First of all, congratulations! Who’d have thought that peeing on a stick was about to change your world so radically? You’ve probably got a million and one questions right now about how to prepare for having a baby in Madrid, so here’s a basic outline of what you need to know about prenatal health care in Spain.
You’re pregnant. Now what?
The first thing you’ll need to do (after you’ve finished celebrating!) is book an appointment with your GP or medico de cabecera in your local health centre, or centro de salud. They’ll ask you a few questions about the date of your last period (this is how they’ll calculate your due date), and then they’ll make an appointment for you with the centre’s midwife (matrona), and your first hospital appointment. You’ll be assigned to your nearest hospital and corresponding specialist health centre (centro de especialidades) but you can choose to transfer to another hospital during the pregnancy if you wish.
Your gestational dates are generally spoken about in terms of “weeks + days”. I had my first midwife appointment at ‘6+6‘, for example. The dates can be confusing because your due date is calculated by adding 280 days, or 40 weeks (that’s right, your pregnancy is actually 10 months, not nine!) to the first day of your last menstrual cycle. This doesn’t take into consideration the length of your cycles and it’s not an exact science so only about 3-5% of women actually give birth on their due date, but it’s a good way to generally know when you’ll be expecting your new arrival!
At the appointment, you’ll be given an Hoja de consultas or cartilla de embarazo which is a form that the midwife fills out at every visit. It contains information such as the date of each visit, your weight, blood pressure, week of gestation, uterine height (later in the pregnancy), and any swelling you may experience. Later in the pregnancy, it’s also used to record your baby’s heart rate once the midwife can hear it using a Doppler. Your midwife will be your main source of support throughout the pregnancy and is there to answer any questions you may have. In most health centres, they also run the prenatal classes (clases de preparto). I had appointments scheduled with the midwife on weeks 6, 17, 25, 32 and 38.
Pregnancy appointments in Madrid
This is what a normal appointment schedule looks like with the public health system throughout a pregnancy in Madrid (depending on your healthcare provider and history, you might get extra ultrasound scans or appointments along the way!):
Week 6: First visit with GP (local health centre)
First midwife appointment to check dates, blood pressure and weight (local health centre)
Week 11+5: Blood tests (specialist health centre)
Week 12: First visit with the obstetrician to discuss blood test results and appointment schedule, ultrasound (specialist health centre)
Week 17: Midwife appointment to check weight, blood pressure (local health centre)
Week 20-22: High-resolution ultrasound – can confirm the baby’s sex (hospital)
Week 24: Midwife appointment to listen to baby’s heartbeat, check weight and blood pressure (local health centre)
Week 26: 2nd-trimester blood & urine tests for gestational diabetes (specialist health centre)
Week 28: Follow-up appointment with the hospital midwife to discuss blood test results (hospital)
Week 32: Midwife appointment to hear baby’s heartbeat, check blood pressure and weight, whooping cough vaccine (local health centre)
Week 35: 3rd-trimester blood & urine tests (specialist health centre)
Week 35-36: Doctor appointment to discuss results and birth plan (hospital)
Week 38: Midwife appointment to hear baby’s heartbeat, check blood pressure and weight (local health centre)
Week 38-39: Check-up with a midwife (hospital)
Week 41: Progress monitoring with a midwife (hospital)
Having a baby in Spain as an expat can be stressful, there’s no denying that. However, I have to say that my experience was extremely positive one and I’ve felt supported and listened to throughout.
We will be adding tons more information about pregnancy and new mum support in Spain on Kids in Madrid webpage.