Sarah gave birth to two children in Spain in a public hospital (which according to her, makes a big difference in the type of care received). She has also had 3 miscarriages and discusses the Spanish miscarriage culture in a bonus section below.
Intro: What brought you to Spain?
I studied in Sevilla in college and made my way back to live and work a few years after college graduation. My husband is Spanish.
1) What surprised you about prenatal care in Spain?
I was surprised how spread apart the appointments are, at least in the public healthcare system, and that you don’t get your first ultrasound until 12 weeks. Until then, they just trust that you’re pregnant! Also, you aren’t given a choice about triple screening, they just automatically do it, and send the results to you in the mail!
2) What surprised you about giving birth in Spain?
There is really no such thing as a “birth plan”. You just have to put yourself in the hands of the doctors. You can try to give them indications, but the public hospitals have their methods and protocols, and they don’t really deviate from them.
3) What surprised you about post-natal care in Spain?
It’s very hard to get any lactation consulting at the hospital. If you’re lucky, a kind nurse will take some time with you, but they pretty much to leave you to duke it out for yourself, and if you run into any breastfeeding problems, you’re better off consulting with other women in your family than with the medical professionals.
4) Overall impression of the Spanish pregnancy and birth culture:
Spain’s public healthcare system is still a little behind the times in terms of medical advancements in all aspects of pregnancy and birth culture. Once you have one experience behind you, you learn how to navigate the system and the best way to get things done to your liking, but it’s not easy.
Thoughts on having miscarriages in Spain:
In terms of miscarriage (I’ve had 3 – the first at 9 weeks, the second at 15 weeks and the third at 19 weeks), my experiences have been that as soon as it is confirmed that you have lost your baby, you are sent to the hospital for a D&C. They let you dilate and go into labor, and when it’s delivery time, you go under general anesthesia and they perform the surgery. There’s no mourning and no one asks you if you want to see the baby. It’s all very medical and yet no one tries to investigate into seeing what went wrong – it’s just “la naturaleza”. Unfortunately, it’s possible that during your hospital stay you are on the same wing as or close to women who have just given birth which can be uncomfortable to say the least. Recovery is what you make of it. You have to make your own mourning rituals.
You can follow Sarah and her life in Spain as she documents it on her Instagram accountSaritagemba.
Stay tuned next week for another International Birth story!
Iulia is a former educator turned stay-at-home mama of a spunky toddler and a squishy infant. With a touch of sass and a good dose of self-deprecating humor, she has an ever-expanding repertoire of bloopers, insights, stories, and impassioned opinions to share. Iulia likes to think she has this parenting gig figured out, but her littles remind her daily just how far from the truth that is.