I, Tanya, wrote this post long ago, back in the days before we were joined by our wonderful daughter, Zoe. Now that we have been through the cycle of pregnancy, birth and have a toddler running around it is about time we published this.
First, let's get one thing straight. I am not pregnant, I am just fat. BUT, we are both at the stage of our lives when we are considering that I become pregnant and that we produce little Tanya and Andrew's that will take over the world.
Recently, we have started researching our options. We've never been fond of just doing what everyone else does without thinking things through. We try to always look at the options and that includes childbirth. So how much would it cost to have a baby at home Vs somewhere else? And where would we prefer to be?
What is the cost of having a baby in Australia?
Andrew and I are blessed to have been brought up in Australia. It really is an awesome country that has quite fantastic health care. There are two options available for those wanting to have a baby in Australia.
The first option is a public hospital birth. Under the public system you can't really pick any of your medical staff except for your normal GP and perhaps you will get some say in what obstetrician or midwife you see. However the hospital's scheduling trumps your preferences, even for scheduled appointments.
At the time of the birth there is a very large chance your chosen obstetrician/midwife will not be present because of their shift roster and you will have to give birth with people you have not had much contact with. For that reason some hospitals actually prefer you to see different people for your various appointments rather than trying to always see your favourite. That way you get to know lots of staff so there is a better chance of having some familiar faces around during labour.
If you are lucky, you may get to stay in hospital for up to 4 nights.
Medicare (the government essentially) will pay for antenatal care, check ups, appointments with midwives etc aside from visits to your regular GP (if you have one), antenatal classes, actually giving birth, and any post-natal care required for both mother and child. It is a pretty sweet deal.
I wonder if it costs more to have a home birth in the public health system or if that is even possible under the public system... maybe one of you know.
Having a baby through the private health system will give you a broader range of birthing options but unless you have organised with your private health insurance at least 12 months prior to giving birth then a private hospital birth will cost you a packet.
Australian private health insurance companies typically have a compulsory waiting period of 12 months before you can claim for maternity hospital costs. So make sure you have your insurance in order well in advance so all the antenatal stuff will be covered.
Read the fine print on any policy and check whether there will be any other charges or out of pocket expenses. Private health insurance in Australia costs around $150 per month to get the most basic hospital and maternity cover and you may still find yourself out of pocket in the end. Is it really worth it?
Reading a lot of baby forum boards, I have worked out that a private hospital c-section birth without any complications would cost around $15,000 in total. I quote the c-section birth as it is generally the most expensive birthing option available.
The $15,000 cost includes pre- and post natal care, obstetrician, anaesthetist, surgery, drugs, and around a 3 night stay in a hospital. With basic hospital and maternity private health insurance, the Insurance will pay for part of it but you will still be out of pocket. From my research, the out of pocket for a c-section with no complications etc will be around $5000 with your insurance covering the rest.
Perhaps I am over reacting but what is the point of having private health insurance when you still have to pay a substantial out of pocket, there is some possibility that you may end up sharing a room with someone else's screaming baby anyway, you can request particular people for your delivery but they might not be available, and you can only stay in hospital for 3 nights?
So far, the public health system in Australia is winning. It is far cheaper and the value provided by the private option seems dubious. The private hospitals themselves have nicer furnishings, better food, more private rooms and a more cozy vibe about them but is that worth $150/month plus up to $5000?
So what other options are out there? After doing a lot of googling one particular idea seemed to have some merit. What about having a baby at one of the best hospitals in Bangkok, Thailand.
Having a baby in Thailand
For the cost of a full private health system baby birth of $15000 we can fly to Thailand, stay in an awesome 3 bedroom apartment provided by a hospital in Bangkok for several months (not days or weeks, months), have fantastic pre- and post- natal care and have a hospital birth in a room that looks like a 5 star hotel suite, eat delicious Thai food and have massages whenever we want (daily foot massages are sure to be in demand in the last few weeks).
If we're going to spend all that money anyway we could even put all of our parents on a plane and have them come visit for a month.
All we would need to do is apply for some combination of medical visas and possibly multiple entry tourist visas from the Thai Consulate in Brisbane. The medical visa exists specifically for people who want to travel to Thailand for medical treatment.
I don't know if it would cover Andrew or if he would have to do a visa run or two during our stay. A taxi ride to the Cambodian border would be the most likely option from Bangkok but a flight to one of Thailand's immediate neighbours and back may be required.
The total approximate numbers for having a baby in Thailand are:
Something in the neighbourhood of $3000 for flights for us and our folks.
Around $400 for 6 months worth of visas.
$3000 for a c-section birth (again, because it is the most expensive possibility).
Add $6000 for a nice apartment for six months (6 x $1000 = $6000).
We just figured out how to get free travel insurance with our credit card that includes emergency maternity care up to 26 weeks of pregnancy. We would still need to work something out for between 26 weeks and delivery even if that just means having money on hand to pay for anything that crops up.
Total price: $12,400.
A fancy hospital / hotel stay in Bangkok, Thailand is certainly sounding pretty good. If we are going to spend the money, we might as well enjoy it.
We need to note that there will be a time during the pregnancy period (and after) that I will not be able to fly. Most airlines have different rules, but since we generally fly with Air Asia, this is what they have to say about expectant mothers...
Women up to the 27th week can fly but they have to sign a waiver. Between 28 and 34 weeks, the mother to be needs to provide a medical certificate signed within 48 hours and sign a waiver. Past the 35th week, expectant mothers can not fly.
What worries me if something goes wrong while we are away. What if something happens to one of our immediate family members? We would not be able to come home to see them.
I guess all we need to do is put our immediate family members into a bubble so that no one gets hurt! Having a no-fly period during which we cannot come home no matter what is a definite negative to giving birth overseas.
There are certainly plenty of other options. As described on Almost Fearless most countries in the Americas offer citizenship to anyone born within their country. The ability to give our child a second passport as a "welcome to the world" gift is certainly attractive.
Unfortunately that is not a region that we are particularly familiar with. The idea of going through pregnancy, birth and having a new baby in a place we don't know is not particularly attractive.
Decisions, decisions... We need to do some more research and talk to some people who have done this before but I feel like we are on the right track here. Then, all we need to do is actually get pregnant, not be fat.
Would you consider an out of home country birth if you had the chance? Please share your thoughts below.
This is future Tanya again. In case you are curious, we spent part of the pregnancy in Thailand and had the initial rounds of antenatal appointments there.
We then went back to Australia and went with the public system. The midwives and doctors were awesome, the antenatal classes were actually quite fun, the facilities were very nice and we certainly can't complain about the $0 price tag.