Childbirth, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Medical Care
Health Issues

Having a Baby in the U.S.

This material courtesy of Tatyana Sorokina

Having a baby is a very joyful but usually a stressful occasion especially if you are giving birth in a foreign country. Having a baby in the U.S. is safe and comfortable if you are well prepared. There are certain things to take into consideration before pregnancy, during the pregnancy and labor and after the birth.

The first thing one should bear in mind is that birth in the U.S. costs a lot of money. You have to pay a gynecologist, anesthesiologist, genetic consultant(s), lab(s), ultra sound technician(s), a pediatrician and the hospital facilities so the best thing to do before the pregnancy is to get insured since insurance usually pays the biggest chunk of all these expenses. In addition insurance companies sometimes have free programs for expectant mothers that might include some or all of the following: free phone consultations with a registered nurse, free newsletters/magazines and a gift (usually a book or a DVD related to pregnancy or newborn care).

Preparing for the birth during the pregnancy includes a lot of bureaucracy and being well aware of all procedures and regulations imposed by your insurance company and the hospital you choose. Primarily you must know what your insurance company requires you to do step-by-step from the moment you are admitted to the hospital. The guidelines may require you to call them up to 3 times: at the moment of admission to the hospital (for authorization), when the baby is born (to add his/her name to your insurance policy) and if your doctor requires you to stay in the hospital longer than generally authorized by the insurance policy (usually more than 48 hours after birth).

The hospital in its turn requires filling in tons of paperwork so it is wise to pre-register with the hospital and send all the documents in advance so that you don’t need to deal with it when your are in labor.

You must decide on the medical care early in your pregnancy. You have to decide which hospital to deliver in AND which doctor or midwife will take care of you during these wonderful 9 months. Make sure that the doctor and the hospital are “in network” with your insurance company otherwise the latter will only pay about 10% of your expenses.

Also bear in mind that the hospital of your choice may have all the great facilities but you might not be allowed to use some of them because of your doctor’s policies. For instance, most of the doctors usually disapprove of using Jacuzzi during labor while some midwives will allow you to use it.

You should also know that it is quite common that the doctor who monitors you during your pregnancy might not be the one who will deliver your baby. Very often doctors in the U.S. work in groups (usually 3-5 people in one office). You will have one doctor for your scheduled check-ups but the doctor who is on-duty that day will assist you in case of emergency and on your delivery date.

Be aware of a “special treatment” you may receive in various commercial institutions while you are pregnant and take full advantage of those. Ask for seats with more leg room on airlines; look for a picture of a stork in some of the supermarkets’ parking lots next to the disabled parking. This is a convenient parking designated for expectant mothers. In addition to it if closer to the end of your pregnancy you find it difficult to move around and your legs are swollen you can talk to your doctor about getting a “disabled” sign for your car for those final months of your pregnancy.

It is common in the U.S. that members of the family are allowed to be with the mother during labor (only father during the delivery itself). You can also hire a professional assistant to help you through the labor – a doula. A doula is an experienced, non-medical assistant who provides continuous physical, informational and emotional support during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. Some doulas charge you a fee for their services, others are volunteers.

A baby born on the U.S. soil is considered to be a U.S. citizen. Hospitals will usually do all the paper work on your behalf concerning the birth certificate and the Social Security number but it is your responsibility to apply for U.S. passport, which can be easily done at a local post office.


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