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Being pregnant in a strange land

If you are a first time parent, or even a second/third/fourth time parent, the experience of pregnancy and giving birth in a different country can be rather difficult and sometimes even frightening to deal with, even if you are in a first world country.

Despite the fact that modern science knows a great deal about pregnancy and birth, there remain so many uncertainties, the discrepancies between systems can be off-putting.

When decisions and choices involve your children you want to make sure you are making the best decisions and choices you can. We see this in the so-called ‘Mommy wars’ and in a way the same phenomenon is something any pregnant ex-pat will have to grapple with first hand. Deciding between the advice of your home culture or your transplant country is never easy, especially when you have family, friends and medical personnel all butting in with their opinions.

It is easy to joke about the differences: in Asia sushi is acceptable, in France wine drinking is advised and salad is out, in the US you need a doctor to catch your baby, in some countries you should stay in bed for a month after giving birth. When speaking to both medical professionals and locals, most will be quick to tell you that their advice is based on what is best for the child. If you do not follow the advice something dire MAY occur.

When I was pregnant in the US I was told to be very careful about lying on my back at the end of my pregnancy, because it could cut off circulation to my baby. When I was pregnant in Sweden I was told that if I were cutting off my circulation by lying in a bad position, I would wake up.  Sure enough, I was able to feel when I reached a point that lying on my back was too uncomfortable and the worry I had with my first pregnancy, when I woke up in a panic because I was lying on my back, soon passed.

It is not always easy to keep an open mind about something with such serious consequences as a healthy pregnancy, but the one thing I have learned about being pregnant in more than one country is that there is so much that even the medical experts remain unsure of, that it is not unreasonable to question everything. It is also not unreasonable to rely on your ‘gut’ – something I was very skeptical of before I experienced being pregnant on two continents.

We have a lot of resources in the modern world to help make being pregnant in a strange place easier, but our lack of tradition when it comes to birth and pregnancy can make it hard to know what to hold on to. If you are pregnant in a strange land, hold on to the things that make you feel more secure and comfortable about being pregnant, and let the other things go.

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