Why give birth in Mexico? For me, it was a no-brainer for various reasons I described in a separate post.
I spent a few years living in Mexico City, then few years in Playa del Carmen. During my time in Mexico City all my friends and community were Mexican and not expat crowd at all, which means I got to know how things actually worked.
I got to visit a few friends at various hospitals so I knew the quality of healthcare and I also worked on medical & legal research few years back.
While there’s a big difference between private and public care, for foreigners without a valid residency there’s only an option of private care which is extremely affordable if you have an income from outside of Mexico.
Hence why so many Americans practice medical tourism – if you go to Tijuana or any other spot right next to the border you’ll notice there are hospitals and pharmacies dedicated to those who just cross the border to get a medical treatment done (plastic surgeries being the most popular actually). I did it with my psoriasis actually.
Birth tourism in Mexico is also slowly getting more attention.
- Choosing a Hospital for Birth in Mexico
- My Experience Giving Birth in Mexico
- How to Register a Birth in Mexico
Choosing a Hospital for Birth in Mexico
There were a few hospitals I considered, but ultimately I decided that instead of going back to Mexico City I’d rather spend a few weeks on the beach in Playa del Carmen and give birth in Cancun at Hospital Galenia.
There’s a belief that Mexican hospitals push many women to have a cesarian birth even if natural birth is possible, and while I cannot speak for public hospitals I can certainly tell you that it’s not the case with private hospitals.
In fact, I can tell you that it’s surely not true with Galenia in Cancun, because I was able to see the birth registry and it was definitely more natural vaginal births. Considering that my doctor specialized in high-risk pregnancies in which c-sections are required more frequently I’d say it looked pretty good.
In Mexico you can have a vaginal birth, water birth or cesarian depending on the preference and naturally medical circumstances. I also know some people who even had a doula for a home birth.
My Experience Giving Birth in Mexico
Prenatal Care in Mexico
We made a decision of going to Mexico at 34 weeks which still seemed early after last time. If it wasn’t for covid and potential issues caused by it I’d prob just booked an appointment for then, but I wanted to be sure that we’re all set before moving back to Mexico for a few months.
That said, I called the hospital and arranged an appointment around 28 weeks. I had a few doctors to pick from and based on several recommendations I decided on dr. Eduardo Loya.
I was positively surprised at the first appointment when the doctor took an hour to get all my history, explained everything, took time to see if everything is ok for the ultrasound and discuss options for the birth. The same appointments in the US take about 10 minutes.
I had another appointment at 36 weeks when we arrived back in Mexico and we scheduled the birth then, as at this point it was pretty much certain I would need another c-section.
I really liked that my doctor was flexible and while we had a date, it was subject to a potential change. I had follow-up appointments every week (free of charge) and detailed ultrasounds each week. We decided that if I can make it to almost 38 weeks it makes no sense to take the baby out before.
My doctor was always reachable on WhatsApp any time of the day in case I needed something.
I was scheduled for Friday at 8 AM and because we lived about an hour away from the hospital it was better for me to check in the night before. This was something I was offered at no extra charge, similar to my weekly appointments.
Documents needed to check-in at the hospital:
- medical approval from your doctor (kind of obvious)
- proof of payment or deposit (because it’s a private hospital)
- proof of address – it can be a bill under someone else’s name if you’re not a permanent resident or renting
- your passport copy or FM2/FM3 (if you’re a resident)
There’s no need for me to share my entire birth story – all I will say that a second c-section is definitely not a walk in the park, but all complications have been taken care of.
One thing I do want to say is that they have protocols for everything including going to the bathroom next day, so if you need or want something – keep insisting on it.
I discussed everything with my doctor beforehand, including the type of the incision closure. My anesthesiologist was great and made me feel very comfortable during the entire process.
My husband was naturally allowed in the operating room, but after debating it for a while we decided that both him and our older son Dylan will come to the hospital after the baby Holden is born and everyone is out of recovery rooms.
I was allowed to have a phone with me during my c-section and in recovery since my husband couldn’t be there. They took nice photos for me in the operating room and with a fresh baby as well.
We had to ask for a special permission to bring Dylan to the hospital since kids are currently not allowed due to covid.
I cannot speak about the language barrier since I’m fluent in Spanish, but I can say that not all nurses speak English for sure. However, there’s always someone available for a possible translation if needed.
My doctor was fluent in English, so was the anesthesiologist, and they both spoke English to my husband.
Documents from the Hospital & Payments
Unlike in the US (I dare to say US is the only country that registers baby at the hospital), in Mexico just like in Europe babies aren’t registered at the hospital. The hospital fills out a form in Spanish with information about the mother.
In my case it’s been done before birth because we had time, but I assume if you’re in active labor they’ll do it after.
Then, right before the discharge, you receive a form provided by the hospital that you must “sign” by doing a fingerprint. They also give you a child’s hospital form called “nacido vivo” or “certificado de alumbramiento“ with baby’s footprints and handprints that they take after birth when they take him for a check-up.
