Bringing life into the world is a beautiful experience…but it’s also slightly terrifying, especially for first-time moms. Dealing with a high-risk pregnancy in a foreign country, without my family, and during a global pandemic was stressful to say the least.
Despite my fears I never doubted the quality of Spain’s healthcare system and public hospitals. The hospital in Jerez de la Frontera was fully equipped and staff were professional and kind. My twins were premature and had to spend several weeks in the intermediate care unit before we could take them home, so I made daily trips to the hospital during that time.
The first time I held the twins after birth
While my birth experience was complicated, I’d say it was positive overall. However, there are some things I wish I’d known beforehand. This post is for all you moms-to-be who are giving birth for the first time in Spain. I hope my experience can help prepare you a little more for the unexpected.
Mama tip: Even though my family wasn’t here when the babies were born I was able to get permission for my parents to come to Spain to meet their grandbabies, click here to learn how I did it.
1) Expect to wear a mask during delivery
It’s VERY likely you’ll have a PCR test once you check in at the hospital. Even though your results are negative you’ll probably have to wear a mask during delivery and any time a nurse or doctor enters your hospital room to check on you. It sucks, but there’s no way around it. Javi (my husband) didn’t have to take a PCR test but he had to wear his mask at all times as well.
2) Birth plans are available in English
As your due date approaches your matrona (midwife) should provide you with a birth plan booklet to fill out. You can also find it online (search “plan de parto andalucia” for example) and download the document in English. Print and fill it out and put it in your hospital bag so you won’t forget it. Keep in mind doctors will try to respect your requests, but the health of you and your baby are top priority. For example, I requested delayed cord cutting when my twins were born, but since they were premature (and Leo wasn’t breathing at birth) that request got thrown out the window and rightfully so.
3) You might have to give birth alone
During the pandemic Javi wasn’t allowed to join me for ultrasound appointments. He also wasn’t able to be with me during the birth of our children. I was pregnant with twins so I delivered the babies in an operating room (in case of emergency c-section) instead of a regular birthing room. Javi was told to go to the waiting room, because partners aren’t allowed in operating rooms and during the pandemic they might not be allowed to join you in the birthing room either (this will depend on where you live and how the pandemic is progressing). Don’t forget you can hire private insurance and deliver your baby in a private clinic—this way your partner will be able to attend ultrasounds and be with you for the birth. Even though I attended ultrasounds at a private clinic with Javi (in addition to my ultrasounds at the public hospital), giving birth in a public hospital was my only option; clinics aren’t usually equipped for surgeries (like a c-section) and don’t have NICU units for preemie babies.
Javi feeding Leo in the intermediary care unit
4) Stock up on snacks and drinks
While you’ll get to enjoy free meals at the hospital your birth partner will not. Poor Javi had to scour the vending machines and eat my leftovers during our 4 day stay at the hospital. When you’re packing a hospital bag make sure to add plenty of drinks and snacks to keep in your room. During COVID it might be difficult for your partner to get in and out of the hospital so the less he/she leaves the better.
5) You can kick people out of your delivery room
It’s common for doctors and nurses in training to be present during deliveries…especially during a complicated one like mine. It could have been my imagination, but when they rolled me into the operating room, I swear there were almost 30 people—between the gynecologists, surgeons (in case I needed a c-section), midwives, nurses, pediatricians, and all the trainees it was a little crowded. I know I could have asked for any non-essential people to leave, but at that point I was so exhausted I didn’t care. But just know you’re totally within your rights to clear out the room if you’re uncomfortable with student spectators being present.
6) Pack the comforts of home in your hospital bag
Some things I’m glad I packed in my hospital bag were shampoo, lotion, bath gel, flip flops (for the shower), disposable underwear, and a long flowy dress for the day I was discharged. However, I wish I had also packed house shoes to wear in my room and a long nightgown (with buttons). Also, Javi had to sleep in a chair and while we were able to get a few pillows and blankets for him, they weren’t as comfortable as the ones we have at home.
Mama tip: The hospital will provide you with gowns to wear but they’re sheer and some didn’t have buttons on the front. You’re not going to want to bend over to pull pijama pants on and off and if you’re breastfeeding or pumping you’ll want something with buttons down the front. The hospital also provides you with large cotton pads for bleeding and you can ask for extra ones to take home when you’re discharged—you’ll need these pads even if you have a c-section. If you’re recovering from a natural birth I’d highly recommend buying some perinatal spray and preparing a few padsicles (overnight pad + aloe vera + witch hazel + freezer) for yourself—you’ll thank me later!
7) You probably won’t know the doctor who delivers your baby
The day I delivered my babies was the first time I met my doctor, who fortunately for us, was fantastic. Some things are just out of our control when using public healthcare so prepare yourself mentally and go with the flow—keep in mind doctors who work in the public system are usually the best in their field because it’s more difficult to work in public health compared to private.
Cuddling with Noa at the hospital in Jerez
8) No visitors during the pandemic
The fact that there are no visitors allowed during COVID is a blessing if you ask me. Before the pandemic, you might have had to share a room with another mom…and her extended family and friends who came during visiting hours. But, if you’re giving birth during the pandemic you’ll most likely have your own room + ensuite and some peace and quiet during your stay at the hospital.
9) Borrow a breast pump at the hospital
You can ask to use a breast pump during your stay at the hospital. Nurses should provide you with new flanges and tubes for personal use. Because my babies were in the hospital for several weeks I was encouraged to pump at home and bring milk for nurses to use during feedings (when I wasn’t there to breastfeed). I borrowed a Medela pump at the hospital but afterwards decided to buy a Lansinoh pump (more budget friendly option) for use at home. The nurses looking after me showed me how to use the pump and how to breastfeed correctly. Keep in mind you can ask to meet with a lactation consultant if you have any questions or need assistance.
10) Order strollers and car seats far in advance
I had no idea it took so long for items like strollers to get delivered. You should try to order your stroller and car seat (we love our Britax Römer seats) at least a month in advance of your due date. You cannot drive the baby home without a car seat so don’t wait until the last minute to order one.
So there you have it! 10 things I’d wish I’d known before having my babies in Spain. I hope you find this post helpful and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below. I’ve also got a post for fellow Americans who need to register a birth abroad (click here) once their little one(s) arrive. Good luck mamas out there—you got this! 💕
4 months later and the babies are growing big and strong!
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