Pregnancy and childbirth in South Africa

pregnant woman
Updated 2022-11-06 12:03

Bringing a child into the world is, without a doubt, one of the most important and exciting decisions a couple can make. When this decision is made while living abroad, add a difficulty level. Here is what you need to know if you are currently living in or considering South Africa.

Getting health insurance in South Africa

If you are planning a pregnancy in South Africa, it is best to take out private health insurance. It is easy to purchase health insurance in South Africa, and most insurance companies will respond online or by phone. However, it is recommended that you read the policy carefully and understand all the terms and conditions before taking out the policy: the waiting periods are usually quite long (9 to 12 months).

Before taking out a health insurance policy, make sure that maternity is included in the proposed coverage, as well as the costs of postnatal complications for the mother and child.

If the newborn needs specific care in a neonatal unit, the costs can be very high. Another important clause to check is whether the child can be included in your contract without taking into account the medical conditions at birth. Indeed, a child with medical problems could be impossible to insure elsewhere.

The most famous medical insurance companies in South Africa are:

  • BestMed
  • Discovery
  • Bonitas
  • MediHelp
  • Momentum
  • OnePlan

If you don't have health insurance or if the pregnancy occurs during the waiting period, you can give birth in a birthing center where the cost of vaginal delivery is about 1000,00 euros (with 3 days of hospitalization) or in a public hospital. As in many public health systems, South African public hospitals are understaffed and lack medicines and beds. It is recommended to register as early as the eighth week of pregnancy.

The cost of childbirth in South Africa

In South Africa, natural childbirth in a private clinic costs around 1600.00 euros for 3 days of hospitalization, and birth by Caesarean section without complications from 2500.00 to 2900.00 euros for 3 to 4 days of hospitalization, but these rates do not always include the fees of the obstetrician, the anesthetist, the pediatrician and the complementary blood tests. A private room in a private clinic costs from 40.00 to 280.00 euros, depending on the establishment.

Types of child delivery in South Africa

The rate of cesarean sections is very high in South Africa. If you wish to give birth naturally, it is preferable to inform your gynecologist-obstetrician at the first consultation. The choice of the maternity hospital is most often determined by your gynecologist or midwife, who will refer you to the maternity hospital where they practice. You can visit the department to see if it meets your expectations.

If you wish to give birth in a specific hospital or clinic in South Africa, you will have to choose a gynecologist or midwife practicing in the establishment you have chosen.

During the first consultation, a series of examinations will be carried out, and you will be given various documents concerning the pregnancy, delivery, prenatal care and postnatal care. You will also be given your Maternity Case Record (MCR): this national document will be updated throughout your pregnancy. It is to be kept until the birth of the child.

It is important to know that glucose and toxoplasmosis tests are not systematically performed. Maternity wards offer epidurals, but also anesthetic gas masks or general anesthesia. If you opt for an epidural, it is best to discuss this with your gynecologist during the pregnancy because they are not always available.

Pregnancy follow-up in South Africa

A first ultrasound will be performed between the eleventh and thirteenth week, another between the eighteenth and twenty-second week, and some clinics offer a 4-D ultrasound at the twenty-sixth week.

Many private clinics offer childbirth preparation courses. All topics related to pregnancy are covered over a period of six to eight weeks: childbirth, postnatal care, breastfeeding, and baby blues.

It is essential that you pre-register with the chosen clinic. You will be given a file number that will allow you to register on the day.

If there are no complications, the hospital stay will be two to four days.

If you have decided to have a home birth, the midwife you have chosen will perform the birth and will not leave your home until she is sure that you and your baby are doing well.

If you feel the need or assistance of a doula (non-medical birthing assistant), various organizations offer this service in South Africa. You can find these organizations online:

  • Sacred Birth Support
  • DOSA
We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.