Monday, 21 November 2011

Giving birth in Sao Paulo...

Our little brasileira, Olivia Chian Yi Chamberlain, arrived on Thursday 3 November at 10:45pm at Sao Luiz hospital in Itaim. I know everyone’s birth experience is different – and this was certainly different from my first labour in London.

I went for my weekly checkup (2pm). Dra Fernanda couldn’t find any amniotic fluid and I was 4cm dilated already (maybe something to do with the ribs AND chilli cheese burger I had for lunch at Butcher’s Market – for another blog!). She told me not to rush but to call Tim, go home and get my things and head to the hospital. It was rush hour, and our rodizio so we had to jump in a cab who decided to take us the longest route but I wasn’t in pain so wasn’t too stressed (another thing to put on my to-do-list is how to complain in portuguese.. ). We arrived at the hospital at 5pm and I didn’t get into a room until 8:30pm!!! I had a minor flip-out at reception when she printed 100 pieces of paper that I had to sign with the wrong name* and then had to print them again...

First I had a checkup downstairs with a hospital doctor and then when I had finally signed all the documents they had someone to escort us upstairs. (A friend who gave birth the night before said that they had a 2.5 hour check-in and that was at midnight, so it seems to be the norm for natural births at least.) I had mentioned in my previous blog that I had picked Sao Luiz because of the natural birthing rooms. When the nurse came back in with a hospital gown I asked for the natural room, and she said this was it! The bathroom door slid open and there was a big bath, birthing balls and blue dim lights on the ceiling. They said I couldn’t give birth in the pool and they would be taking me out regularly to monitor me, which I already knew. I was 6.5cm by the time I got checked again at 8:30pm. They put the fetal heart monitor on and I waited for Tim to come back down, who had been sent straight to the room to drop all my stuff off.

I got into the pool with my saline drip. They also gave me glucose later for energy. My first labour (in London) I had tried to hypnobirth but Sophie didn’t come out in the pool and ended up being a vontouse delivery. I hadn’t had time this pregnancy to practice my hypnobirthing but it came back to me in the pool; the water was really hot and my visualisation was drinking an ice cold beer! My doctor arrived, and I got out of the pool again so she could check me. I was at 8.5 and the contractions were really fast and strong and I decided I wanted the anaesthetist. I had said earlier in the day I would decide during the labour and didn’t want the anaesthetist there waiting during the labour and would just use a hospital one, but it turned out she lived really closeby so she came in straight away.

I was 9cm when I had the epidural. I know that in the UK you wouldn’t be allowed the epi this late in the labour, but hey, this is Brazil! I pushed for about half an hour and Olivia arrived at 10:45pm. Compared to my natural, no drugs labour in London this was almost enjoyable. I felt so much more in control because there was no pain. We also did a very Brazilian thing and booked the webcam and Tim sent all our family the link (thank god the link actually didn’t work) and the video guy for the last 15 minutes of labour, who I would’ve punched if I had been in any type of pain...  It was actually comical and surreal at the same time. I’m not sure I ever want to watch it but we figured if it’s that bad then we can just burn it! Another very Brazilian thing; my Dra said that she would do some ‘plastic surgery’ down there because since I had the epi, why not? I won’t go into any graphic details but she told me she made everything look better down there. Lucky Tim!

Olivia was put straight on me and I got to breastfeed her before they took her away to the bercario. They wheeled me upstairs to my room and Tim stayed the night though it turned out to be a mistake. Olivia was in the bercario for the first half of the night, and someone came in every hour to either give me medicine, check my drip, just check, and the best was a 5am wakeup call for a shower!

I had a pretty decent room which was spacious and had lots of light. I also had a small balcony for that fresh SP air and beautiful view... Breakfast, lunch and dinner were edible, and Tim was given an accompaniant meal which turned out to be Sophie’s lunch or dinner. They are very particular about security – you’re not allowed to take the baby out of the room as I find out when I was told off for going to visit a friend who was just next door. A nurse will come and take the baby away for tests 2-3 times a day which I really appreciated. I was an emotional wreck watching Sophie have her heel prick test, and her vaccines. Tim was given a special wristband which allowed him in and out of the maternity ward.