You also need to settle the payments before you leave which is pretty normal everywhere at a private hospital. In Mexico, however, it was an experience itself.
In Poland, with my firstborn, I was able to just send my husband to the office and pay for everything with a credit card, so we assumed (wrongly) that it could work the same way.
I decided to go instead of my husband as I spoke Spanish and thought it was going to be easier as we already pre-paid for some things in advance. The thing is, because of the protocol, you cannot “just go”, so first they had to call a guy to take me with a wheelchair to the cashier.
This is where the fun started because it turned out I can only pay the hospital fee, but then every doctor’s salary has to be paid to the doctor directly. Because my OBGYN was the director of the hospital I was able to pay his salary there, but then there was a question how do I pay for the neonatologist and anesthesiologist.
We had to ask nurses to communicate with both doctors to come and tell me how they want to get paid. Keep in mind that it was Sunday morning.
Anesthesiologist was pretty easy, because they called him in and he came very soon after and said that cash is fine, so my husband went to the ATM downstairs and took the cash out. Neonatologist, however, was working at the different hospital so we had to wait until he finishes a birth at another hospital and comes over.
Once he came over he said he can do bank transfer, but Transferwise had some issues and required information that none of us had so that was no go. The limit of daily withdrawal on our card also ended, so we had to agree that we bring the money when the baby comes for a check-up.
Then we got another note from the cashier that our bill was all set and we could get officially discharged.
Cost of Giving Birth in Mexico
Everything came down to about $2200. If it was a natural birth then it would be cheaper, but we also got some extra tests for the baby (we asked for it) and I needed more drugs (also asked for it) and my doctor was the most expensive at the hospital (which I knew), so it could have been less.
My hospital was also the most expensive in the area.
Postnatal Care in Mexico
Unlike in the US when you have a follow up appointment at 6 weeks, in Mexico both you and the baby have a follow up 7-8 days after birth. Then you have another appointment at 3 weeks.
It’s very helpful and you can be taken care of nicely. I was able able to message my doctor and ask him any questions on WhatsApp.
I actually had some complications and needed extra medications, and even though my doctor wasn’t working that day he arranged for someone else to give me the prescription so I could start taking it as soon as possible.
How to Register a Birth in Mexico
How to Get a Mexican Birth Certificate for a Baby
To register the baby and obtain the birth certificate you need to go to civil registry (registro civil). You don’t NEED to go immediately after (in Poland you have a 2-week period), but I read some horror stories from foreigners having issues with getting baby’s birth certificates that I wanted to go asap.
I was worried for no reason because obtaining a baby’s birth certificate was very easy. What you normally need is:
- for from the hospital (discharge paper + certificado de alumbramiento / nacido vivo)
- IDs of both parents, so in our case passports
- Birth certificates of both parents (more on this below)
- Proof of address (again, doesn’t need to be under your name)
- ID of two witnesses and witnesses (because it was during covid no witnesses were required)
- copies of all the documents – you can do it at the registry
Important: both parents and the baby have to be present to submit the documents and pick them up.
Now, in reality the list of required documents is longer and also includes things like marriage certificates, divorce certificates and so on, but when we went and asked, we were told it’s not really needed.
One problem we encountered was that we needed official translations and apostilles on our birth certificated, even though my own birth certificate is an EU one and has all the translations.
However, the guy looked at it and told me that he can simply take all the information from our passports without using birth certificates, but he won’t be able to put all grandparents’ information on it (not that it matters for anything).
The only thing they weren’t able to do was to give the baby my last name. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, you normally have two last names – one paternal and one maternal (mother’s maiden last name). Since I had only my “new” last name in my passport the baby had to be named Holden James Karsten Karsten.
We were also told it would take a week to get it, but I was told to come back in 2 days.
2 days later we had an appointment to pick up baby’s birth certificate and his CURP (it’s like Mexican social security number). We went into a private room where we had to look at it and see if everything is correct and then the baby had to sign the document. Which means he had to give a fingerprint 😉
You will get two birth certificates – a “long one” and “short one”. The longer one is called “copia fiel del libro” and that’s the important one.
Get copies of birth certificates, because some consulates ask for the official ones. In some places in Mexico you can just do it at the “kiosko”, but in Quintana Roo I had to order them directly from the civil registry.
You do NOT need the apostille for European or American documents. They might tell you at the registry that you do, but you don’t. Apostille takes about 14 days and costs about 2000 MXN.
Vaccination Card for the Baby
Vaccinations are mandatory in Mexico, so the baby needs to have a vaccination card. If you’re just giving birth and leaving not wanting a residency for yourself then you don’t need a vaccination card, but if you do that’s something you need to get as it’s needed for family residency.
