I had two babies in Europe and two here in Malaysia, and while a lot is the same, there are some general differences, too. First I must tell you that being pregnant and giving birth in KL is great. You can buy all the baby stuff you can imagine here, and there is a decent choice of pregnancy activities like massage, yoga classes, and baby fairs. 9 months of pregnancy is way too short here!
I delivered my two older children in The Netherlands. There, after delivery, the baby is yours to look after, when that is medically possible of course. You change diapers, feed, and nurse as soon as possible. The baby will always be by your side. Here it was different: after delivery I was taken upstairs and separated from my baby. The nurses washed her, put on a diaper and some clothes and let her sleep in the nursery. I was surprised to say the least. I didn’t know where she was, why it took so long and it made me nervous. Although I was first disappointed that I missed my girl’s first bath, I realised this is the way they do it here. I asked to have my baby next to me – and all was well.
The day after
In the Netherlands you’re back to your normal life as soon as possible, but you will have a nurse at home for about 8 days. She comes in the morning and goes home in the end of the afternoon. She helps with the baby and the other children in the family, cleans a bit and sometimes prepares meals. That is a big help, at least when you have a great nurse, like we had. In Malaysia we felt a bit lost in the absence of a nurse. Luckily we have amazing help and as it was our third child we knew what to do!
I guess our system is a little similar to having a confinement lady, which is very common here in Malaysia. The Malaysian Chinese call her Pui Yuet. Sometimes women go to a confinement centre for those 28 days. Read more about confinement.
In The Netherlands we go to a health centre every few weeks to check upon you and the baby. They will ask how you’re doing and how the baby is, does he drink enough, does he sleep well, are you feeling happy or down. Some think the service interferes too much and the ‘consultation service’ is sometimes jokingly called ‘consternation service’ :).
A Malaysian friend of mine is pregnant for her second child. She advised me to go for massages during and after pregnancy. This is the place she recommends – they even do house calls! My friend also has a doula. I had never even heard of a doula before! I was very enthusiastic but as this was my third child and I was over 35 weeks already, I decided to leave it. But the doula, Karin Heinimann comes highly recommended.
There are many places that do pregnancy yoga classes in KL. Fitfor2 in Bangsar is sadly now closed, but try Prana Yoga, Yoga and Mel or Surya Yoga or post on one of the Facebook forums to find a teacher near you. You can start from your second trimester but have to take a note form from your doctor.
In The Netherlands it’s still very common to do a home delivery. I delivered my second child at home, but ended up in the hospital anyway – so it may not always be as romantic as it sounds. Even after my last experience I didn’t want my delivery to be “a medical thing”.
I read up on hypnobirthing as a way to prepare and practice a natural birth. It has useful methods even if you are not aiming for a natural birth. I also checked out the possibility for a water birth, or actually not to give birth in the pool, but to handle the contractions in the water, as I did with my second child (and loved it). But it seems quite difficult here. Most of the gynecologists refuse to do it and the hospitals are not equipped for it. The hospitals are not really keen on you bringing your own bath, either. The only hospital that has experience with water birth in Malaysia is Pantai hospital.
I was already over my due date when someone in the hospital asked me if I wanted to save stem cells from the cord, also called USB banking. I decided not to do it because I was about to deliver any moment and I was not very familiar with it. But if you’re pregnant here in Malaysia, that’s a possibility you might want to consider.