Friday, January 15, 2010

Birth in Turkey

I won't post my entire birth story here, but I do want to write a little about my experience giving birth in a Turkish hospital -- although I must qualify the following by saying that I'm sure a dozen different women at a dozen different hospitals throughout Turkey would have a dozen different experiences; I can't claim my experience was typical.

I can say that I had moments during labour and in the days after the birth where I thought, next time I'm going back to Canada to have my baby! But before I get into the things I didn't like about my birth experience, I'll just say that I'm so proud of myself for having given birth naturally; I'm so in love with my son; and the whole experience was pretty incredible!

Now on to the negatives:
  • THEY WOULDN'T GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL! This is no small complaint. It had been on my birth plan; my doctor hadn't said anything about it being a problem; yet the doctor on duty (of course I went into labour in the middle of the night!) said they ''don't do'' epidurals with vaginal births. What??!! I think what he meant to say, was that the anesthesiologist only works from 9-5. Lesson learned: make sure your hospital is big enough to meet your needs. I was fooled by my hospital's shiny newness and modernity (each doctor had his own Doppler ultrasound machine in his office!)**

  • The nurses didn't seem to have consistent procedures in place. A few hours after giving birth, I fainted and threw up after getting out of bed for the first time to go to the bathroom. The nurse's first comment was, ''Haven't you eaten anything since the delivery?'' No one told me to!

  • No one came to systematically teach me anything about breastfeeding or otherwise caring for my baby; no one checked in to see whether breastfeeding was happening at all. (It wasn't.) At one point, a nurse peered into the bassinet and casually remarked that I should be putting my baby to sleep on his side, not on his back. I was overcome with horror that I'd been doing something wrong! Again, why didn't anyone tell me that from the start?

In summary, my husband and I were left to flounder as newbie parents for the first few days, until we figured things out on our own. I relied heavily on my What to Expect books, emails and phone calls to friends back in Canada, and my in-laws. But more often than not, their advice conflicted with something someone else had said, and we just had to figure things out on our own. The ''customer service'' aspect of my delivery was awful, and my theory is that local women rely so much on the support of the women in their family, that the nurses and midwives don't even bother saying anything; they just assume you're getting enough help and advice from other sources.

My advice to other expat women: speak to other expats who've delivered babies in your area so you can learn from their 'mistakes.' Better yet, if at all possible, find a doctor who's delivered other foreign women!

**A few days after giving birth I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born, which made me, in retrospect, glad I didn't have an epidural. Still, I think a woman who requests one, should be able to have one; I was extremely stressed out about going all natural during labour!


  1. Hi. I'm wondering if you could help me out. I'm an American currently living in S Korea. I also found out I am 10 weeks pregnant. Surprise! My husband and I were planning on moving to Turkey in July after our Korea stint. It's something we've always wanted to do. I'm nervous about potentially giving birth there, especially since I will arrive in the country about 7 months along...can you give me any advice based on your experience?

    1. Dan and Heather,

      There are amazing hospitals in Turkey don't worry about anything. If you buy a maternity package insurance which is very cheap you can give birth in a lovely hospital surroumded by qualified doctors and nurses.