I wasn’t going to write about my birth experience, but as I was forced to do a lot of medical tourism I realized how little info one can find online when looking for the correct piece of information. I usually struggle to find information about medical care in foreign countries.
While I’m originally Polish, I’ve never really lived there as an adult, neither do I have Polish or EU health insurance (I used to have Dutch healthcare, but it’s been years), so I had no clue how things were supposed to look like before this experience.
Why I Decided to Give Birth in Poland?
I’ll be real: giving birth in Poland was never my intention. I’m originally Polish, but I’ve never used Polish healthcare system as an adult and I wasn’t planning on it.
As things took an unexpected turn for me which I described in a separate post, I ended up living in 2 different states (California and Texas) and 3 countries (US, Italy and Poland) while pregnant the first time.
My original plan was to give birth in Italy, as we lived there and thought it was going to be the easiest option. Due to a disaster with registration and a hospital in Verona refusing me I was simply looking for an alternative.
We canceled our US insurance so flying back to the US wasn’t an option due to a very long flight and huge bill (although we would have gotten a huge bill even with insurance). I had to make a quick decision whether I risk it and stay in Italy or find a better alternative. Originally thought of going to Lithuania as I received a recommendation, but then my friends told me about a new private hospital a friend of a friend gave birth at in Poland and I instantly called them to find out more details and book my flights.
It actually turned out to be an interesting perspective from a sociological point of view and gave me a first-hand insight into how differently things are handled in every country.
I’ve no clue how different things would have been for me if I gave birth in a public hospital in Poland. However, I know that while some of my American friends had their births fully covered by their insurance, many were forced to pay two or three times more for their natural deliveries with expensive health insurance due to high deductibles.
I can honestly say that giving birth in Poland has been a great experience and I surely recommend it as a birth tourism option to those who want to save money and receive a high standard of medical care.
Prenatal Care in Poland
Public hospitals are a standard for giving birth in Poland. You can be taken care of very well and it will cost you nothing extra regardless of what you or you baby needs (it’s technically not free because you pay for health insurance from your taxes, but it’s next to nothing compared to the costs in the US).
If someone decides to go private, they’re either foreigners or very rich. As we had no registration in Poland our only option was to go privately for the birth.
When it comes to prenatal appointments though, most people will do them privately. It’s tough to score a public prenatal appointment and it’s more throughout to do go privately. It’s also very affordable (between 100-300 PLN which is $25 to a maximum $40 for special ultrasounds).
Polish doctors usually work at private clinics and public hospitals so you can have the same doctor, standard vaginal births are handled by a midwife, not a doctor.
I only arrived for the birth at 39 weeks pregnant so had one appointment which was basically to decide about my c-section, so cannot talk much about those as I had a few in the US and then most in Italy.
However, I did get to experience a private prenatal appointment in Poland during my second pregnancy (when I gave birth in Mexico), because 20 weeks of ultrasounds were fully booked in the US and I was heading to Europe anyway so I booked it in Poland.
I couldn’t have been more satisfied with it. The doctor I picked was very patient and gave me all the info I needed without scaring me prematurely (she did see placenta previa, but told me about my chances for improvement).
Hospital Birth Options
I can only speak about Medicover Hospital in Warsaw, but you can choose a water birth, standard vaginal delivery, or c-section if needed.
They also perform inductions when necessary, but keep in mind that no other country than the US will perform an induction before the due date unless there’s a medical need for it (even at week 41 it’s a debate). You cannot request induction because you’re tired of being pregnant anymore like it’s a common occurrence in the US from 38 weeks onwards.
Even with complications, I experienced during my second pregnancy I was told in the US that I should have a c-section 34-37 weeks and told “my decision when depending on when they have space” which I found absolutely ridiculous. I ended up having my c-section almost at 38 weeks exactly, because it was much better for the baby, but Polish doctors wanted to monitor me and potentially delay it even longer.
When it comes to a private hospital you naturally can have more choice, but public hospitals aren’t bad either. Doctors handle emergencies extremely well.
Let me tell you one thing first: things have changed in Poland from many years ago, when men weren’t allowed in hospital maternity wards and women could only see their husbands through a tiny window after giving birth. Or showing a baby wrapped in a blanket through the window to husbands standing outside (I was shown off that way actually!).
The country also has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, which experts have attributed to the general healthiness of Polish women and national guidelines for how to care for pregnant women. This actually cannot be said about Texas, where I used to live and considered giving birth.
My Experience at the Hospital
As I arranged everything pretty last minute, literally called for an appointment around 38 weeks and due to flight cancelation, we had to travel at 39 weeks exactly with a doctor’s note. I ended up signing up with Medicover Hospital in Wilanow, practically still in Warsaw.
Medicover is a private hospital, so unlike it happens in the US you don’t need to sign up for scheduled inductions or c-sections weeks in advance as there’s no space otherwise. I met my doctor on Monday and we scheduled my c-section for Thursday without any issues.
To make things easier I was asked to check in to the hospital the night before, even though I was scheduled for about 2 pm the next day. However, due to a schedule change, the nurse came to my room at 8 am telling me that we can start pre-op whenever I’m ready.
My room was pretty amazing with a private bathroom and other amenities. It was basically a hotel suite.
I paid extra for my husband to spend a few nights with me as well. He was fed (huge portions) and had his own sofa bed to sleep on. He also got access to the kitchen in the corridor. The food wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough. Husband approved though.
