Having a baby is an exciting time. Having a baby in a country you aren’t native to—like Thailand—is even more exciting. But after your nerves settle and you share the good news with your closest family, you and your partner have much to think about. Where do you start? How do you find a good doctor? How do you find a good hospital? How is childbirth handled in Thailand? How much will it cost if you don’t have insurance? The questions never end. But don’t worry, we did all the legwork for you in this article. You’ll find all the info you need about having a baby in Thailand below.
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- 1 Are You or Your Partner Really Pregnant?
- 2 Calculating Your Budget
- 3 Researching Hospitals
- 4 Finding a Doctor
- 5 Monitoring The Important Stuff
- 6 Tests for the Parents
- 7 Scheduling the Birth
- 8 Packing Your Bag
- 9 What to Expect on Delivery Day
- 10 The Days After Delivery
- 11 Birth Certificates
- 12 Paying for the Delivery
- 13 Bringing Your Baby Home
- 14 Finding a Pediatrician
- 15 Vaccines and Follow-Ups
- 16 Expat Birth Stories
- 17 A Note About This Guide
Are You or Your Partner Really Pregnant?
If you or your partner have all the symptoms of pregnancy—morning sickness, exhaustion, sensitivity to smells, mood swings—then it’s time to get tested. You can take a pregnancy test at home before you go to a clinic or hospital.
At-Home Pregnancy Tests
You can buy an over-the-counter, do-it-yourself home pregnancy test from any local pharmacy in Thailand. Or you can go to the supermarket. Most supermarkets have a pharmacy inside near the front of the store. Don’t know where to find a supermarket? You can find the closest Big C or Foodland by checking their websites or even order it online. The pregnancy test costs about 150 baht. After you get the blue stripes or pink plus symbol or smiley face or any other tell-tale sign you’re pregnant, you’ll want to follow up with a professional.
Clinical and Hospital Tests
Most doctors in Thailand work out of hospitals or clinics. Clinics are what we’d call doctor’s offices in the West. Clinics are good if you only want to confirm you or your partner are pregnant. If your ultrasound and blood work come back positive you’ll want to look for a doctor and hospital. Hospitals have better gear to help you through your pregnancy. This will be important if you have problems. Bria Lab is a popular clinic in Bangkok that offers pregnancy screenings.
Calculating Your Budget
If you test positive you need think about how much you can afford to spend on your pregnancy. If you have insurance talk to your insurance company to find out what’s covered. And find out what hospitals they deal with. You’ll also need to know how they’ll repay you if you have to pay out of pocket.
Most hospitals offer expecting parents “childbirth packages” for one flat rate. The cost of the package covers all normal delivery services. But if the mother or baby has problems before, during, or after delivery, the cost goes up.
An important note about private hospitals: Private hospitals offer childbirth packages for a set price. But it’s not unusual for new moms and dads to walk away with a bill for three-times the amount of the package. Hospitals sometimes add on services and costs without your consent. If you chose deliver your baby at a private hospital ask them what the package includes, and what other services and costs should be expected. The cost of extra nursing care for mom, emergency care for your newborn, and some medications will be tacked onto your package price. So ask hospital staff to get your approval before doing anything your package doesn’t include. And make sure you have a member of the hospital go over your costs line-by-line to be sure you actually received the services they charge you for.
Here is a chart of hospitals in Thailand and what they charge for natural birth packages and c-section packages.
|Bangkok Nursing Home||฿57,900||฿89,900|
Cost During Pregnancy
Costs add up if you don’t have insurance. Aside from the delivery costs you have to pay for ultrasounds, routine check-ups, and important fetal tests. Tack on another 20,000 – 30,000 for these visits. If you have insurance, these routine checkups might be 100% covered. Or you might have a copayment. Check with your insurance company. My family’s biggest cost outside of our childbirth package was the ultrasound and blood work to test our baby for Down Syndrome. That test costed us 16,000 baht. You should also have money set aside for non-medical costs. Moms-to-be need new clothes and plenty of food for their changing bodies and growing babies.
If you want to find out more on how health insurance works in Thailand, check out this article.