Vaccination cards are given at IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) which is like a social security for medical things. However, since you won’t have medical insurance as a non-resident you cannot be given anything there, even though your baby is Mexican.
Only Hospital General can issue a vaccination card for your baby and they can also vaccinate your baby free of charge, regardless of whether you have insurance or not.
If you wish, you can also continue with your private pediatrician and do vaccines there, but a private doctor cannot issue a vaccination card.
Mexican Passport & Leaving the Country
Under normal circumstances, you can easily get a child a Mexican passport before you leave the country and pretty much straight away. For us, it was a bit different because of covid restrictions so I can tell you about both options and important things to add.
In order to get a Mexican baby (your baby is automatically a Mexican as he/she is born in Mexico) a Mexican passport you some documents that you might not need in your country.
Officially, as in every other place in the world, if you’re a citizen of a country you must leave and enter the country using this country’s document. So for example, if you’re an American and Mexican you must leave Mexico using Mexican documents and enter the US using your American documents.
Some people are using loopholes if their kids have expired passports or they were born elsewhere, but in Mexico or the US (or other countries with birthright) if in any passport it says “born in that country” there’s no way around it as the citizenship is automatic.
That said, your baby must leave on a Mexican passport officially. I’m saying officially, because more on this below.
Obtaining a Mexican passport in Mexico for a baby is super easy and the passport is issued the same day. For Quintana Roo you can normally do it in Cancun. Documents you need:
- baby’s photo
- parent’s IDs (passports or residency card)
- copy of baby’s birth certificate
- carta de pediatra
What’s carta de pediatra? In Mexico a baby needs a document with a photo to obtain a passport. Basically, you need to ask your pediatrician to issue you a document with baby’s stats and stamp over a photo along with a copy of your doctor’s medical diploma.
Any pediatrician can do that and they know what to do and what’s it for, so don’t worry. The only thing you need to know is to schedule your passport appointment before going to get it at the pediatrician because this document is only valid for 30 days.
Now, because of covid there were absolutely no appointments available for months. I even tried through people I knew who worked there and had no luck. However, there were appointments at the Mexican Embassy in Salt Lake City, so I scheduled one but we still had to leave Mexico and didn’t know whether we’ll be able to without his passport.
I was getting different information from different sources every time I enquired. Official information on the website said that the baby won’t be able to leave Mexico without Mexican passport.
I then called the Embassy who told me that we should be able to leave as long as we have baby’s birth certificate.
I also asked two lawyers and one told me that there’s a fine at the airport for that and another told me that it depends on the officer and I might need to pass some money to them.
Needless to say, we decided to just see what happens and nothing happened as we went to the airport with just his American passport (because naturally, baby needs A passport to travel). I gave the birth certificate at the check-in counter and they handed me a form for Mexican citizens leaving for the baby explaining we had no passport yet because of covid.
Then I handed this form to the immigration with no questions asked. No issues, no fine, no bribe. Nada.
Now, if for any reason you decide to get a baby’s Mexican passport outside of Mexico you still need carta de pediatra, even though officially it says you don’t need it.
We were asked for baby’s photo ID and that was naturally the only photo ID we had so it worked. We wouldn’t have been able to get it without it.
Another thing to note is that if you’re getting a Mexican passport at the consulate you don’t bring a photo with you, they take it at the consulate which was a big issue with a baby. Long story short it took 3 kind people, lots of help, white poster on the floor in the middle of the busy consulate and endless tries. And a ridiculously funny photo in Holden’s passport 😉
Other Citizenships & Passports
Many people kept asking us questions if the baby is going to be American when it’s born abroad. Yes, both of my kids are American at birth and none were born on the US soil.
The US has a jus soli and jus sanguini rule (all countries that have jus soli also have jus sanguini actually). There are certain requirements that you need to meet and collect some paperwork, but it’s not difficult nor costly. We’ve done it twice now.
As this is a common question, I actually wrote a separate post on how to get an American passport for a baby born abroad.
For Mexico specifically, if you’re in Mexico City that’s easy because the consulate is in Mexico City and you can even request CRBA online.
For Quintana Roo state it was a bit different because while there is a US consulate in Cancun and they can issue you an American passport, they cannot issue you a CRBA. This can only be done in Merida.
We had to go to Merida to get it which wasn’t a problem for us, because we made a trip out of it.
For those wondering how you can do this if your baby needs to be air lifted to the US from NICU, as you have to bring a baby with you to the consulate, there are exception.
In fact, one family I saw did it right before us without the baby for this exact reason – baby had to stay at the hospital. Nobody is going to ask you to risk the baby’s life if it’s medically not advised to do so.
What about other passports? Mexico allows multiple citizenships, making your child eligible for Mexican citizenship as well as your country of citizenship. In our case all our countries allow multiple so baby Holden will have 4 citizenships.
However, you need to check whether your country allows it and if so, under which circumstances (sometimes it’s different at birth and when acquired).