appreciated.

Best Regards,
 Henry and Nikara

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Flyingfish June 2, 2013

Hi – I’m really interested to hear you had a VBAC with Dr Nissarat. I was under the impression she didn’t support VBAC. I’m hoping to have a VBAC in September and am currently with another doctor at Samitivej, but beginning to have some doubts about how supportive the doctor will be once in labour. Did Dr Nissarat ever try to dissuade you before/during labour? What was her attitude like generally?

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abacare June 24, 2013

Useful post with the useful info for expats living in Bangkok! I think this is very important to find the right hospital!

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Gretchen June 29, 2013

Wow! Thank you! My family lives in Myanmar and we just discovered that we have number three on the way. Our daughter was a c-section (breech) and our son a VBAC, both born in the US. We are anxious and nervous about this upcoming process but your blog has eased me, and excited me! We will be keeping this as a resource, thank you again!

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medianaranja August 17, 2013

Hi, thank you very much for the information! do you think it would be posible to explain a bit more about your birthing experience, did you feel they were letting you control the situation and giving you valuable advice or did you feel they drove the process? Thanks!

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vong.dara12 July 2, 2014

ROM looking forward for the new January Furniture Show

Trustworthy furniture shop in Phnom Penh construction materials highlighted, the latest international brand to sign up for the new January Furniture Show 2015.

In this show the Belgian furniture maker ROM will provide a big collection of design-led and the quality functional furniture.

Moreover the company is looking forward for this show in Birmingham. One more things
their market share in the UK has been strongly raising over the last two years and they do have ambition for the further growth.

By the way, they also focus on the strategic advantage that is the most important in marketing.

Reply

Catherine August 23, 2014

Right now it looks like Drupal is the preferred blogging platform out there right now.
(from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your
blog?

Reply

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