Universal Healthcare Scheme
Thailand has a universal healthcare system for qualified Thais. If you’re a native Thai woman or married to a native Thai woman the government may provide free healthcare. Each visit to the doctor is free up until the delivery. Then the family would have to pay a fee. But the cost of childbirth under universal healthcare could be a third of what you’d pay out of pocket. The downside to universal healthcare is longer wait times during check ups and the inability to pick your doctor.
Paying Your Doctor
Some people may pay their doctor a side-fee for extra care at public hospitals (e.g. for a private delivery room, a dedicated doctor and other amenities that might otherwise not be part of the public system). This isn’t done on the record or through the hospital. And it’s an amount agreed upon between the doctor and patient. I don’t recommend doing this. But you should know ahead of time that these things do happen in Thailand.
Now that you have a budget in mind or you’ve spoken to your insurance company it’s time to look for hospitals. You should research hospitals and doctors at the same time if you’re having a baby in Thailand. So consider the steps in this chapter and the next chapter (Finding a Doctor) something you should do at the same time.
When you choose a hospital it’s like choosing a car. You can get a good quality car for a low price. And just because you buy the most expensive car doesn’t mean you won’t have problems with it. A car that costs a lot is more of a status symbol than anything else. The same holds true with private hospitals in Thailand.
Your cheapest choice for having a baby in Thailand is a public hospital. Public hospitals have good healthcare for the cost. But you wait longer to see the doctor—all day long. And patients don’t get to choose their doctor. In other cases, doctors at public hospitals might have less experience or they may be apprenticing under senior doctors. If you’re interested in a public hospital for your delivery, check out this complete list of public hospitals in Thailand.
Premium clinics are located at public hospitals. But the service you get at a premium clinic is a step up from public hospitals. For example, you get to choose you doctor. And most doctors who work at premium clinics also work at private hospitals. Wait times are shorter than wait times at public hospitals as well. The cost of having a baby at a premium clinic is cheaper than private hospitals but cost more than public hospitals. But you get great healthcare for the value. My wife had a lot of problems during her first pregnancy. So she decided to deliver our second daughter at Ramathibodi Hospital. Ramathibodi has one of the best NICUs in Thailand. And the doctor had a long history of experience with high-risk pregnancies.
Your most expensive choice when planning to have a baby in Thailand is a private hospital. You won’t get any special healthcare you can’t get at a premium clinic. But because you’re paying a higher price you might get a few perks, like a cozy room and better food. Also, the father can go into the delivery room if you’re having a c-section. For an idea on what you get for your money at a private hospital check out Bumrungrad Hospital’s Baby Delivery Program. If you’re interested in a private hospital The Ministry of Public Health’s website lists all the private hospitals in Thailand.
Taking a Tour
Once you’ve slimmed down your choices you’ll want to take a tour of the hospitals on your list. On the tour you should visit the delivery ward—and just in case—the NICU. Ask plenty of questions just like you would back home. Remember, things aren’t always done the same way in Thailand as they are in your home country. It’s better you know what to expect ahead of time so you’re not surprised on the big day.
Important questions to ask:
- Does this hospital deal with your insurance company?
- Are special services available for high-risk pregnancies?
- Who can be in the room during delivery (natural and c-section)?
- Is your partner or child allowed to stay with you overnight?
- Does the hospital offer private rooms? and is there an extra cost for the private room?
Finding a Doctor
While you’re looking for the perfect hospital to welcome your baby to the world, you’re going to want to find the perfect doctor as well. If you’re from the West you’ll want a doctor who can relate to your worries. You should find a doctor who has either studied, worked, or lived abroad. Or at least find a doctor who understands Western culture because cross-cultural misunderstands can happen easily.
In Thailand social hierarchy is important. It’s not always okay to question doctors. I learned this the hard way. I recall one doctor I’ve visited in the past who got offended on more than one occasion. She felt my questions insulted her expertise as a doctor. And during one visit she told me, “You know, Thailand has smart doctors too.” I had to explain to her that the questions I was asking her were the same questions I’d ask any doctor in America as well.
