Monday, July 15, 2013

Giving Birth In The USA VS Costa Rica

I was watching a YouTube video the other day where a soon to be mom was comparing the differences of giving birth in the US as opposed to Germany, where she had lived for 3 plus years.  As she had never actually given birth in America, she really only could go by other people's experiences and what she had read about or heard.  I, on the other hand, have experience with giving birth in 2 different countries and thought it would make a good blog post to compare the 2.

Lets start off with the good old US of A, where my first son was born.  I have to say my experience with labor and delivery with my son was amazing and I could not have asked for a better one.  I know not every American has a great or even good experience giving birth in a hospital, but for me, I had a wonderful time of it.  To start, my hospital was amazing.  My whole prenatal care was amazing.  My midwife and nurse was amazing.

When I went in to actually give birth to my son, my experience from start to finish was great.  I was treated very well.  I had only 2 nurses in the delivery room with me, along with hubby which was awesome.  It felt private and the room was so warm and cozy and dimly lit, it made me feel comfortable.  The fact that hubby was there with me the entire time was also a big bonus as he helped me a lot.

After the delivery of my son, I moved to a private room to recuperate.  One thing American hospitals seem to have that CR hospitals don't is a baby nursery.  The nurses offer to take the baby off your hands for a few hours until baby is ready for a feeding.  This way, while baby is in the nursery being watched over by capable nurses, mommy and sometimes daddy can get in a little nap and rest up for what's ahead.

The hospital, well my hospital, was very much like a home.  The room was spacious and comfy and the hospital in general was not all so sterile.  It was clean yes, but it was also very welcoming.  And my aftercare nurse was amazing... she did such a wonderful job taking care of me, explaining things to me and never once in a condescending or demeaning manner.  She was a joy truly and I loved having her.

Another thing to note is I was never pressured to do anything I didn't want to do.  I labored at my own pace. And even when pushing was taking longer than it should (3 hours), they never got impatient with me.  They only helped me along.  I was able to use a bar to stoop, utilizing gravity to help me push, which actually worked.  I was never pressured to take any medications or threatened with a C-section. And after baby was born, I was able to bond with him right away.

Now, labor in a Costa Rican hospital is really different.  I have to say though, I have two very different experiences with two different births at the same hospital.  My experience with my daughter was far better then the one with my son and I'll tell you why.  Also, I can only write about my experience at the public hospital I went to.  I have no idea what labor and delivery is like at the private hospitals (I can only imagine) and I have heard of people having even different experiences than I had at different public hospitals as well.

The hospital where I labored and delivered my son and daughter is the Calderon Guardia Hospital in San Jose.  The experience with my daughter was truly a good one and I think it has to do with the fact that I labored mostly at home.  I arrived at the hospital check in just in time to have my baby girl, so the delivery was quick.  I was also treated very kindly and I appreciated that.  After the delivery, I had to wait in the hallway with a bunch of other moms who had just given birth until a space in a room freed up (no large private room this time, but that was fine).  I did get a nice window spot in the very far corner of the room which was nice.  I have to say overall, I liked my experience.  The nurses were nice and the staff was friendly.  The only drawback:  I was an American who spoke very little Spanish left to my own devices without hubby there for support.  Husbands/partners/boyfriends are NOT allowed to spend the night with their significant others.  They are there for visiting hours only and then like everyone else, have to leave.  I was very lonely that night.  By the next day however, I was happy to be discharged.  Another difference of hospitals here: you only get a one night stay.  I stayed for two nights in New England Medical Center in Boston, which was very nice as a first time mom.  I have to say, though, I would not have wanted to stay two nights at Calderon.

Another thing to take note of: pain medication is all but unheard of at Costa Rican hospitals UNLESS you pay for it.  You don't get offered IV drip; Don't even think they will even mention an epidural.  Almost everyone who labors naturally has to labor without drugs, there is no pain relief.  You are given an all natural labor whether you want it or not.  I am sure if you have to have a C-section, that is a different story.  But no medication of any kind is given if you are low risk and having an uncomplicated delivery.  You are left intervention free, which for most women is a good thing.

Lets also talk about appearances.  It's a shame to say but the public hospitals and clinics here leave much to be desired when it comes to facade.  They are all pretty much run down and in dire need of repair.  I went to the ER at Calderon recently and was ashamed to be in the waiting room.  It needed a paint job badly, along with a few cosmetic touches just to bring it up to par.  It's like they don't give a shit about you if you are poor or need public medical care, even though you do pay for it.  Appearances come last and in some cases, so does bed side manner.  I am not a superficial person, or at least I don't think I am.  But I go to a private clinic for prenatal care.  I cannot stand the public clinic one bit and it's not all because of the way it looks (or that it looks like they don't care about upkeep).  I hate the way the staff sometimes treat their patients.  And I for one will not keep my mouth shut when I feel like I am being disrespected.  So I pay to be seen at a private clinic... I can deal with public hospitals as I have no choice really but I will pay a little extra to go to private clinics to get the care I want in a space I can be proud to be seen in.

As for my experience with my son, like I said, it was different from the one I had with my daughter mainly because I spent the majority of my time laboring at the hospital.  I was in a room with a bunch of other girls, some of whom you could tell was their first time giving birth and it was noisy. I must have been the only quiet one there.  I was also alone as hubby was not allowed in with me (although I learned later if I had asked for him to be by my side they would have gotten him for me...REALLY!!!!  Could they just not have allowed him to be with his pregnant wife as I was in a large amount of pain????)

Anyway, by the time I was ready to go to the actual delivery room and they went to fetch hubby, my son had decided he was ready and came out right there on the gurney as I was being wheeled off.  Hubby missed the birth and I was pretty much done with the whole thing by the time I got to the OR.  The only thing I did in that room was get a few stitches.  Afterwards was not much better.  I did not get a nice corner space in a room, I was in a large room with no privacy at all and was not even allowed to film my son (I was told video cameras were not allowed... I guess for privacy reasons as there were other people there in that large space with me.)  Also, I did spend a lot of time in the hall on the bed and seeing as I not allowed to get up to even pee for at least the first 6 hours, I was pretty much stuck.  Also, while I was elated to be done with the whole labor and delivery process, I was anxious to go home and was not allowed to leave until it was the right time to be discharged.  I didn't want to spend the night in the hospital.  I wanted to go home. I felt fine.  But alas, I had to spend another lonely night without hubby by my side.  I know for a fact that at the private hospitals you do get your own private room (you better as you're paying for it) and your significant other does get to spend the night.  I know this because I actually looked into giving birth at one of the private hospitals here when I was pregnant with my daughter.  Oh how I wish we could go private for the birth but it is what it is.

I am prepping myself for a better experience this time around and plan to labor mostly at home again. The less time I have in the hospital, the better.  I also really hope things have changed in the past 5 years.  Will hubby be with me overnight, I doubt it, but I hope he's there for the entirety of the birthing process, something he missed out on with my daughter and son.


Sarah said...

Great article! Just wondering, in the Costa Rican public hospitals do you have the option to get pain relief if you pay for it?

Rina said...

No pain relief is available and not sure the option is there to pay. I doubt it. Unless of course you have a C-section. In private you do have the option to pay for pain relief.