Friday, October 05, 2007

From Behind the Stir-Ups!

(I've never done a group blog thing like this before, so please be kind!)

Not that this blog is all about birth or anything, but today was officially declared (by these two ladies) the day to share humorous/frightening/unusual stories about OB/GYN experiences. The above statement, or the following graphic, should scare any wandering males away.

The thing is, although I want to participate, I don't have any freaky OB/GYN experiences. I saw one only rarely before I was pregnant, and then I had one in Syria while I was pregnant with Miriam (although I eventually gave birth using a midwife in the US). I haven't seen an OB/GYN in America in several years.

Anyway, since I don't have any horror stories, I thought I'd share what it was like to visit an OB/GYN while pregnant in Damascus, Syria. It's something I get asked about a lot, though the question is usually phrased something like, "I can't believe you weren't scared to be pregnant over there!"

First, you have to realize that there's no health insurance infrastructure in Syria (or, indeed, in much of the world besides America. Rejoice or lament as you see fit. Personally, I rejoiced). So when we looked for a doctor, we had to choose from an available price range. A single visit to an OB/GYN could cost as little as six dollars out-of-pocket for your run-of-the-mill, Syrian- or Middle-Eastern-educated doctor. We chose a Western-educated doctor who spoke English, and ended up paying 10 dollars per visit.

What did a visit entail? Well, the first awesome thing about my prenatal care in Syria is that I could see the doctor as often - and as soon - as I wanted. I had had a miscarriage before, and so it was nice to be able to go several times in those first few scary months and be reassured by a heartbeat.

Second of all, I could always, always make an appointment for the next day or two. No six-week waiting periods. And once I was in the office, I never had to wait more than a few minutes for my appointment.

The appointment itself would proceed like this: a nice female nurse would call me (and Jeremy, if he was there) back, weigh me, show me into the ultrasound room, and set me up. She was always very smiley. Then the doctor himself would come in and perform an ultrasound, talking me through everything. That's right, the ultrasound was performed by the doctor himself, and he was allowed to talk about it while doing it (I understand from friends' stories that that is not always the case in America). And I got one at every single visit. After that, he'd give me a moment and then we'd meet in his office to talk about anything we needed to.

One of the things we discussed was how much it would cost to give birth to the baby in Damascus. At the best private hospital in town, with my doctor, a normal birth would have cost $500.

It was during one of these visits that my OB/GYN made this statement: "Childbirth is not brain surgery. It's something that happens all the time, everywhere. I like to treat it as a natural thing, not as something that women need to be saved from." Basically, he was awesome.

So there you have my defining OB/GYN experience: short wait times, inexpensive yet quality care, and an ultrasound as often as I wanted it. Who says there's anything to be afraid of being pregnant in Syria?


Brillig said...

Oh, I'm so glad you wrote this story. Americans are so often afraid of other healthcare systems, because they're so very different from our own. But, friends, our own is BROKEN. This is a lovely and very reassuring post. And for the price to go through the whole prenatal care and delivery in Syria, a woman MIGHT be able to see some rude doc who didn't answer her questions or treat her like a human in his office ONCE. Haha.

So glad you participated in our gyno-day! :-D

Nancy said...

Comforting, since Andrew wants to move somewhere out there for a few years...and we'll probably want to have another child while there.

Yeah, I could have flown to the Middle East, delivered Rachel, flown back to the United States--and it would have been cheaper than giving birth here.

It's $500 in Canada, too.

I didn't find OB/GYN appointments that terrible but I hate cervix exams...they're dreadful.

The last few weeks I was pregnant they always asked if I wanted one, just to see how things were coming along. I was like, "If I have a choice, no, thank you."

And my OB was great--I never had to wait. But I know the other doctor in his office is a chatter box and had a million patients in the waiting room all the time.

Anyway...I'm glad you had a good experience in Syria :)

Butrfly Garden said...

Hi! Thanks for joining in!

It's nice to see how everyone took the subject and ran with it - this whole 'event' has turned out to be pretty educational! haha!

It was really interesting to hear about your experience - I don't know much about other countries' health care systems but it sounds like that really works well. It amazes me that in the US, I pay $120 a month to insure myself alone and still have to pay more per visit than you did.

Brill - I completely agree that we're broken here.

Crissy Bear said...

Here is my Jordanian ultrasound picture. The summer we were in Jordan together I was pregnant with Grace and Jason was working at the University of Jordan Hospital to help him make speaking hours and to give him an idea of what he would be working with if we chose to live in Jordan. When I was five months along we decided we wanted to know what the baby's gender was. Jason asked how much an ultrasound would cost. They told him 30 JD...about 50 US dollars. Then they asked him why he wanted to know. He told them his wife (me) was pregnant and just wanted to check and make sure the baby was okay. The OB said, "Oh bring her in, I'll give her my special price." So I went to the hospital and met with the OB. They weighed me (at five months I'd gained probably two pounds...I don't think I was eating enough meat :) and took my blood sugar. Then they took me back for the Ultrasound. We were in a tiny little room that was partitioned off with a curtain. On one side of the curtain was the Dr and the ultrasound machine. On the other side was probably six or seven women waiting their turn, plus some in the hall. Because I was a foreigner they gave me a seat but I quickly gave it up to the much more pregnant ladies I saw coming in. Then he called me back. I think he changed the this point I'm not quite sure and then he did the ultrasound. We found out we were having a girl and he took some pictures for us. Then he gave us his special price...FREE. He considered it professional courtesies. Sometimes being married to a future doctor rocks!

Here is a nice little US tidbit. In our area OBs pay over 100,000 dollars a year for malpractice insurance. It is mind boggling. How much money do you have to make so that that isn't a pinch?

Worker Mommy said...

American could stand to learn from out countries healthcare systems. Our is sad at best.
In any event, if (and that's a big if) I ever had another child I'm going to Syria.

Cool story, thanks!

Worker Mommy said...

Oops, it's early morning and I can't type. I meant to say America could stand to learn from other countries.

Briana said...

Hey Bridget! I'm glad to hear that you had such a good experience. All of my experiences have been good as well. My doctor is great! Anyway, it was good to hear from you. It sound like you guys are doing good things!

Hareega said...

crissy do you mind telling me whats the name of that doctor? he might have been my professor at med school, i studied there

Bridget said...

Sure, it was Dr. Mohammed Tabaa.


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