In the case of my wife’s pregnancy, one doctor would not support my wife’s decision to push naturally because my wife’s first pregnancy was a c-section. And strangely enough, we were told that had I been Indian—not American—my wife could probably deliver our baby naturally. But even if this is your first pregnancy, doctors will push you to have a c-section. It’s more convenient for the doctor, and in some cases, is used to generate more profits. Doctors from the Childbirth and Breastfeeding Foundation of Thailand have fought tirelessly to change these policies.
Find a doctor who is okay with you asking a lot of questions and one who supports your wishes. Here’s a list of Ob Gyns in Bangkok to help you get started. Once you’ve slimmed down your search to a doctor whose ideals align with yours, set up a consultation.
Important questions to ask potential doctors:
- Is the doctor board certified?
- Will the doctor listen to you and answer your questions? Be sure the doctor is open to answering your questions.
- Is the doctor open to working with you and the outcome you expect? For example, if you want a natural birth after having a c-section the first time around, will the doctor support your decision?
- Is the doctor accessible? Can you reach them in an emergency?
- Is the doctor affiliated with the hospital you chose? Most doctors in Thailand work at several hospitals. Make sure he or she works at the hospital you decide to deliver at.
Monitoring The Important Stuff
The next nine months will be the craziest, most nerve-wracking time of your life—especially if this is your first child. Doctors may want to test you, your partner, and your growing son or daughter a few times over the next nine months. Here are a few of the major tests.
In Thailand, doctors give expecting moms ultrasounds during every visit to the office. Each ultrasound tells the doctor something different about your baby’s progress. Here are a few major ultrasounds you’ll have.
- Predict due date by measuring heart rate and fetal length
- Down syndrome
- Trisomy 18
- Heart defects
- Body and organ scan
- Baby’s sex
- Check body and organ growth
- Check for heart defects
Checking for Down Syndrome
This is the first of two serious tests.
The older the mother is, the higher the risk of the child being born with Down Syndrome. Changes are about 1 in 200 at age 35. Medical staff considers that risk sufficient to justify a procedure called amniocentesis.
During this test, doctors check your baby’s skin-fold at their neck to see if they might have Down Syndrome. Mothers may have to give blood as well.
Fetal Heart Monitoring
It’s not unusual for babies in the womb to have holes in their hearts during their growth. When the doctor tells you about the hole in your baby’s heart don’t panic. It usually closes up before you deliver the baby. But just to be sure the doctor checks your baby’s heart through ultrasounds.
During the second trimester the doctor does a full anatomy scan on your baby. They’ll check your baby’s limbs, toes, fingers, facial features, and internal organs to make sure they’re growing correctly.
Boy or Girl?
At the 20 week mark you get to find out what you’re having. Congratulations! Now you can start thinking of your baby’s name and whether or not you’ll be giving your baby a Thai nickname. Pancake, anyone?
Tests for the Parents
Mothers and fathers aren’t free from the testing process during pregnancy. Doctors may test one or both parents for sexually transmitted diseases. And if your partner or you are Asian, doctors will test for Thalassemia.
There are two types of Thalassemia: major and minor. Thalassemia minor is when you are a carrier of the disease but show no symptoms. Thalassemia major is when you have symptoms of the disease, which can lead to anemia. Thalassemia is most often found in people from Southeast Asia as well as Italy.
Doctors test women for the disease during their pregnancy (or, if it’s a planned pregnancy, they’ll even test it before conception). If the mother is a carrier then doctors also test fathers. If both parents are Thalassemia carriers the baby might be at-risk for anemia.
Scheduling the Birth
After doctors finish testing you or your partner and the growing baby reaches the important milestones, you’re ready to schedule your child’s birth. In Thailand, doctors like to schedule births and they prefer c-sections over natural delivery. You can have natural delivery and you can find doctors who’ll support your choice. But don’t be surprised if doctors try to sway you toward getting a c-section.
You schedule the c-section in the last month of your pregnancy. Doctors use your due date and ultrasound measurements to see what week is best for your baby to enter the world. My wife begged her doctor to let our second daughter come when the baby wanted to. But my wife’s doctor insisted she schedule the c-section. My wife’s doctor said it would be easier and less of a risk for everyone.
