Expecting a Baby in Phnom Penh

Living in Phnom Penh / Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Last June 23rd, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, our second child.

And yes, I gave birth here in Phnom Penh. In fact, for most of my pregnancy I was here in Cambodia. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about being pregnant and delivering a baby here. And I truly believe some of those horror stories are not unfounded, considering how health care and facilities here are lacking and not yet at par with other countries. BUT I also thought, perhaps some of it are an exaggeration, when I also know lots and lots of Khmer women and expats too have safely given birth here. So to be honest we were stuck with a difficult choice. I was naturally jittery and anxious about how the pregnancy and child birth would go. I’ve stalked forums and expat groups here and what I’ve read made me all the more anxious and paranoid.

So I’ve decided to just blog this out ( I know its rather late and I’ve got this posting schedules backwards ha!) and ramble on about my pregnancy and birth experience here in Cambodia. Be forewarned, this will be a lengthy post. Heh.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was well into my 11th week and was traveling to Manila. At that moment, I thought perhaps I should just stay in the Philippines and I know I would be well take care of by my regular ob-gyne. But it just stuck me, if we do that, we’ll be traveling back and forth and the expense as well as the time it would eat up just made me gulp and hyperventilate a bit. Hi-ace is also always busy with work and it’ll be hard for him to take leave for months and I want him to be there when I deliver. After much heehawing I’ve decided to take it a month at a time, look for a Phnom Penh doctor to monitor my pregnancy and give me peace of mind and I’ll decide on my 6th or 7th month where I’ll give birth.

If the pregnancy is not high risk or if we don’t see any red flags then I would prefer to give birth here in Phnom Penh. So commence our search for an ob-gyne or a GP who can take care of me and baby. This search proved to be a headache. I’m quite picky and I do ask a lot of questions. A lot of Khmer doctors I’ve met in the past are used to passive ‘yes’ patients, and that’s definitely not me. I always have to nitpick and ask lots of questions. And I think I have every right. So yes, I do not like doctors who talk over my head and just blitz on and treat me like a dummy.

We’ve been to several doctors already and not a single one of them gave me peace of mind. Quite a few of them did not even recommend lab tests which I know are necessary at the onset of pregnancy. I thought this doctor hopping is getting quite expensive and exhausting. Until we just decided to pay a visit to Dr. Ly Sreyvyna’s clinic (website). And yes, we jived. She was one doctor who patiently explained and answered all my questions. And while she is not an ob-gyne, I felt more comfortable with her as she is very thorough and she also have some ob-gyne doctors at the clinic. Lab tests were also easy as the clinic has their own lab and when the results are in, they simply call us. The only con I would say is that, she is always busy its not easy to just drop by and have a check up, you need to call and book an appointment. So all throughout my pregnancy which saw me with respiratory infection twice as well as bleeding on my 6th month, it was Dr. Ly who took care of us.

Aside from me coughing up a storm on my 4th month and some minor bleeding, pregnancy was fine, and not high risk. So we took the leap and decided that I’ll just give birth here. So then we started to search for a hospital where I would be safe and comfortable to give birth. My OC-ness came into play and I bugged Hi-ace to visit and canvass a lot of hospitals. Lol! We went hospital shopping so to speak and I’ll do a separate blog posts on my ‘findings’. It wasn’t just the cost that came into play when making this decision, I wanted to make sure I was going to a place who can handle any emergencies. I had this crazy visions of me being left on the delivery room coz the birth was difficult and the doctors and nurses giving up on us. Believe me, I lost a lot of sleep over these imaginary scenarios.

I’ve asked for recommendations from friends and Khmer relatives. One dilemma for us was that, one of Hi-ace’s niece was also due to give birth and she was delivering her baby in a clinic, which led to some of my in-laws assuming that I would be delivering my son there too. To be honest, this ‘misunderstanding’ stressed me out a lot as I felt I wasn’t being given a choice and I have every right to make that choice, after all its me who will be doing all the ‘work’ and putting my life on the line. In the end, Hi-ace has to put his foot down and tell them we’ll decide on our own, seeing that this was really depressing me.

After checking out several hospitals and clinics, we opted to give birth at Calmette Hospital’s new maternity wing.  I was hoping to have a normal delivery again but I ended up having a C-section. Nonetheless, the experience was a positive one for me and I’ll be doing another blog post on the birth experience.

Khmers also have a long laundry list of traditions and ‘rules’ one must follow when giving birth, which was another bone of contention between me and some of my in-laws. Some was downright hilarious and left me incredulous. I promise to write a post about it soon ( as soon as the little one takes a long-ish nap, noh?)

All in all, giving birth here was not bad at all. In fact, I felt good just knowing that my husband and my Khmer family can be part of the experience. I’m also recovering well and baby is in good health. I’m not advocating mother-to-be’s to have their child here and not consider doing it elsewhere. If I had a high risk pregnancy or any complications detected early on, I would have flown somewhere else to have the baby, but thankfully, we were fine. I just think its really a personal choice and one must always go with the choice that is best for the health of the baby and peace of mind of mom. It’s still best to have good pre-natal care so you can make the best choices.

4 Replies to “Expecting a Baby in Phnom Penh”

  1. Congratulations on the birth of your healthy baby! I really enjoyed your post, and look forward to catching up on all the other posts. Take care!

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