Posted on Feb 25, 2015 by Rob McBroom
Preparing to have a baby is no easy task, but with Hong Kong’s excellent health care system and range of pre-natal facilities, there’s no reason pregnancy shouldn’t run smoothly. Read on for information and advice on having the healthiest and happiest pregnancy possible in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Health Authority, along with most doctors, recommend that women schedule a prenatal check-up in the early stages of planning a pregnancy. At this exam, a physician will ensure that the woman is healthy enough to carry a baby without posing any risks to mother or child. Pre-pregnancy screenings often include blood tests for syphilis and Hepatitis B, and an assessment of Body Mass Index and lifestyle habits that could influence a pregnancy, such as smoking or obesity. The physician will then provide advice on what can be done to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Future fathers are encouraged to come for a check-up too: That way both parents can be screened for genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. If there’s any concern about fertility, a sperm count can be conducted.
Pre-pregnancy health care may also include counseling sessions, which are a good opportunity for couples to discuss their excitement and concerns about starting or continuing a family. Hong Kong offers mental health services at public outpatient facilities, while couples who don’t want to wait can enjoy shorter wait times for appointments and a wider range of international counselors by choosing a private clinic.
If you hold a private or employer-sponsored insurance policy, don’t forget to contact your insurance company as soon as you decide to try for a baby. Many policies impose a waiting period on maternity insurance, so it’s essential to begin begin paying these premiums as soon as possible to ensure that coverage is available once the pregnancy is underway.
Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby
It’s important for pregnant women - or women trying to get pregnant - to keep their bodies in good health. Staying active is one of the best ways to maintain overall physical wellness and to give birth to a healthier child. In Hong Kong, expectant mothers have a range of fitness options including pre-natal yoga and pilates sessions, and even low-impact barre dance workouts.
Of course, expectant fathers should keep themselves in good shape as well. (After all, it won’t be long before there’s a toddler to chase after!) Soon-to-be-dads may enjoy training for one of the city’s regular marathons, or simply joining their pregnant partner on fitness outings to swim, play table tennis, or simply stroll around Hong Kong’s myriad country parks.
Choosing Your Health Care Partners
Hong Kong offers an excellent choice of doctors and hospitals. No matter your budget or specific health care needs, there’s sure to be a physician and a facility to guide expectant parents on the journey toward giving birth.
Many local and expat residents in Hong Kong choose a maternity package from a private hospital. Although private packages can be costly - anywhere from HK$25,000 to HK$200,000 for the delivery, plus the price of pre-natal check-ups - the benefits are myriad. Whereas waiting times to visit public maternity care centres can be long, in the private sector, expectant parents can schedule check-ups for convenient dates and times. Many soon-to-be mums and dads also appreciate the ability to see the same physician at each visit. Developing a strong doctor-patient relationship can calm nerves and promote easier exchange of health care updates.
At the same time, Hong Kong’s public health care system is affordable and of a high quality. Mothers planning to receive care under the Hong Kong public health care system should visit their nearest Obstetrics Specialist Outpatient Clinic or Maternal and Child Health Centre, of which there are 18 in the city. At these locations, it’s possible to book future check-ups; receive information about an initial antenatal health assessment and future check-up procedures; and arrange for other special screenings. While affordable, there is a language barrier present for many expats, making it somewhat frustrating to achieve the level of care you need.
Beyond the language barrier, in the public health system it’s usually not possible to see the same physician at every appointment, and there’s no guarantee that a favorite doctor will be available on baby’s delivery date.
There’s even a third choice: Many expats in particular opt to receive all prenatal care through a private maternity clinic, but to deliver in a public hospital. This limits costs while also ensuring a continuous physician/patient relationship and, often, an international doctor who understands the language and customs of the patient. Private clinics can arrange for a delivery at the public hospital of the patient’s choosing, and this half-and-half private/public maternity package can be expected to cost around HK$13,000.
Maternity and Paternity Leave
Employees in Hong Kong are entitled to 10 weeks maternity leave, assuming they have been at their current job for at least four weeks and are working more than 18 hours per week. Maternity leave generally begins two to four weeks before the delivery date. During leave a woman can expect to retain 80 percent of her usual wages. Pay is also guaranteed for maternity-related health care appointments and necessary sick leave due to miscarriage or complications, and another four weeks maternity leave may be added in the case of illness.
In addition, Hong Kong law offers various employee protections to expectant mothers. Pregnant women may not be fired during their maternity leave or in the preceding months, assuming no misconduct on the part of the employee has occured. Employers are also legally prohibited from asking a pregnant employee to perform tasks that constitute a risk to her health or the health of the fetus.
In December 2014, Hong Kong passed a law giving new fathers the opportunity to take three days of paternity leave, on partial pay. This leave may be taken in the four weeks preceding the delivery date or in the 10 weeks afterwards. A number of multinational companies in Hong Kong already offer five days leave at full pay to male employees.
The challenges - and excitement! - of having a baby certainly don’t end after the delivery is through. Prepare ahead for post-pregnancy care by purchasing infant necessities before your baby is born. In Hong Kong, Bloom and Grow, 100 Baby Essentials, and Bumps to Babes all offer a large selection of cots, carriers, bottles, clothing and lots more. You can shop online for added convenience, and organize a gift registry in person or online. For those interested in a more boutique experience, eco-conscious and independent baby shops can be found in favorite Hong Kong shopping districts like SoHo and Causeway Bay, or online.
Of course, it’s also important to be aware of potential health care concerns which can arise in the first months following a birth. Arrange regular post-delivery check-ups, and use these appointments to discuss the physical and mental health of baby, mum and dad. New parents should be on the lookout for irregular bowel movements, breathing difficulties and jaundice in their newborns. In the unlikely case of an emergency, speedy care can be found at one of Hong Kong’s 24-hour Accident & Emergency facilities, located at both public and private hospitals around the territory.