What To Expect When You’re In Labor in Korea

A few contractions later, we were in a taxi to our doctor’s office to get this show on the road.

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Having a baby abroad can be stressful. With emotions that are already running rampant because of pregnancy hormones, adding a new stressor isn’t ideal. There had been no Lamaze classes or lessons on what to expect prior to labor and there we were. Five hours of contractions in the hospital in a room with just my husband and me and some nurses that would come and go every thirty minutes or so was the set up. Here’s a general guideline of what to expect that might be different when giving birth in Korea. Don’t worry, there won’t be any gory details.Pregnant and Lovin it Photos

Get ready for the Enema!

When I asked my doctor if there was anything I should be aware of heading into delivery day, the one thing she noted was that I should be aware there would be an enema. She had studied and worked in Chicago for a time and said that though it is uncommon in the States to get an enema before labor now, in Korea it is still common practice. Though studies have found that they do nothing to reduce infection, which was once thought, or to reduce discomfort, they are still used here. Having no idea what to expect, I was wary, but it’s not as bad as you think.

Where’s my English speaking doctor?

The day will come and you will rush to the hospital. The English speaking doctor you managed to find that you’ve been meeting over the past few months who has been answering your questions in English and explaining the ultrasounds to you won’t be there. Where will the doc be? Won’t arrive until the labor is in full swing. Having a doctor that speaks English is completely necessary but for the hours of contractions before pushing begins, the only people to check on you will most likely be Korean speaking nurses. I had asked my doctor if any of her staff spoke English and she said not to worry, we’d be able to communicate so I was somewhat prepared but when it came down to it, I could not speak Korean to save my life. I was in the midst of all kinds of feelings and trying to translate what I wanted was not happening. The staff generally knew what I was saying but thank goodness my husband was there to translate because I was not in the mood. For a couple in which both members are foreign, be sure to request some helpful vocabulary to get you through from the doctor beforehand.


Movies and TV shows would have you believe that when you’re ready to push out that child, the work is difficult and grunt worthy. Screams, yells, squeals and and groans will come forth from your mouth while the baby is coming forth from, well you know where babies come from. Whether or not that is true in the States, I can’t say, but what I can say is that in Korea, that’s not the case. How can you control whether or not you’re screaming, yelling, squealing or groaning? Some would say, you can’t. My doctor however said otherwise. The moment was upon us, the doctor was ready and the signal to push was given. I immediately started concentrating, pushing and making whatever noises escaped from my mouth. It was at that point that the doctor scolded me saying, “No noises! Don’t make any noise!” I was a bit shocked by her statement and wasn’t quite sure I understood her. I continued on and once again a noise escaped from my mouth though I was trying to hold it in and again she told me not to make a sound. With little time to think about it and no time to ask why she kept telling me to be quiet, I pushed on, pun intended. Later, I asked my husband why she’d kept telling me to be quiet and what had she been saying in Korean? Apparently in Korean she had been telling him that I needed to be concentrating all of my energy on the birth and pushing and if I was making noise from my mouth that would mean that there was energy in my mouth and not down south where it needed to be. This was one thing that would have been beneficial to learn beforehand because in the moment, it certainly wasn’t comforting being scolded in a room full of nurses and my husband.

 Where is my baby going?!

After giving birth here, it is common to have the baby taken to the nursery for up to 4 hours. Our nurses said this was so that she could monitored for any health issues in her as well as giving me time to recuperate. As a first time mother, I was sort of going with the flow of things, though in retrospect I probably would have preferred to have the baby in my room during that period. As it was, my husband was going back and forth between my room and the nursery every hour to see how things were and to see when we could get her into our room.Baby hand in my hand

I would suggest that if anything that I have written about here causes you concern, have a discussion with your doctor before you head into labor.

They aren’t big on birthing plans in Korea, or planning at all, but my doctor was open to suggestion, I just wasn’t quite sure what to suggest. If you have a found a doctor that you’re comfortable with, I’m sure that doctor will be comfortable with listening to your worries and concerns and will help you through the process.

This is the fourth in a four part series on pregnancy related topics while in Korea. Be sure to read:

What to Expect When You’re Expecting in Korea, Pt. 1

What to Expect When You’re Expecting in Korea, Pt. 2

What to Expect After Giving Birth in Korea

And if you plan on staying in a post-natal hotel, check out:

Secrets of the Korea Post-Natal Hotel, Pt. 1

Secrets of the Korean Post-Natal Hotel, Pt. 2

What To Expect When You're In Labor In Korea, Seoul, Korea: From being told to be quiet while pushing to speaking English nurses and doctors. Here's what to expect when you're in labor in Korea. Having a baby in Korea. Pregnant in Korea. An expat having a baby in Korea.

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8 Responses

  1. Wow..to me this way of having babies sounds a bit old fashioned to me. With the enema and taking away the baby..
    Here it is common to immediately put the baby on the mom’s body, then give it a check-up and clean it and then put it on her body again where it will stay for as much as possible. To enforce the attachment the baby will have with the mom.

    • Hallie says:

      Yeah, my sister in Australia did that method. I can say that both of our babies are similarly attached to us so it doesn’t seem like it made a difference.

      • Nice to know 🙂

        Btw, I am planning on visiting Korea in a few weeks and I see you’ve done a lot of hiking. Do you know of any hiking groups that I could join to go hike with? Or perhaps you know a place that’s nice to visit and I could easily visit myself? Distance doesn’t matter that much, just as long as there is a bus or two that go there then I will be fine, I have traveled a lot before 🙂

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    […] When to Expect When You’re in Labor in Korea […]

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    […] What to Expect When You’re in Labor in Korea […]

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    […] What to Expect When You’re in Labor in Korea […]

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