Costa Rica’s healthcare system is very supportive of those who are planning to have children. As an expat, you can either use the public health system, known as Caja, to help with your maternity needs; or you can take out private health insurance for extra peace of mind.
Maternity Care in Costa Rica Under Public Insurance (Caja)
In Costa Rica, maternity care is available to whoever has health insurance. Yet, depending on whether you are covered under Caja or through a private insurer, the quality of care may differ. The Costarricense De Seguro Social (Caja) is the public healthcare that residents of Costa Rica have access to.Women who are pregnant would be considered preferential patients under Caja. This means that all of your healthcare needs will be provided for, and the waiting times for any related concerns should be short.
Another benefit to Caja is that once your child is born, they will be able to have free care until they are one year old. This includes blood tests, exams, and other expenses.
Maternity Care in Costa Rica Under Private Insurance
Although Caja provides a generally high standard of care, some expacts opt to take out private health cover as well. It can be difficult to find English-speaking doctors under Caja, particularly in rural areas, but taking out private insurance can be a way to address this linguistic barrier.
Private healthcare gives you more of a say when it comes to your treatment. Although Caja will provide for all of your basic needs, many expats report that appointments are booked for them and are inflexible in terms of timing. Private health cover gives you more choice over when your appointments will be, and which professionals you will see.
The birth itself will generally follow the same structure as you might expect from a hospital in the US or UK. Private doctors will usually speak English, and private hospitals are equipped with the most up-to-date equipment.
Three of Costa Rica’s hospitals have been internationally recognised for their state-of-the-art equipment and overall level of care: Clinica Biblica and CIMA in San José; and Clinica La Catolica in Guadalupe.
You will have more control over your birth plan in private hospitals, too; although to an extent this will still depend on what is available in your region. Your length of stay in hospital after birth, and whether you want a private room, are often up to you. Private rooms will incur an extra charge, and doctors will require you to stay for extra time if there are any complications, but in general you should be given a say in where you stay and for how long.
How To Choose a Birth Plan
A birth plan is a structured plan, usually written down, concerning everything to do with your pre- and post-natal care, as well as the birth itself.
Common options include C-section versus natural birth; whether you want to hire a private midwife; whether you want to give birth at home or in hospital; and whether you would like optional extras, such as a water birth or additional pain medication.
Make sure you check with your insurance provider to see which of the options they will cover. Some, such as water births or epidurals, may incur extra costs.
Some hospitals have limits on who will be allowed into the room while you are giving birth. Unlike in some other countries, it is not standard practice to have your partner there, and you might not be allowed to bring a friend or family member in lieu of a partner. If it is important to you to have someone else in the room, be sure to check that the clinic you book with allow this as an option.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
If one of your baby’s parents is a US citizen, then your baby will automatically have dual citizenship of the US and Costa Rica. You will need to submit paperwork to show that you or the baby’s other parent is a US citizen. To do this, you will need to visit the US embassy and pick up a Certificate of Birth Abroad: this will entitle your child to a social security card and a passport. You can also fill in the paperwork online, on the US embassy's website.
Citizens of other countries who are residing in Costa Rica will need to check with their local embassies to find out whether their child will have dual citizenship. Some countries do not allow this, so you might need to decide whether you want your child to have citizenship of Costa Rica or of your – or your partner’s – home country.
Travelling with your baby within the first three months of their life will require a Permiso de Salida from your doctor. This verifies that the child is in good health and able to travel without incurring any risks. You can get this directly from your doctor, or apply through migracion.co.cr.
Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!