Being Pregnant in Korea – Part 2

If you missed Part 1, read it here!

I’m 37 weeks along today! That feels so crazy and I can’t really believe it. On the one hand, I’m so ready to be done being pregnant, but on the other, I’m not completely ready for the baby to come!

We just moved into a new apartment (which I’ll write about soon) and we still have a lot of organizing and preparing to do, so I’ve been anxious about all of that.

However, my pregnancy has been pretty smooth so far, with no major complications. The third trimester has been pretty rough – lots of back pain, fatigue, and pelvic muscle pain since my joints are more flexible and separated. It’s a normal thing, since my body is preparing to give birth, but it’s been pretty painful turning over and getting out of bed. I also slipped and fell on my butt once, which made the muscle pain way worse for a few days.

Junkyu and I have gotten very acquainted with the hospital staff, which I’m grateful for, since it means I feel more comfortable there and less anxious. I switched hospitals in my second trimester, and then I switched my OBGYN doctor once after a few appointments.

I switched to this new hospital, Miz Cheil Women’s Hospital in Daejeon, because they boasted a high rate of natural births, and I have a lot of friends in Korea who had c-sections or episiotomies at other hospitals, and I knew I wanted to avoid too much medical intervention if possible. Many Korean women are given the option of having an elective c-section, and I knew I wanted to stay away from that. I wanted my care providers to take my wishes seriously, and I wanted to find someone who practiced mostly evidence-based care.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what I found. My hospital has a natural birthing center for those who want to embrace a more warm and calm environment. The requirement for giving birth in the natural birthing center is that all couples/moms must attend four birthing classes with the team of midwives who will be the main care providers during labor and delivery.

The midwife team is set up on a 24/7 basis, so someone is always there. They also encourage us to call or text them when and if we have questions, and I’ve already found it very reassuring that I know who to call and I know exactly who is on the phone with me. They all remember my face and name and ask me how I am every time they see me.

The classes we took were really informative and helpful. I was worried my husband wouldn’t be able to attend many of them, because they were all on Saturday mornings, and he sometimes has to work then. Thankfully, he attended three of the four classes with me! We did them a little out of order, starting with the last class and taking classes one, two, and three, in succession after that.

The first class was all about going into labor, how to know when it’s time to go to the hospital, and what to do during the different stages of labor, as well as what to expect once one arrives at the hospital. We were also shown one of the birthing rooms during a tour, so we know what to expect. The midwives gave us a packet of forms for us to fill out and read, too. They have a checklist type birth plan, where they encouraged us to check the things we wanted or didn’t want during labor and delivery. This made me extremely satisfied, because I know some care providers scoff at “birth plans” but for me, it was important to know what they routinely do and what I can opt out of. They also gave us a list of what to bring to the hospital.

One class was similar to Spinning Babies – a class dedicated to understanding baby positionings and how to get the baby into a favorable position for birth. Another was on natural birth itself and the benefits and reasons some people choose to have unmedicated births. The last one we took was the class where they taught our husbands and partners how to be our “doula” and how to support us during labor and delivery.

My husband learned a lot from the classes, and they served to reassure me that I’d made the right choice in hospital, since I’d read a lot of books on natural birth and knew a lot of the information already. It was beneficial for us to both attend so that Junkyu could learn what to do when I’m incapable of talking or making decisions.

My midwives also suggested that I switch OBs because one of the OB doctors in the hospital is apparently more open to natural birth patients and is more patient than the others (i.e. less likely to recommend a c-section or other interventions). He’s been great so far, always very kind and factual, never scaring me into anything like an induction, etc.

A few days ago, though, I was told I tested positive for Group B Strep, which is common (about 25% of pregnant women test positive). He recommended that I take antibiotics. I’m bad at swallowing pills and usually need to cut them up, which can’t always be done with certain medication. I explained to him that I’d prefer another method if there was one, and he said, “Oh, sure – you can get a shot.” I usually hate needles and shots, but in pregnancy, there are so many blood tests, vaccines, shots, etc. that I’ve gotten really used to being poked. I jumped at his suggestion and went off with the nurse to get my shot.

As she took me down the hall to the injection room, she told me it would be really painful. I kind of laughed, because I figured it’d be a quick shot and I’d be done – no worrying about trying to swallow a set of pills. She sat me down and explained that I was getting penicillin, and that I first needed to do a skin test to make sure I wasn’t allergic. A different nurse came over with a syringe and apologized, again warning me that it would be painful. I knew I wasn’t allergic to penicillin, because my mom had told me I wasn’t, but I knew they had to do the skin test anyway. She put some of it into my forearm and marked the spot with a pen to check after 15 minutes.

Surprisingly, the penicillin was really painful! It was a very bad, burning sensation. I sat there, hoping my skin test would be negative so I could still get the full shot, but I also decided to Google penicillin. Search results proved that yes, penicillin is often very painful when injected, and sometimes it’s mixed with another chemical to reduce the pain when it’s being injected. They had also told me that I needed to get it in my butt. I was dreading it, but trying to stay positive and calm.

They checked my skin test, and lo and behold, I wasn’t allergic, so it was time to get the real deal. The nurse kept apologizing profusely, saying that she was really sorry but this was going to be painful and the amount I needed was going to make it take longer than normal shots. She let me lay on my side and I gripped the pillow under my head for moral support. It was way worse than the skin test – it felt like she was injecting fire or lava into my muscle and it was trying to burn me. The spot was really sore afterwards, and it took a few minutes for the pain to subside. Thankfully, Junkyu was able to pick me up afterwards, so he took me home to rest.

My OB has confirmed that my baby is head down in a good position, and that the baby’s head is a pretty normal size. He said the rest of the baby is measuring two weeks ahead, so we will definitely have a bigger baby.

People keep asking me lots of questions, like how do I feel and am I nervous, etc. and those questions only make me more nervous! I go back and forth from feeling ready and calm to feeling anxious, but Junkyu’s being really supportive and calm, so that helps. I definitely feel like my bump is bigger than most of the pregnant Korean women I see, and it sometimes makes me feel self-conscious.

I’ve been doing a lot of laundry, washing baby clothes, blankets, towels, sheets, etc. and hopefully this weekend we can put up the crib. We’ll put it in our room, and I don’t have a “nursery” for that reason – which is one of the main things that might be different that American parents do that I’m not doing.

My husband is very confident in my ability to give birth, which makes me happy. Having his support for all of my decisions has been great so far. I’m excited for us to become parents, but I’m also terrified because I have no idea what to expect of my labor and delivery, but most of all, I have no idea what our baby will be like or what actually caring for a newborn will entail.

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One thought to “Being Pregnant in Korea – Part 2”

  1. The hospital & medical team sound great. I’m a big fan of natural childbirth. Sending you love, hugs & all the best for a quick delivery🥰

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