My cupcake-partner-in-crime, Nicole, baked some beautiful pure vanilla cupcakes as lembrancinhas*. Tim’s colleagues and our Brazilian friends were the first to visit in the first 24 hours, and other friends over the following days. The Brazilians would say it’s much easier to have all your visitors in the first 3 days while you’re in the hospital as you don’t have to serve people tea and biscuits, and they don’t stay for very long. I would agree; the nurses at Sao Luiz were great, and I got a lot of sleep in those first 3 days knowing we were about to move house the next weekend...

We were given the all clear by the paediatrician on Sunday morning to go home and check out took less than an hour. Olivia’s BCG was done at the hospital by Clinivac for R70 which we opted for instead of going to the clinic once we left the hospital. The registry was also available at the hospital which we did on Friday since they were closed on Sat and Sun and neither of us have the appetite for queuing in government buildings. The only paperwork they required were our identity documents (our RNE’s or passports) and our original marriage certificate which did not have to be translated, consularised and notarised (thank god, because we unfortunately didn’t get that document back during the RNE process). The next step is getting her her Brazilian passport and our permanent residency***- we were sent a list of paperwork required, let’s just say we might put it off for a few more weeks.

We were escorted downstairs by a nurse who carried Olivia herself before handing her ceremoniously over to me to take home. I use to be confused why Brazilians would move back to Brazil to have babies rather than stay in the UK or even the US.... as my Dra would say - ‘It’s a much more beautiful process for everyone.’

*Your name has to be correct as the baby wears a name band with your name on it and the nurse will ask you what your name is to make sure that she is giving the right baby to the right person.
**Lembrancinhas are gifts that you give when people come visit, come to your party / wedding / event etc. I’ve heard of some lembrancinhas being as extravagant as Tiffany boxes.... Yeah, I’d like to know those people too!
*** Brazil gives permanent residency to parents who give birth to a baby here in Brazil. I don’t know of many other countries who do the same.


  1. Congrats! Way to go, having a natural birth in Brazil!!!!

  2. Thanks! the obstetrician was trying to tell me that natural births are becoming more 'chiccy' in Sao Paulo... i highly doubt that!!

  3. Congrats! thanks for posting the whole thing, I'm curious to see how things go at Albert Einstein. As this will be a VBAC for me the hubby wanted a hospital that could do a C-section in seconds if it came to that... so happy for you!!

  4. Hi Jaime, Your blog gives me hope. I too am pregnant in Sao Paulo and hope to have a natural birth. Can you tell me why they did not allow a water birth in Sao Luiz? I always dreamed of having a water baby.

  5. Jaime, I've been living in SP for about 2.5 years now (near Parque Villa Lobos) and am 7 months pregnant with my first baby. I'm planning on having her naturally (no c-section, hopefully no drugs) in SP and was wondering if you could tell me more about your experience giving birth in Brazil, what to expect, ask for, etc. Since I'm totally new to the whole birthing scene I'm a little bit unsure of what to look for/ask for while looking at hospitals and options in SP. Any wisdom or thoughts you might have would be so helpful to me! Thanks for your time!


  6. Hi Paige! So I think the key person is your doctor - is he/she comfortable with natural births? How many have they done relative to how many c-sections? There is a strong doula community here as well. If giving birth "normally" is very important to you then you need to make sure as many people in that room are on your side!

    I really liked Sao Luis. I loved that I could be in the water and it was a great pain reliever for me.

    There is also a natural birthing center in Vila Olimpia. I don't believe you can give birth there but they have a great support system and further information. Let me hunt down the name for you as it was another friend that used them!

    Good luck!

  7. Hi Jaime
    I'm monika from india but now in sao paulo brazil.please tell me about the hospital where can I give the natural both and how much you was pay to hospital. And please tell me about birth certificate how long it will be taken together. And what is the procedure for you get permanent residency and how long it will take please tell me about everything. I'm 8 months pregnant so please help me to tell about everything.

  8. Hi Anil. Congratulations on your pregnancy! You should call Hospital São Luiz ( and book an appointment with them to find out all the prices for having a natural birth with them. I gave birth there over 4 years ago so the prices might have changed. You can contact a visa person (the birth certificate takes 1 day but the process for permanent residency can take 1-2 years but you are formally allowed to live in Brazil once the application has been sent in. The agent I used is Renata and she speaks english and is amazingly competent!

    good luck! x