If you plan on delivering your baby through natural childbirth you won’t have to schedule anything. But you should ask your doctor if he or she will be the one delivering your baby. Bangkok is not an easy city to drive in. If your baby decides to come out during rush hour your doctor might not reach you in time. Find out which doctor helps you in an emergency.
Packing Your Bag
As a general rule of thumb have a hospital bag ready when you or your partner are pregnant. Even if you’ve scheduled the delivery, surprises happen. My wife kept telling me to pack our hospital bag for weeks. One Saturday it was too late and we had to rush to the hospital empty handed. If you have a car, keep your hospital bag in the car. If you’re going to take a taxi keep the bag by your front door. Make sure the bag is light enough to throw in a taxi. This means packing just what you need.
The Must Haves
Make sure you have these things packed in your hospital bag. You can buy everything else at stores inside the hospital.
- Insurance paperwork
- Sweater (hospitals are cold)
- Travel size toiletries
- Contact lens solution
- Cell phone and charger (so you can Facetime your family back home)
- A few days of clean clothes for you and your partner
You’ll want to bring things that remind you of home. Maybe a comfortable pillow or pajamas. Also, bring things to pass the time. Remember, if you get a c-section that means you’re having major surgery, not just delivering a baby. You’ll spend a lot of time recovering in the hospital room.
- Clothes for your baby
Hospitals give you a gift basket welcoming your baby into the world. You should have enough in the basket to get the baby home.
Things to Help You During Delivery
In the West hospitals have stabilization balls and other gear to help moms get comfortable and push the baby out. You’ll be hard up to find these things in the delivery ward at Thai hospitals. So if you plan on using something to help you, make sure you bring it with you.
A special note for Bangkok residents.
Are you planning on delivering your baby at a hospital on the other side of the city? You might want to stay at a hotel close to that hospital for the last few days of your pregnancy. If you start going into labor during rush hour it may take you several hours to get to the hospital.
What to Expect on Delivery Day
Delivery day is nothing like you’ve see in the movies. So if you’ve never had a kid before, forget everything you’ve ever thought about the process—and just go with the flow. To lower stress, you should keep in mind this is Thailand and things work differently here. It doesn’t make things better or worse than the way they’re done in your home country. Just different. Here’s what you can expect.
If you’ve scheduled your c-section then delivery day won’t be a surprise. You’ll arrive at the hospital like you’re going in to get a tooth pulled—nervous, anxious, and a little uncertain about the whole thing. The mother goes into the operating room with only the nurses and doctors. You can make plans at a private hospital for fathers to follow along. But dad usually waits outside for the good news.
In most cases the anesthesiologist will set spinal anesthesia which result in feeling numb for 3-4 hours.
Once doctors have delivered the baby the father’s allowed to go in a snap a picture with his new family. Then the nurses shuffle the father out and tell him to wait for mom to recover. Or he’ll get to see the baby in the delivery ward. The hospital lets the dad go in and watch as the nurses clean up your baby, check his or her weight and vitals, and dress them up. This is also where you’ll get to hold your baby for the first time.
After mom recovers she’s allowed to spend time with her new son or daughter. Nurses bring the baby back and forth between mom and the delivery ward for monitoring over the next few days. Once the nurses see your baby’s okay, the baby can sleep in the same room as the mother.
Mom will also have a catheter in her bladder for a few days.
When you check into the hospital nurses assign you a delivery room. If you’re contractions are far apart you won’t have much help. But as they get closer nurses assist you until it’s time for the doctor to deliver your baby. Father’s can go in the room with the mother for natural childbirth. And some hospitals may let your children in the room as well.
There are option for ‘painless labor’ where epidural catheter is put in, less pain but retained push power. Usually the catheter is removed a day or two afterwards.
The recovery process for mom isn’t so severe with natural childbirth. So you’ll get some initial bonding time with your baby before he or she is sent to the delivery ward. Then the same process for c-sections happens for natural childbirth.
The Days After Delivery
The days after delivering the baby are foggy for the entire family. You won’t sleep because you’re excited about the new addition to your family. And when you sleep nurses barge in and throw the lights on and poke and prod you. But it’s all done with good intentions. Nurses in Thailand go above and beyond. They spend extra time with you. They make sure you’re getting everything you need while recovering from the delivery. But they’ll also have to follow the guidelines of the hospital. So if you have any special needs for you or your baby let the nurses know your personal choices.
