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25 June 2008

Giving Birth in Poland

Congratulations - you're pregnant! So now you both are thinking about where to give birth - back home in the UK or here in Poland. For my wife it was an easy decision - Poland. Factors we considered were:
  • quality of health-care in Poland/UK. Based purely on our experiences we rate Polish hospitals better than those in the UK - which would you rather choose from - old equipment but well-staffed, or shiny new equipment and buildings and 1 doctor per 30 patients? Plus you can always bribe the doctors/nurses in Poland and get grade A care and attention.
  • closeness of family/relatives. My wife wanted her parents near by, and mine are always happy to visit Poland
  • her gynaecologist would be on hand. A good gynaecologist was recommended to my wife and she saw him privately through-out her pregnancy. So it made sense to have the birth at the hospital where he worked
Worth noting that there are a few reasons to possibly not consider giving birth in Poland but they either didn't affect us or weren't important enough for us as factors:
  • No fancy water births or anything "new age". Fathers have only been allowed to even attend births in the last couple of years here in Poland
  • No caesareans on demand. I don't know what the rules are regarding caesarens in the UK but you can't pay or chose to have one in Poland. The doctor will organise one only if it is needed for medical reasons.
  • Citizenship issues - do you need to have your child born in your home country for citizenship reasons? I am fully British so my children have the right to British citizenship regardless of where they are born (having checked with the British embassy)
My wife's pregnancy seemed to be taking too long but the doctor's were reluctant to induce her or do much about it. My Polish parents-in-law (who know the system only too well) asked to have a 'private chat' with the duty doctor. 10 minutes later the doctor (who had been hidden away in his office the whole time) couldn't do enough for us. It was almost like having a personal private doctor with us - constantly checking her, barking instructions to the nurses. I couldn't believe it. He even said I looked a bit pale and took me to a side room for some fresh air by the window and gave me some aspirin.

On one hand I think it's a terrible shame that medical staff are corrupt. The NHS isn't perfect back home but I would never expect staff would take bribes. On the other hand it's great if you have the money that you can effectively 'buy' good service. When someone you love is ill, is suffering or is in this type of situation it's fantastic to have the power to do something about it rather than just complain that there aren't enough doctors.

After the birth the hospital automatically sends notfication of the birth to the office for civil affairs (Urząd Stanu Civilnego) in the town the birth occurred so it's important that the hospital has your details correctly recorded. You must go to this office within 14 days to take care of the paperwork. I don't know what happens if you don't, but according to my wife it's something very terrible. At this stage they produce a birth certificate which they permanently keep. They issue you with 3 copies of a summary version (transkrypt aktu urodzenia). If you need more copies (because everyone always wants to keep your originals) you have to go back to that office and buy more.

So I went to the USC within 14 days under fear of death. I filled out the form giving the parents details and the chosen names of our daughter. Because we are married they wanted our Polish marriage certificate. The girl in the office wasn't happy with this though because it is missing some information on it (because British marriage certificates don't have all the info that Polish ones do - see my blog article in the link). Short story is that she refused to issue me the documents. My wife had to call and complain to the manager. We had to explain that there is nothing wrong with the documents or our translations, it's because we got married in Britain etc.. etc.. Next day I went back and collected our documents.

I have heard stories that the manager of the USC has the right to reject your chosen name for your baby (is this why everyone in Poland seems to be called Mariusz or Kasia?). I was expecting a battle as to why our daughter's chosen middle name was of Welsh origin but nothing was said at all.


Anonymous said...


Shaunj said...

they'll only reject it if there are too many Asia's or Ania's in that particular area ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations also from me!

Also complements on your blog! I really like it, because you provide some real life advice for Poland! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

How do you know they 'bribed' the doctor? Did they tell you?
To be honest I can't believe it's true.

BritInPoland said...

Why can you not believe it's true? Sounds like you have never stayed in a Polish hospital. Yes they bribed the Doctor 200 zloty. I personally gave one nurse 50 zloty. That's how it works in Poland...

Claire said...

Of course they bribed the doctor! Either that or they pointed out their close relationship to someone higher up in his chain of command.
This is hospital reality in Poland.
And given sufficient 'incentive' a caesarian wouldn't have been a problem either ... medical need isn't hard to create.

Congratulations :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Just found your blog whilst I was browsing the web for info on movingto Poland. I am moving out to Poland (Poznan) in September (T minus 8 weeks and counting...!!!) to live with my girlfiend who is still at uni.

I have been learning the language (well, i've been attending classes).

Really interesting and useful to read about your experiences, no doubt i'll get to witness them all myself - i have already had the dubious pleasure of customer services so i can't wait to come face to face with government bureaucracy!

I've lived abroad a couple of times (Spain, Ukraine and Israel) so although i'm not an expat virgin, this one is likely to be for a lot longer, its difficult to find info out there on living in poland and although my partner is (hopefully) going to help me out with the basics of opening bank accounts etc, i don't want to be become over reliant so any information like yours is very helpful.



Malgorzata said...

Hi Ben,

I found your blog yesterday and spent quite a few hours reading it. I am a Polish expat living in the UK. I find it extremely interesting to see what it is like to be a foreigner in Poland. I never knew that getting a PESEL is so important. I guess you take various things for granted especially when you're "born" with them. Anyway, I find your blog very engaging and full of very important information, even for me. I left Poland right after my graduation so don't have much experience in professional life over there. I think your blog would be useful for all of us, Poles, wanting to come back some day. I am glad that you've found your life over there. I look forward for more posts.

Andre said...

My wife is giving birth in about a month.

To my knowledge, you can get a C-section on demand, but you have to pay for it. If the doctor makes the decision, it's free.

But, getting pain killers looks like it'll be impossible... sigh...

BritInPoland said...

Hi Andre

No, I can tell you for a fact that there is no C-secion on demand in Poland whatsoever, paid or not.

There are only two scenarios where it's possible:
1 - due to medical complications
2 - bribary

I heard on the news just yesterday that they are planning to bring in stricter controls to strike off any doctor that performs one without good enough medical reasons.

Yes there was no pain relief (not even standard gas and air) at our hospital either.

Good luck though!

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