(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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Playgrounds at Benjasiri Park
Where: Beside Emporium Shopping Centre/BTS station – Phrom Phong
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
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.
Where: MRT station – Silom
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.
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
Some of our favourite places to eat/order take-away:
Pizzeria Luigi – Italian
Sukhumvit, Soi 25
Al Ferdoss – Lebanese
77/1 – 3 Sukhumvit, Soi 3/1, BTS station – Nana
ISAO – Japanese Fusion
5 Sukhumvit, Soi 31
Food Courts – Thai
Emporium Mall – Sukhumvit, BTS station – Phrong Phong
Terminal 21 – Sukhumvit, BTS station – Asok
Sakinoya – Japanese
12 Sukhumvit, Soi 29 (Legacy Suites)
Khun Churn – Vegetarian Thai
Sukhumvit, Soi 42 – Bangkok Mediplex Building, BTS station – Ekamai
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.
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