It’s a pretty luxurious option, as in public hospitals in Europe (not only in Poland) you share a room with a few other women and husbands are allowed to come visit during certain hours only.
As my c-section was scheduled I was invited to spend the night before at the hospital to make things easier. It’s standard to spend 2 nights at the hospital after a vaginal delivery and 3 night after a c-section so I spent a total of 4 nights at the hospital.
My original surgery was planned mid-day as I was basically squeezed in arranging it all 3 days prior, but some people had to be rescheduled and at 8AM I was told that they’re ready whenever I am.
My husband could attend the birth. Once the baby got checked they sent the baby back to the room with my husband while I went to post-op for an hour.
They do remove the catheter and make you walk just a few hours after your c-section (they don’t wait 24h like in North America). The nurse also took me to the shower and washed me, changed my sheets, and made me feel fresh.
Quality of Maternity Care in Poland
I must say that little did I know back then how well they’d stitch me in Poland. They’re very careful and use standard non-resolvable stitching which left me with little to no scar. I later found out that some places in the US use glue, staples or other methods that leave women with red scarring. That’s never the case in Poland, even in public hospitals.
We didn’t need absolutely anything for the baby. The hospital provided sheets, swaddle, diapers, formula, bottles. We only had to bring baby clothes (obviously) and a nightgown for me.
At nights we had an option to either stay with the baby or send him to the nursery. We opted for keeping him with us, but as I wasn’t breastfeeding we had to call for milk every other hour. Due to hospital policies, you’re not allowed to use your own formula or bottles at the hospital (I guess it’s a common policy everywhere in the world from my experience?).
It was probably the most annoying part as on nights my husband wasn’t with me I had to get up and walk to the phone to call for milk every time.
If you want to do some other procedures (eg. genetic testing, circumcision) the hospital can arrange it for you as well.
Babies are vaccinated at birth in Poland with two vaccines: HepB and TB. The second vaccine is not really a thing in the US, but in Europe you still vaccinate kids with it. You can opt temporarily (we had to opt-out of TB because I was on immunosuppressants and had to wait with live vaccines) and it’s not a problem, the nurse will naturally ask you before doing anything.
However, keep in mind that certain vaccinations are compulsory in Poland and free of charge unless you decide to do it at a private clinic but there’s no need. If you don’t show up with your child you might be called and fined if you don’t vaccinate a child living in Poland. It’s the same in Mexico and many other parts of the world. Compulsory vaccines include:
- whooping cough
- polio (poliomyelitis),
All vaccines and birth info will be put into a Child’s Health Booklet (Ksiazeczka Zdrowia Dziecka) that you need to bring to all your child’s appointments until the age of 18 in Poland. Keep it, they’ll give you a stink-eye if you forget it – I’ve done that, haha!
Documents from the Hospital:
Upon discharge, you receive two papers: your discharge and baby discharge. You naturally need to pay the remaining balance of the bill if it’s a private hospita (you pay the deposit upon check-in).
You don’t name your baby in the hospital (that’s something unique to a few countries only). Your discharge says “Son/Daughter YourLastName”. In order to name and register your baby you need to go to the registry to obtain a birth certificate.
The hospital will give you a print-out on where to go. For Medicover in Warsaw, they send the birth paper to the registry in Wilanow so it’s easiest to just go there.
Important: I keep reading on forums that people in the US wait months to apply for baby’s birth certificate. This isn’t possible in Poland (or any other European country). You have a limited time frame to go and register your baby – in fact, if you don’t do it within the time frame the registry will name your baby for you.
Yes, you read it correctly. They’ll officially name the child with a common name so get your ass to the registry on time 😉 Changing a name in Poland is a lengthy and difficult process that involves a court, so you don’t want to do that.
Now, keep in mind that Poland and other European countries have a list of forbidden names and other name rules. You cannot name your baby with something strange, offensive, devilish, or put a maiden name as a second name. Keep this in mind.
Another rule for Poles (this doesn’t apply to foreigners or Poles married to foreigners) is that names need to be in a Polish version. For example, a Pole cannot name a child Dorothy – it would have to be Dorota as it’s a Polish equivalent of the name.
It’s mostly up to the decision of the person registering your baby. My son is named Dylan Fitzgerald and we had no problem though, despite the fact that I am a Polish citizen. It might be useful to bring someone Polish to the registry with you because they really don’t speak little to no English there.
Birth Certificate for a Baby Born in Poland
You get a birth certificate issued basically on the spot at the registry. One important thing to note is that there are two versions of the birth certificate. You must request both.
They’re called Short (Polish: Skrocony Akt Urodzenia) and Full (Polish: Akt Urodzenia). To apply for a foreign passport you need a full birth certificate. I’m mentioning it as I was the only one with the correct one at the US Embassy.
Polish Passport for a Baby Born in Poland
Poland, like other EU countries, has no jus soli. Your baby doesn’t get Polish citizenship just by being born in Poland unless one of the parents has Polish nationality. The only benefit you get is that you save money on birth.
My son got a Polish passport because I have one though.
Obtaining Other Citizenships & Passports for a Baby Born in Poland
If you’re applying for other passports due to your or your spouse’s nationality, depending on the country you might need to do some in the country of birth. If you’re American, then you must apply for CRBA at the American Consulate in Warsaw or Krakow. You cannot apply for it in other countries than the country where the baby was born.
It’s a pretty straightforward process but requires some documents. I described it in another post linked above, but your baby will be American from birth and it doesn’t count as naturalization – you basically receive an American birth certificate.
Interested in giving birth in Poland? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!