HAVING A BABY AT ADVENTIST HOSPITAL, PENANG
This article was written by Joey Cann-Phillips*
Pregnancy Care and Delivery at Penang Adventist Hospital.
As an expat mother of two, who has happily resided in Penang for seven years now, there are two common questions that I am often asked by new expats considering moving here, and by those who look to start or expand their family here. The first question? Where did I deliver my baby and what was my experience of delivering here like compared to my native home in the UK? And the second question? Can I recommend a good paediatrician? I am hoping that this helps answer some of those questions.
Why Did We Choose Adventist?
Whilst there are many fantastic hospitals to choose from on the island that offer similar delivery packages, we decided to go with Penang Adventist Hospital (our first child was born in the UK.) First and foremost, we chose this hospital because of how comfortable we were made to feel there. We were under the care of the fantastic and friendly Dr Diong Seng Kwok who we saw unintentionally, as the female OB/GYN I had initially booked to see to discuss fertility treatment options, did not actually specialize in this area! Her nurse suggested that I try consulting Dr Diong, who was conveniently just next door…and the rest as they say is history!
Coincidently, my neighbours at that time were both doctors and when I mentioned I was considering going to see Dr Diong, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that not only had they worked along him for several years, but he had also delivered all three of their children! They claimed that he “was the best and kindest Gynaecologist /Obstetrician they had ever worked with.” We took their advice and never looked back. Whilst Adventist was not often mentioned on many of the expat groups I had joined, my family and I now use this hospital for all our healthcare needs. It is also worth mentioning that Adventist hospital has several OB/GYN’s, who all come highly recommended.
Dr Diong is friendly, knowledgeable and puts you at complete ease. I must admit that I was apprehensive about having a male doctor, but there was no need for me to be. As a slightly anxious person (who had experienced quite a traumatic first delivery, and as somebody who was going through an emotional fertility journey), what was essential for me was to have a doctor who was happy to answer my questions, and one who was able and willing to take the time to explain things in a way I could understand.
Understanding was never an issue for us as Dr Diong speaks English fluently, and even understands the British sense of humour! He also could sense my nervousness so always made a point of asking me if I had any other questions before I left. He would also gladly answer questions on the phone if I was experiencing something I was a little unsure about during both our fertility journey, and during my pregnancy. He was infinitely patient, gracious and generous with his time, something I really appreciated.
My husband and I were patients of Dr Diong for several years before we became pregnant with our second child, but he was encouraging and honest throughout our entire journey. It is clear that Dr Diong loves his job and I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice when he was completing our scans; he too seemed excited to see the baby grow, and he would happily spend time explaining which body part was which on because it all looked like a blur to us! My husband appreciated feeling included in the appointments as this was such a special moment in our lives. It felt even better knowing we were experiencing this under the care of a doctor who knew what we had been through to even fall pregnant.
Check-ups and Scans
The pregnancy appointments are more frequent here than in the UK, and we would go once a month for a scan and check-up (you will be asked to go more frequently nearer to the end of your pregnancy). My husband and I actually enjoyed the reassurance of having monthly scans and made a point of going for a lunch date straight afterwards, thankful and happy to be able celebrate each milestone!
As we were self-paying for the pregnancy care, I appreciated that the doctor was able to give me an idea of what scans/test would come up during the pregnancy, and when to roughly expect them which helped us to prepare our monthly budget. We were never asked to do a test that was not needed, and we found the costing to be much more reasonable than expected. I was hoping to have a natural delivery, but a fellow expat here advised me to always have the cost of a caesarean saved in the event that you may end up needing one, as they cost several thousand RM more. Another thing to be aware of, is that often in some private hospitals in Malaysia, you could be expected to pay the costs of both a vaginal and caesarean delivery, in the event that you first try a natural delivery and it results in a C-section.
Whilst I had no ‘formal’ birth-plan and wanted to go in with an open mind, I had expressed my preference to have a vaginal delivery to Dr Diong and he was very supportive. He is a great listener and told me that unless a patient elects for a caesarean, or if there is a medical reason to have one, then he will support a mother’s decision to give birth naturally. Whilst I did go on to have a successful vaginal delivery, my friend elected to have a C-section with the same doctor and rated the care he provided very highly.
Important Hospital Information
I found Adventist Hospital itself to be very clean, organized and easy to access. I cannot fault the care of the nurses there. Our clinic nurse, Kathy, is extremely efficient, always smiling, and would always ensure that we left the right information and forms etc. A big bonus for us about Adventist is its opening times. The clinics are open from 8am-5pm Monday-Thursday and open for half days on both Friday and Sunday. This made it much easier for us to choose appointments that didn’t require us to take any time-off. Adventist also has a really fantastic app that allows you to book or reschedule your appointments (of which you will have many!) which saved me so much time versus having to call to speak to the nurse (which you can of course do).
Planning Your Stay
The hospital offers a tour of the maternity floor and delivery area prior to your due date, which is often comforting when you go into labor as you know exactly where to go and what to do!
Bare Essentials of what you need to take:
1) Your own sanitary pads. (The hospital only provides a few).
2) I’d highly recommend extra disposable underwear (Watson’s does a great own brand).
3) Your own toiletries.
4) Your own water bottle. They have water machines available but the hospital does not provide any cups or mugs.
5) Flip-flops or shower slippers
6) Amanda also recommends your own pillow and a cozy blanket!
The hospital staff prefer you to use their muslin clothes/blankets but you can elect to take your own. They will also ask you to wear their white gowns for your stay, but I elected to bring my own PJs/clothes as it felt more comfortable. I also preferred to take my own clothing for my baby but the hospital does provide temporary clothing too.
