Giving birth (especially for the first time) is daunting, no matter where you are. When you find yourself about to go through such a life altering event in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, it’s even crazier.
When we decided to have our little one (born April 3rd) in Taiwan, I began searching for information about having a baby here. Like with most things, however, English resources were scarce, and the most compelling information I had came from other blogs, like Foreigners in Taiwan and Tricky Taipei.
I wanted to add my voice and experience to the mix for those who might benefit from it.
Pre-birth Classes and Support
When we started thinking about having a baby in Taiwan, we decided we wanted to hire a doula who could support us and help bridge the language barrier in the delivery room. That’s how we came across Angela Chang of Beautiful Beginnings. She’s a Vancouver native who has lived in Taipei for decades, and the only English-speaking doula I know of.
Angela offers both birth classes and doula packages, and we opted for both. Taking her birth class was great because it gave us a chance to meet other expecting couples, several of whom we still regularly hang out with. We also got a lot of helpful information about what to expect regarding delivery and care in Taiwan specifically.
Making a Birth Plan
After doing a lot of reading, thinking, and podcast-consuming, I decided I wanted to have as natural a birth as possible, and preferably a water birth, although I knew this wasn’t common in Taiwan.
Angela had taken us through a checklist of considerations for our birth plan, and told us to have conversations with our doctors about what they would be able to accommodate. For example:
- Does the facility have a labor & delivery room (LDR)?
- Can I move around freely during labor?
- Will I be monitored (intermittently or constantly?)
- What position(/s) can I give birth in?
- If I have an epidural, can I still move around?
- Can I avoid an episiotomy?
- Can I go without an IV?
- Will nurses use fundal pressure?
- Can we do delayed cord clamping?
- Can I have immediate skin-to-skin contact for at least an hour?
For half of my pregnancy we were still living in Keelung and I went to Chang Gung Memorial Hospital for checkups. In November we moved to Taipei and I transferred to the Taipei Chang Gung branch, which has a very modern OB/GYN department.
I already knew that I didn’t really want to give birth at Chang Gung, but speaking with my OB/GYN sealed the deal.
She told me that they didn’t have labor and delivery rooms available (this may have been COVID-related, I can’t remember), and that labor would take place largely in a common laboring room with other in-labor women, and when it came time to deliver my baby I would move to a cold OR room. From there labor would involve constant monitoring, being on my back with my feet in stirrups, unable to move around, and this would be the birth position.
Because it is a teaching hospital, there would be a lot of residents coming and going, performing regular checks on me (for practice!), and there would be little privacy. She also mentioned that the doctor who would be performing the delivery (my doctor was taking another job before my due date) would 100% give me an episiotomy. And, in fact, Taiwan has appallingly high episiotomy rates (100% according to one study).
Basically it would be my personal worst nightmare.
(Side note: while it’s not ideal for a natural birth plan, Chang Gung Hospital could be a good option for those with high-risk pregnancies who may need medical intervention, as they have top-notch surgeons and facilities and are well-equipped to deal with medical emergencies.)
Choosing a Birth Clinic
We consulted with Angela about our birth plan during our first session, and based on our preferences she recommended switching from Chang Gung Hospital to Loving Care Maternity Center.
Loving Care is one of two places in Taipei (perhaps all of Taiwan?) where you can have a water birth, and is by far the most affordable option, at approximately $20,000 NTD (with health insurance).
- During COVID-19, they weren’t allowing anyone other than a spouse in the room, which meant that if cases rose, our doula would have to video-conference in.
- Angela told us that they had been overbooking their facilities, resulting in one client giving birth in a hallway and still having to pay the full price.
- You have to pay an extra fee for English translation services.
- It’s not guaranteed that the same doctor performing your prenatal care will deliver your baby.
Loving Care was the perfect alternative. The doctor who performed my check-ups would also deliver the baby, the price was right, and it was just a 15 minute drive from our apartment.