My wife decided to do exclusive breastfeeding with our daughter. She had to tell hospital staff so none of the nurses gave our daughter formula. Whether you or your partner want to breastfeed or give formula or do a little of both, tell the nurses. They can make a note of it on your baby’s crib.
If either you or your partner are a Thai citizen then your baby can get Thai citizenship. If neither parents are Thai citizens then your baby can’t get a Thai birth certificate. But there may be special cases in which your child can get Thai citizenship. If both parents have permanent residency in Thailand then their child is entitled to Thai citizenship. You should check with Thai Immigration. Immigrations laws in Thailand can change overnight.
Thai Birth Certificate
Hospitals can take care of processing your baby’s Thai birth certificate. We paid an extra 250 baht for the administrators at Ramathibodi Hospital to process our daughter’s Thai birth certificate. At Bumrungrad Hospital the Thai birth certificate is included with their childbirth packages. With all the excitement going on it’s better to pay them or let hospital staff take care of the birth certificate. Or else you’ll have to take your newborn to the local district office and sit and wait.
Home Country Birth Certificate
If you’re not a Thai citizen you’ll also want to tell your home country of your baby’s birth. There’s no time limit, but the sooner the better. It’ll be easier if you have to travel out of Thailand. Traveling with a Thai passport doesn’t entitle you to the same perks as traveling with a Western passport. You can start the process by visiting your home country’s embassy website. You can set up a date through their website. You can usually do the birth certificate and passport at the same time. Make sure you ask what papers you need to get translated or bring with you and how much everything costs. Here is a list of 128 foreign embassies and consulates in Thailand.
Paying for the Delivery
When the doctor clears you and your newborn to leave the hospital, it’s time to pay for everything. You have two choices.
Paying Out of Pocket
Whether you have no insurance or universal Thai healthcare, you’ll have to pay for all hospital costs before you leave. If you don’t have a credit card to pay for the costs, have cash on hand. You can only take out 20,000 baht from the ATM machine per day, based on your agreement with the bank. If you know the delivery is going to cost more start taking out money a few days before. Or go to a bank and take out your money from the teller.
Paying With Insurance
Insurance companies may ask you to pay for healthcare costs upfront. Then you’ll have to send them the bill and they’ll repay you. Hospitals can bill some insurance companies if the companies work directly with the hospital. Either way, be sure to get a list of every single thing done at the hospital and how much it costed.
A Note About Medication
Private hospitals are in the healthcare business to make a profit. Yes, they help you and give you excellent care. But they also need to make money. It’s just the way it is. So most private hospitals mark up the cost of medication, sometimes by 400%. A private hospital in Bang Na charged my wife and me 200 baht for meds one time. We found out later we could’ve bought it for 50 baht from the pharmacy.
You have the right to decline buying medication from any hospital. In this case, ask for the list of meds you need and buy them at the pharmacy. Public and premium clinics don’t usually mark up the cost of medication. But it’s best to check.
Bringing Your Baby Home
Is this your first baby? Then you’ll need a bunch of things like a car seat, chest carrier, a crib, high chair, clothes, and all the other basics.
Car seats and other safety devices are still luxuries in Thailand. But because Thailand’s roads are ranked the second most deadliest in the world I’d suggest you buy one—and use it. Expect to pay a lot of money for a quality car seat. If you have family coming to Thailand to welcome your new baby into the family, buy a car seat online and ask your family to bring it with them.
To get all the basics for your newborn, go to Mega Bangna Mall. They have a bunch of baby and children’s stores that sell things for newborns. Mothercare, Kiddo Land Baby, Baby Gift, Toys R Us, and Momories are five stores that sell quality things for your baby. If you’re looking for bigger furniture like cribs, dressers, or high chairs, Mega Bangna also has an IKEA.
