We found out that I was pregnant only when we got to Korea. We just got to Seoul, was still put up in a hotel. I bought some pregnancy kits when I was in Shanghai and I was really just wondering how it works. This wondering became some kind of astonishment, when it was marked positive thrice on three separate days.
I was alone, my husband was busy with work all day. We had a stash of money that was supposed to last us 3 months (or until whenever the allowances in Won came in), we had no fixed accommodation or date that we would be moving to Busan. The lack of support and ability to understand the language was a huge barrier. Information was mostly in Korean and even the most updated post about pregnancy in Korea was a 2012 article on what to do.
1. Korean National Health Insurance
Step 1, we needed insurance.
Korean National Health Insurance (NHI). Which could not be done until we received our Alien Residence Card (ARC), which would only come in the mail 1 month or so after the application date. (I practically found out about the pregnancy through the first test kit one day after we applied. If the healthcare cost is anything close to what I usually pay in Singapore, I don’t think our Won stash could last us 3 months)
Application of the NHI was done through his company’s head office in Seoul once we received news that the ARC was ready. NHI would mean quite heavily subsidised medical costs, but it excludes general medication that has to be purchased separately at nearby pharmacies.
Unlike Singapore, where you can only purchase medication at the same institute you were treated, in Korea you actually do have a selection of pharmacies near the hospital you can purchase your medication from. Bring your prescription to the nearby pharmacy to get your medication dispensed.
2. Getting your free supplements
Once we got our NHI, we were on Naver maps to find a gynaecologist, or at least a Women’s doctor that could confirm and point us in the right direction as to what to do. We were first time parents, and we were barely 3 weeks in Busan.
I found out about this much much later. With a NHI, if you go to the Local District Health Office with your pregnancy log book, or your test kit, they will supply you with supplements and a pregnancy tag for your bag as well as your car. FOR FREE. I only got the Iron pills because I went too late, but I heard that in the earlier stages you get the folic acid supplements too. a 2 month supply cost us about $84 at our hospital and about $60 for folic and fish oil at Shinsegae Duty Free store.
With the pregnancy tag for your bag and car tag means that you are now eligible for pregnancy seats on the train.
3. Mama Card to offset pregnancy related medical bills
Get a letter from your hospital, or your doctors.
Request this document from your doctor (건강보험 출산 전 진료비 지원신청 및 임신확인서 / geongangboheom chulsan jeon jinlyobi jiwonsincheong mich imsinhwag-inseo), which is an application form for financial support during pregnancy and childbirth. The form will include your details and due date, and also the doctor’s signature. (Note that all clinics, including the international clinics and OB/GYN specialists are aware of this form and of the discount program).korea4expats.com
Then head to the nearest bank to get your pregnancy card. It functions like a debit card, where at the bottom of the receipt it tells you how much money is left to offset the next bills. You can even use the card to pay for your delivery.
When I got my card, I had 600,000KRW on it. But by the last consultation in Week 34, the money on it ran out and we’ve been paying cash since.
4. 3D Ultrasounds and 4D scans
This was new to me. Every month when we go for checkups, the doctor would do an ultrasound to show you the growth of your baby. I’ve heard that they only do 3 ultrasounds in Singapore, and that’s it. Which makes me wonder, why would ladies, with no known pregnancy complications, go to the gynae monthly, redundantly… And it costs so much more in Singapore too.
But anyhow, we get scans every month as well as a photo of the scan. In addition, there is a website where we can log in to download a video of the ultrasound.
Every 3 months, we will do a 4D ultrasound to have a rough gauge and better view of the baby’s essential development, such as spine, neck, facial features, heart etc.
5. Post-Natal Care Service
It is pricey, but you are not without help! Alternatively, opt and find out about Joriwons, aka confinement centres. Slots fill up months in advance, so consider booking them early.
I opted to have my mom come up to help with confinement and the baby instead, since cuisine was an issue was me (aka. my food aversion was Korean food).
Well that’s all I have for now! For the other expectant mothers new to Korea, I hope this has helped 🙂