My birthing experience at an Italian hospital

My birthing experience at an Italian hospital

by Ashleigh Link
Stripes Europe

Birthing our second child, with the exceptional support of San Bortolo Hospital and our Vicenza Health Community, is an experience we will always cherish. Birthing a child, while navigating living abroad as well as a global pandemic, requires trust in the resources and community around you. San Bortolo Hospital and the Vicenza Health Community provided an empowering journey that brought our daughter safely into our family. 

I chose to receive prenatal care through the San Bortolo Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OBGYN). After receiving an initial introduction through the Vicenza Health Clinic, all appointments occurred at the OBGYN clinic in the San Bortolo hospital. The nurses and doctors were attentive, caring and ensured I got to see our daughter each visit. The nurses always made sure I took away a clear ultrasound picture for her baby book! Their willingness to give us time to see our daughter while in utero proved the clinic cared for the emotional, not just physical, well-being of the mother and baby.

Potential language barriers are an initial concern for expecting mothers and support partners. While receiving prenatal care, all healthcare professionals through the San Bortolo Hospital OBGYN spoke English and were able to communicate effectively. Additionally, support provided by the Army Community Services New Parent Support Program (NPSP) proved invaluable to our expectant mother community. The nurses were kind, timely and patient with each expectant mother. The nurses were receptive to questions relevant to prenatal care, ever-changing birthing environments due to the pandemic, and postnatal care. As information pertinent to expecting mothers changed due to precautions taken during the pandemic, we immediately received a phone call from our NPSP liaison, explaining the updates to birthing procedures and postnatal care. This bridge between the San Bortolo OBGYN and the expectant mother provided a line of clear communication.

Another key resource to alleviating potential language barriers were the San Bortolo Hospital Patient Liaisons. The liaisons reside in the hospital and are available upon your arrival to the hospital. The liaisons attend appointments and translate directly between the patient and the healthcare provider. The patient liaison was present during all stages of my labor and delivery at San Bortolo.  Remember, you and your support partner are your best advocates and if you need help with translation. It is your right to request support from the San Bortolo Hospital Patient Liaisons.

As I began to go into labor, I arrived to the San Bortolo Hospital Emergency Room. Once admitted, I labored in a room alongside another expecting mother until I entered active labor. The nurses contacted my husband, who waited nearby and ensured he was present in the delivery room for the birth of our daughter. During labor, the nurses, midwives, doctors, and patient liaison ensured a healthy, medicated (per my request), vaginal delivery. Immediately upon delivery, the midwife placed my daughter on my chest and my husband eventually cut the umbilical cord. We then were placed in a private room to share two hours of skin to skin with our daughter.

The recovery process at San Bortolo Hospital included both a communal room as well as a private suite. I recovered in a shared room with two other mothers—American and Italian—until a private room became available. Upon receiving a private suite, my husband visited daily during established visiting hours and we were able to bond with our daughter. The recovery was peaceful, non-intrusive and I was able to access help if necessary. My daughter stayed in my private room with me where the pediatrician assessed her health periodically. The healthcare providers were very respectful and followed proper procedures to ensure my daughter and I did not fall ill to the pandemic. A patient liaison was available, per my request, for any language barrier I encountered. I had zero issues contacting my husband and family during my stay as well.

Upon discharge from San Bortolo Hospital, our community surrounded us with so much support and love. Living abroad, you are typically without immediate family members. Community is incredibly important for expecting mothers and their families during this experience of birthing abroad. Ways you can support an expecting mother are to organize a meal train as well as care for other children in the family while the mother is in active labor or the support partner visits during recovery. With the support we received from our healthcare providers and friends, we truly will cherish this experience of birthing abroad for years to follow.

Packing Tips for Your Birthing Experience at San Bortolo Hospital

  • Save the San Bortolo Patient Liaison’s contact information.
  • Download Google Translate.
  • Pack newborn sized diapers. The diapers given range in a variety of sizes and may not always include newborn size.
  • Pack wipes for diaper changes.
  • Pack your newborn’s first outfit in a Ziplock bag so you can easily hand it to the nurses after delivery.
  • Postpartum care items for yourself are not provided by the hospital. Pack all personal items for your postpartum care.
  • Pack personal entertainment items for yourself, such as a book, magazine or headphones.
  • Include your favorite snacks and a long, 220V phone charger with an extension cord.

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