You can buy baby bathtubs, sippy cups, plates, and baby utensils at Big C for a lot cheaper than the larger department stores. Big C also has a selection of children’s clothes. They’re not the best quality but they last long enough for a growing baby. If you plan on using clothes as hand-me-downs for your next baby, you’re better off buying them at a department store like Robinson.
Finding a Pediatrician
Finding a good doctor for your baby is as important as finding a good Ob Gyn was for you. Again, if you’re coming from the West it helps to have a doctor who’s familiar with Western standards. Or at least knows the Western mindset. If not, your doctor may grow impatient with the slew of questions parents from the West like to ask. Bumrungrad Hospital, Samitivej Hospital, Thainakarin Hospital all have top-rated healthcare for children.
Important Questions to Ask:
- How long has the doctor been practicing?
- What is the doctor’s childcare philosophy? For example, if the mother chooses to breastfeed, will the doctor be supportive?
- Does the doctor have children? This will help the doctor relate to your concerns.
- How are emergencies handled?
- Is the waiting area clean and welcoming?
- Is there a separate area for sick kids?
- Does that hospital or doctor accept your health insurance?
Vaccines and Follow-Ups
Once you settle your baby into the world it’s time for their vaccines and follow-ups.
Thai doctors follow the standard vaccine schedule endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But children in Thailand get vaccines children in the West don’t get. One is a vaccine for Japanese B Encephalitis.
If you’re concerned about any of the vaccines ask the doctor to give you the name of the vaccine and the name of the company that makes it. You can then research the company online. The major question you want to answer is: Is this vaccine new or has it been around a while? Avoid any vaccines without a proven track record for safety.
Cost of Vaccines
The cost to vaccinate your baby changes with each stage of the vaccination process. For a single vaccination like Hepatitis at a private hospital you’ll pay around 1,000 baht. For a combination vaccination like Infanrix you can pay up to 3,000 baht. At a public hospital or premium clinic the cost drops to around one-third of that price. Over the course of three years you can expect to pay about 16,000 to 20,000 baht for all your child’s vaccinations at a private hospital. There is a cheaper solution, though.
One way to get cheaper vaccinations is to purchase a vaccination package from a hospital. Bangkok Hospital in Koh Samui, for example, has a vaccination package for 11,000 baht.
Your baby’s visits to the doctor’s office include height and weight checks. This is where Thailand and the West differ. Average weights and heights in Thailand are different than average weights and heights in the West. If your baby isn’t Thai, or is mixed Thai, check online with baby weights and averages from your home country as well. A doctor in Thailand may tell you your baby is too big for their age. But in your home country they’d be on target. During follow-ups doctors also make sure you baby hits their important milestones.
Whether you’re a Thai or foreigner, it’s always good to connect with like-minded moms and dads to share experiences and find solutions to your challenges. Bangkok has many support groups, but two of the most popular are the Childbirth and Breastfeeding Foundation of Thailand and Bambi.
Expat Birth Stories
Having been a working expat and given birth to two children in Hatyai Hospital, Mitchelle wrote a practical guildline on the necessary procedures and documents to have for a smooth baby delivery. In addition, she covered other useful maternity tips and tricks, including medicine for your baby, child registration, and more on her blog. Hatyai Hospital in Hatyai City
Pamela Herrick married into a Thai family and opened a Thai massage school in Chiang Mai. She shared her detailed experience in giving birth to her son in Lanna Hospital, which was an interesting combination between modern procedures and local traditions. Being a Thai massage therapist, Pam wrote several articles on Thai medicine for mothers and massage therapy.
Dorrete is an expat from South Africa and has experience in giving birth in Thailand. She told her inspirational story of the day she delivered her baby, starting from the early morning of December 24th. Because of the good care she received from an English speaking nurse and midwife, Dorrete had a complete change of mind from her personal misconceptions on Thai hospitals and ended up grateful for it.
A Note About This Guide
This article is based on my subjective experiences with having our second daughter in Thailand. It’s also based on the experiences of Thai and Western friends who’ve had kids in Thailand. There are many variables with having a baby in Thailand. Your experiences may or may not differ.
Also note: I make no claims to be a doctor. Do not take this article as medical advice. Always check with your doctor about having a baby, your baby’s health, your health, and the vaccination process.