Your due date is fast approaching, and you’ve just learned that there’s no way you’ll be able to afford private care during the birth of your baby. Does this mean you’re screwed because you’ve got no other option than giving birth at a government hospital? Definitely not and here’s why:
Why giving birth at a government hospital isn’t all bad
According to Norma Bustard, a midwife and nurse at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital explains: “People just don’t understand hospital protocol – especially when it comes to obstetrics. The maternity unit has to cope with women who come to admissions in advanced labour who have not been for any antenatal care. This means that they have no medical records. And where there’s an additional language problem, it’s almost impossible to get an accurate obstetrical history. There is no time to run tests or do investigations that would otherwise improve the outcome for mother and baby. We simply have to do the best with what we have. When things go wrong, the press is quick to publish the story, often with incorrect details.”
How and when to book for giving birth at a government hospital
You should book your bed as early as possible. Even as early as eight weeks into your pregnancy. To book your bed, you’ll need to take your antenatal care card (or a referral letter from your doctor) with you to the hospital. You’ll also need your ID, proof of residence, and proof of income or three months’ pay slips.
When you have registered and reserved your bed, you’ll get a hospital appointment card and a registration number along with proof of payment. You’ll need that to check in to the hospital when you go into labour.
Things you need to keep in mind for giving birth at a government hospital
C-Sections are for emergencies only.
For midwives working at government hospitals, natural birth is always the first and most acceptable route. Although caesareans can be done in government hospitals, they are only performed when the mother or baby’s life is in danger.
Epidurals have to be discussed in advance.
Government hospitals can and will give you pain relief if and when necessary. But they’ll use alternatives such as heat, massage, and water, before turning to more radical measures such as epidurals. Epidurals are not part of standard practice when it comes to deliveries in government hospitals. So if you’re planning on getting it done, make sure to discuss it with your doctor ahead of time.