Unfortunately it is still not the law here that baby-seats are required in order to get discharged from the hospital, but everyone should have one so don’t forget to bring it with you! Have it installed in your car a few weeks prior to your due date.
Other Additional Information:
Whilst Adventist is a Christian hospital, you do not have to be Christian to deliver there. Neither my husband nor I are Christian, and whilst we were offered a visit from the hospital chaplain, we opted not to see her. This wasn’t an issue as the hospital staff are used to working with a diverse range of patients, from all cultures, religions and backgrounds, and were used to it.
Adventist only serves vegetarian food but you are able to bring outside food in.
As I delivered during the pandemic in 2020, I was only allowed to have my husband visit but I am not sure if these rules have changed since then.
So how was my delivery experience when the big day arrived? I went into labour during the night but felt fully prepared as my nurse had explained what to do in the event that this would happen. I called the hospital and told them I was headed straight to A&E so they were waiting for me (with a wheelchair!) when I arrived, whilst my husband went to park, register and pay the deposit. We opted for a private room which included a 3 day/two night stay. Adventist also offers packages for two-bed, three-bed, and four-bed wards at different rates. They now offer a ‘VIP’ room package which includes special meals and other extras, but we felt happy with the spacious private room that we had seen. Admittedly the décor is a little dated, but I didn’t care as the room was very clean and suited our needs. What was important to us was that we got the best care, not the fanciest hospital. I was taken straight up to the delivery room where I met the midwives who would stay with me for the remainder of my labour. Once it was confirmed that I was indeed in labour, and was actually already about 6cm dilated on arrival, Dr Diong was called and he came straight in to check on me and the baby.
The midwife was clearly very experienced and did an excellent job of keeping me calm and Dr Diong was also very reassuring. I felt so determined and in-control compared to my first labour in the UK, that I opted to not have any pain-relief this time around. Adventist does however offer many different forms of pain relief such as an epidural, pain killer tablets and gas and air, but these do come at an additional cost outside of the package. Something else I had spoken to the doctor about prior to the labour, was having the option to move around the room if I felt I needed to. This was something that he supported and also asked which position I would prefer to deliver in. This is a conversation I would highly recommend having with your doctor in whichever hospital you choose, as tradition here often means women are encouraged to lay down throughout the labour.
When the time came to push, we had some issues with my son coming out, and I began to worry that I would need a caesarean after all. Dr Diong very calmly explained that we could try forceps and I agreed to have it and we proceeded without any issues. The cost of this was additional to the package but still within an affordable range (an additional few hundred RM) Despite the forceps, it would be what I would describe as a perfect birth. Not only did I feel completely safe in the care of our doctor, but the support we were given afterwards was exceptional. Within minutes, our son was laying safely on my chest and I felt like we had won the lottery!
When you are discharged, the pediatrician will come to do the paperwork with you. It is important to keep this safe as you need it when applying for the babies birth certificate.
They also asked to see my hospital appointment card when registering the birth so it is worth keeping that too.
Dr Diong gives you a signed letter to confirm babies birth which you then need to register at the JPN. If you need a translator for the birth-certificate in order to apply for a passport you can contact Lee at Desmond0817@gmail.com. He is a court translator and charges roughly RM50 for the service.
After you and your baby have been examined, you are then moved to your room/ward and are taken care of by the nurses. Dr Diong and the nurses must see thousands of babies each year, yet they still somehow managed to remember that this was one of the most important and special days of our lives and we appreciated that. Dr Diong came to check on us each morning and we would see him again for our follow appointments (these are dated depending on how your body is healing/type of delivery) As I was planning to breastfeed, an advantage of being at Adventist is that it is known for its exceptional breastfeeding support system. Whilst all of the nurses were able to support me with guiding my son to latch-on, a lactation nurse came to visit me several times throughout my stay and even was available to message months after he was born, directly on ‘The Kangaroo Club Breastfeeding Support Group’ on Facebook. If you are planning to not breastfeed, I would advise informing your doctor about this before delivery so that the nurses will be aware and prepared to give you the support that you need for you and your baby.
At first I was reluctant for my new baby to spend his first nights in the nursery, but this enabled me to get some quality rest so that when I returned home I felt ready and refreshed enough to begin the challenge of looking after a newborn, as well as his older sister! Unlike with my first delivery, we had no family around us so we made the most of the extra support available in the hospital. Most of the time I elected to have the baby in the room with me, but the nurses would bring him in-and-out depending on our needs. They would also assist in bathing the baby, and even patiently taught me (several times) how to correctly swaddle my son! The nurses on the maternity ward are phenomenal : they were all very caring, encouraging, friendly and understanding. I walked out of the hospital feeling as ready and as rested as any new mother could be.
This is what is currently on their website but you should discuss all possible outcomes and their costs with your doctor and make sure you are prepared for all eventualities.
All in all, I had a brilliant experience delivering at Adventist and I hope that sharing my experience helps to answer any questions that you may have about delivering there. If you have any more please reach out to Amanda@PenangKidsGuide.com and she will put us in touch!
*Joey is not a medical professional but she is a devoted mother to her children, and wanted to share her own personal experience in order to help other mother’s who will deliver their children in Penang. Obviously everyone will have their own unique experience. We only hope it is as positive as Joey’s was. ALWAYS do your own extensive research before making a decision. We hope however that you found this article useful, honest and informative. A lot of effort was put into it to make sure it had facts, many small details, as well as some tips and suggestions. We hope it benefits many women, even those who choose not to deliver at Adventist!
We also welcome other mother’s to come forward and share their stories and recommendations for good Hospitals, Obstetricians, Pediatricians, Lactation Specialists, etc. Please contact Amanda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!