September 19, 2023
For closet to four years, my body woke me up just before 2 o'clock like clockwork to nurse and settle a baby back to sleep. For the nine months before giving birth to my first child in Spain, I had prepared for those moments. The extreme exhaustion, the emotional highs and lows of pregnancy and childbirth in Spain.
That first baby is now nearing 7, has lost teeth and gotten stitches, learned to ride a bike and become a big brother. Though diapers and midnght feeding seem like a lifetime ago, my pregnancy and childbirth experiences live vividly in my mind.
There was the mourning of losing my freedom to travel or sleep as I pleased, of course, and the stress of navigating childcare and buying baby gear as a first-time mother. The initial "Now what?!" discussions melted into excitement as the days and weeks ticked by and my biggest concerns of pregnancy and childbirth in Spain became my health and that of my baby's.
Finding out that I'm pregnant
I am someone who has barely had any medical issues, unless you count an acute allergy to olive blossoms or an aversion to blisters. As soon as my husband and I began discussing family planning, I did my due dilligence, getting everything from my teeth cleaned and checked to speaking with a trainer at the gym about preparing my body for carryign and elivering a child. Soon after, when an at-home test confirmed that we were expecting, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist.
In Spain, there are two tiers to the health system, private and public. As a full-time employee in the private sector, I was entitled to use the public system, known as social security, as well as the private insurance plan I had with Caser Expat Insurance. My gynecologist is a close friend's mother, so she saw me right away and confirmed that I was six weeks pregnant with our first child, due in early 2017.
But the news that we were expecting wasn't all - we moved from Sevilla to Madrid for work, so I began a new job in a new city in a new field as I began second trimestre – literally everything was new to me, including the changes to my body. Taking into account that each region of Spain has slightly different public health care systems, I signed up right away at the nearest ambulatorio and was assigned a GP, a nurse and, eventually, a gynecologist.
Although I continued to get vaccinations and prescriptions with the public system, I found that I enjoyed the treatment from the private hospital far more. I had more freedom as to when I would be seen, was at a hospital near my job for all appointments and didn't have to queue for treatment - my doctor even had an Andalusian accent like me. My pregnancy will always be a beautiful, eye-opening time of my life, and I felt healthier and more fulfilled than I ever had (the second, however, was exhausting while raising a toddler on top of carrying a baby!).
Tests and treatments during pregnancy
To say that I felt healthy during my pregnancy and childbirth in Spain is an understatement. Specialists took care of me every step of the way, from the vaccinations administered to the pre-natal classes that taught me to care from a newborn. When in Madrid, nearly all of my prenatal care was carried out in the private sector. I was covered with Caser’s Activa plan, meaning that I could get the level of care I needed without worrying about surprise costs or a cap for treaments.
Being pregnant means extra appointments, jabs and tests. Caser also offers special maternity coverage to take care of you and your baby from the moment you find out you’re expecting. This includes fertilitity treatment and assistance, all scans and bloodwork, prenatal screening and labor and delivery classes before baby comes. When your due date arrives, you’ll have specialists like a midwife on hand, anethesia and an epidural, if desired, and a hospital stay with a private room for recovery. And, once you’re home, you can get digital assesment for you and your baby, plus pelvic floor rehabilitation assistance (on top of telehealth specialists, avaialable the first and every time your baby has a fever after midnight!).
Deciding where to carry out my childbirth in Spain
As the days ticked down to my third trimester, I began to consider where I'd carry out my childbirth in Spain. Had I stayed in Seville, I would have likely opted for the massive Virgen del Rocío public hospital, whose reputation is one of the best in Spain for deliveries. But it wasn't just a matter of public versus private healthcare - I was also considering having my baby in Seville, where we own a house and have many friends, including my husband's immediate family. I made a short list of hospitals in Seville - one public and two private - and set off to interview gynecologists.
At 37 weeks, we made a temporary move back to Andalucía. Half of my suitcase was full of baby clothes from friends, as well as the maternity clothes I'd not bothered to wear during my pregnancy. At Hospital Infanta Luisa, a mere 350 meters from my home, Dr. García saw me through the last three weeks of my pregnancy and eventually scheduled me to be induced on January 4th, 2017 - just one day after my 40 weeks were up.
Going into labor for my childbirth in Spain
I'd always expected to have the labor that just happens spontaneously, perhaps while I was out having a coffee with girlfriends or at the supermarket. Being told I'd be induced was a huge pill to swallow, especially because it made me feel like my body was giving up on me after a healthy pregnancy with zero comlications. I was nervous that it would lead to a C-section - and I'd hoped for a non-medicated birth. Looking over my birth plan, I crossed out half of it and reminded myself that the ends justified the means, even if the baby had to be born via C-section.
Without getting into details: My husband and I checked into the hospital just before 9:00 in the morning. I had come to terms with the medical intervention, convinced it was the right thing for the baby's health and resolved to take each decision as they came. After being administered a pill that helps to jump start the labor process, it was a waiting game until my body was ready to push. And, after nearly 12 hours when I was ready to push, my husband was downstairs calling our families.
Giving birth and enjoying my newborn baby
At 9:00 in the evening, Enrique was born with a little help from the vacuum, but 100% healthy. I was slightly broken but relieved and overwhelmed and exhausted – and ready to eat some acron-fed ham. During those first 48 hours in the hospital, I oscillated between every emotion as we got to know our son. In the weeks after his birth, he grew steadily and came into his personality. At 6 ½, he is my carbon copy physically, and athletic and smart like his father. His younger brother, Millán, was born exactly 30 months later in a much faster labor (that’s a great story, by the way), and he completed our family in every way.
If the nine months a child was growing inside my stomach are any indication as to how fast the first few years would go, I'd better hold onto these moments, despite the dark circles under my eyes, the ever-present grass stains on their jeans and the lack of a social life. It is a true privilege to watch a child crawl and then run, to babble and then speak two languages fluently, and to ultimately wave to them from the front door of their Elementary school because, “I’ve got this mom, I’m fine.”
You’re fine, but I may never be, chico.
If you are searching for health insurance in Spain, Caser Expat Insurance has the right policy for you!