I am so grateful that we ended up there. Being a small clinic, it has a much more homey and familiar feel than a big hospital. On top of that, Loving Care provides a much more mother-centric birth experience.
They have two labor and delivery rooms (you have to pay extra to use these), and are set up to perform water births. They regularly accommodate all-natural birth plans, and are still well-equipped to handle emergencies and perform c-sections if necessary.
My birth experience
My labor began on a Saturday morning around 3:30 AM. With a plan to labor at home for as long as possible, I managed to stay at home for the first ~18 hours, rather than going to the clinic. Though I tried to walk around and do things, like they recommend, I ended up spending most of the day in bed where I felt most comfortable, alternating between lying down and resting over my birth ball.
My ability to stay at home for such a long time was largely thanks to Angela. As first time parents confused by the frequency and intensity of my contractions, we likely would have gone much earlier than we needed to without her support and reassurance. Staying home was much better, and allowed me to make a lot of progress before arriving at the clinic.
When the contractions started getting really intense, we asked Angela to come over. She sat with me for an hour or two before driving us (and all our bags) to the clinic in the pouring rain.
We arrived around 10 PM and took our PCR tests. When the nurses checked me to see if I was far along enough to be admitted, I was 8 cm dilated. Angela congratulated me and said “that’s why we stay home as long as possible”.
Lucas was flooded with paperwork to complete, which Angela helped him with, while the nurses had me lay down and strapped on the baby monitor to make sure our little girl was doing well. They said I had to wear the monitor for 10 minutes, which, lying on my back, seemed like forever.
Laying alone like that in the LDR, my water abruptly broke, making my contractions far more severe than they had been. Angela heard me screaming and rushed in to support me, helping me off the table when the monitoring was finished.
The nurses gave me the okay to get into the tub and I began pushing. Being in the tub was comforting and helped me relax. I pushed for about two hours, moving through several different positions at Angela’s recommendation when the baby got stuck. The nurses were supportive, and although they didn’t speak English, they cheered me on with words like “Power!”
At 12:21 AM, our little Poppy was born, caught by one of the nurses. The doctor, who they had called shortly before, arrived minutes after her birth. I held Poppy in the bath and we admired her as she looked up at us for the first time. We did delayed cord clamping, and Luke cut the umbilical cord.
I was able to have skin-to-skin with her and breastfeed immediately, with a little of Angela’s coaching. I got some stitches, and then they put the baby safely in the nursery and wheeled me off to our room for some rest.
We stayed at Loving Care for three days, and opted in for all the specially prepared maternity meals. They were so healthy and felt so healing and nourishing, with special medicinal soups and herbal teas, and there was so much food we could barely finish it (and sometimes couldn’t).
We felt very well cared for, with nurses popping in every hour or so to check on the baby, check on me, help us with breastfeeding, or teach us something about our new responsibilities as parents. We were able to keep the baby with us, or ask them to take her to the nursery if we needed a few hours of sleep.
I felt almost sad to leave at the end of those three days. When I return now (for Poppy’s check-ups) it is with the intense familiarity that can only be earned by the place where I had my life’s most intimate and vulnerable experience, and a kind of nostalgia that’s hard to understand except, perhaps, for those who have done it.
I can’t imagine having a better overseas birth experience, and am so grateful to have had the experience I did. I hope that sharing it helps others facing the same challenge to be empowered in their decisions and choices.
I would, with my whole heart, recommend both Loving Care Maternity Center and hiring a doula to help support you through the experience. Angela was able to relieve much of the stress I felt around giving birth in Taiwan. Knowing that she would be there to support me, to communicate with nurses and doctors when we couldn’t, and to advocate for me gave me the incredible gift of peace of mind during such an overwhelming time.
Find Angela via the Beautiful Beginnings website or Facebook page.
Government resources website
Rental Market – rent baby/maternity items, toys, etc.
New Mamma – pre & post partum supplies & baby supplies, online store
Stayed tuned for a follow-up post on postpartum care options in Taiwan!