Birthing at Home in Bangkok

18 March 2019, Jade Woodruff

Many expectant mothers arrive in Bangkok, eager to find a midwife and arrange a home birth. For some women, this was standard in their past experiences or home country. Other women are afraid of unnecessary intervention.

Midwifery is a sought after commodity in Bangkok, but a quick Google search will leave you both empty handed and confused. Why is it so hard? Where are all the midwives?

As a mother who managed to have a home birth in Bangkok, allow me to fill in the missing pieces for you.

Legal status of midwives in Thailand

While midwives aren’t illegal in Thailand, you are going to have a difficult time finding one.

Why?

Delivering with a midwife used to be standard practice in Thailand. But in the 1970’s, the government started building more hospitals around the country. One of their priorities was to reduce the number of infant mortalities.

With the introduction public healthcare and the development of modern technology, infant mortality has dropped significantly, which has given Thais a lot of confidence in the medical system. Presently, the only midwives in practice either work in hospitals, or live in remote areas, far from public healthcare.

What about foreign midwives?

In order for a foreign midwife to legally practice in Thailand, she must pass her exams in Thai. The exams are written in formal Thai, adding about 12 extra layers of difficulty to an already arduous task. Additionally, there are many barriers to non-Thai citizens working in the medical field. No foreign midwives have ever managed to secure a license here. This means that for a foreign midwife to work in Thailand, she must do so illegally.

For the past several years, there has been one midwife who dared to take the risk, but for several reasons, she has recently stopped.

Why home birth is not safe in Bangkok

Occasionally, midwives who are passing through the country have been known to deliver babies in homes. However, this is highly advised against this for two reasons:

  1. Bangkok’s infrastructure. If you have lived in Bangkok for any amount of time, you are well aware of the time constraints that traffic can put on even simple tasks. While a trip to the hospital may only take 20 minutes in light traffic, the same trip could easily take an hour or more during rush hour. Congested streets with people driving on the shoulder leaves little to no room for an ambulance to travel in a timely manner. This means that in an emergency, the chances of you or your baby dying shoot up exponentially.
  1. Continuity of care. When birthing with a midwife who is not licensed in Thailand, you will have zero continuity of care. This means that your midwife and doctor will not be working together to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby. Continuity of care is important during both the prenatal period as well as the delivery. When continuity of care drops, death rates rise.

What are your options for birthing in Bangkok?

Even though a home birth is not an option in Bangkok, you still have some amazing options at your disposal. While it’s true that the cesarean rate is very high in Thailand, the vast majority of them are planned, for auspicious birth or cultural reasons or simply for convenience.

If your goal is a natural, drug free birth, your best options (from my observation and experience) are to birth with Dr. Kanoknat at Bumrungrad International or Dr. Yaowaluk at Samitivej Sukhumvit. They are both highly sought after by the expat community for their support of natural childbirth, which unfortunately, is not common amongst OBs here. If your heart is set on a birthing pool, Dr. Yaowaluk at Samitivej Sukhumvit is the only option.

Personally, I had a phenomenal experience with Dr. Kanoknat at Bumrungrad. She was readily available by text throughout my entire pregnancy (which I utilized frequently), and cleared her schedule to stay with me during labor. She has a sweet, warm demeanor, is respectful of the mother’s wishes, and practices informed consent to the highest degree.

To get an extensive run down of all of your options, contact BAMBI (Bangkok Mothers and Babies International). BAMBI is an amazing resource for mothers from pregnancy through toddler years, with a dedicated support group for expectant and new mothers called Bumps and Babies. While they won’t recommend any OBGYNs, they will give you all of the information you need to pick the best doctor for you.

Additional Support of a Doula

Many women appreciate the comfort of a doula while laboring. Studies show that having a doula decreases your chances of intervention by up to 50%. If you’re in the market for a doula, have no fear. Doulas in Bangkok know each other well, and have formed a network called the Doulas of Bangkok. They host a meeting called “Choices in Childbirth” on the fourth Saturday of every month at Kuppa on Sukhumvit 16.

While having a home birth in Bangkok may not be an option, rest assured that you can still have a beautiful birth experience in the hospital. Heck, some of the hospitals here are like 5 star hotels, so your experience might be even better.

About the Author

Jade Woodruff has been living in Thailand on and off since 2011. She has two little girls, and blogs about motherhood over at MommyMatters.co. When she isn’t writing or reading the Barnyard Dance, she can usually be found chugging coffee.

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