I was asked to write this for the Maternal Health Training Project - Mongolia. I may have written more than they bargained for, and maybe had a very different experience from other expat women who’ve given birth in Mongolia, but I only know how to share my experiences one way.
When I first read about the project in an interview with it’s founder after she had first arrived in Mongolia, I thought it seemed a little off. I wasn’t pregnant yet, but I knew that when I was, I wouldn’t need a midwife when I had Emee, a woman who had given vaginal birth to nine children. All the other women I knew here were mothers, and I knew that they would be able to help me through the process of becoming one. In reality though, I knew even less about the maternal healthcare system than the founder of this project did at the time she was interviewed.
It seems we have both learned quite a lot. Her program has evolved into what seems to be a much needed support system for the existing maternal health services in Ulaanbaatar. The maternity hospitals are overcrowded, underfunded, and quite a different scene than what I had access to in Darkhan. Her team of volunteers has been doing really great things for the women who are in the maternity hospitals, and they have been busy providing information and training sessions to local hospital staff on how to look at alternatives to the classic system of care in place here.
I think it’s a good thing, and I applaud the people making it happen, who seemed to have learned a lot as their project has evolved.
So, here’s the story I present to the masses, “simplified” for easier translation, and useful to… well, not really sure who. Maybe it’ll help the next expat who finds herself pregnant in Mongolia. Maybe it’ll just be me going back to read this when I’ve got Baby #2 en route and can’t remember what to pack for the hospital..
I gave birth to my happy, healthy daughter on December 21st in Darkhan-Uul 1 Hospital. I’m a 36 year old American and my daughter is my first child. When I connected with other expat women, most of them said that they refused to give birth in Mongolia and opted for services in Thailand, Korea or China, options I couldn’t afford, beyond not wanting to be cut off from my family support network here.
As an American, I had very different ideas about what my first pregnancy and delivery would be like. My friends advanced through their pregnancies with weekly visits to expensive doctors, genetic screening tests, natural childbirth classes and consultations with midwives, doulas and lactation specialists.
In contrast, I went to the local hospital once a month, a nearly 50 year old building with decades-old, second-hand equipment, and assistance from the World Health Organization and Peace Corps volunteers, to see my obstetrician – the only one in Darkhan who spoke English well enough to help me through my pregnancy. I had two OBGYNs, Undarmaa (the English speaking one), and another who spoke no English, Saran, who was one of the most respected OBGYN’s in the city, and had delivered most of the children in my husband’s family.