Cyprus has a high standard of health care. As an expat, you can decide whether to register with the national health insurance scheme, Gesy, or whether you would prefer to opt for private cover, either as a top-up to your existing health insurance, or to enable you to give birth in a private clinic.Expat mums on the island report both good and bad experiences in giving birth on the island, so it’s advisable to consult other parents in Cyprus and see if there are any word of mouth recommendations regarding hospitals and clinics.
How to decide on a birth plan
A birth plan is a list of what you would like to have happen in labour and beyond, written so that your doctor knows what your wishes and expectations might be.
Birth plans are not common in Cyprus and expat mums have reported that the medical system is heavily weighted towards Caesarian sections as a default option, so it is important to make your wishes known. Two out of three babies are delivered by C-section in the private system, and in the public hospitals, C-sections count for one in two deliveries. Episiotomy is also a routine procedure in Cypriot hospitals, so again, make it clear if you don’t want one.
Other important questions to consider when putting together your birth plan include:
• where do you want to give birth?
• who do you want to have with you (e.g. your partner)?
• what kind of birth do you want (e.g. vaginal birth or a Caesarian)
• do you need any birthing aids?
• do you want pain relief, and if so, what kind?
• what kind of birthing environment would you prefer?
Cypriot maternity care
As an expat, you and your partner will need to register first with the Ministry for the Interior, to set your residency in motion, and then sign up for state medical insurance, whereupon you will receive a card. The Ministry will put you into one of three sections:
• those who are entitled to free healthcare
• those who will need to pay a small fee
• those who will need to pay the full cost of treatment
This categorization depends on your income, any pre-existing conditions, and whether or not you have children. If your partner is the primary wage earner, then you will be covered under their insurance as a dependent.
The national health insurance scheme, Gesy, will cover you for maternity care in a public hospital. Standards of maternity care are said to be mixed, but have also been reported by some expats as being more personal than in other, larger nations.
When your pregnancy is confirmed by your GP, you will be referred to an obstetrician or midwife, and you should be offered antenatal classes and 7-10 antenatal appointments, depending on whether it is your first child.
Women who are attached to the UK Forces in Cyprus will have access to a community midwife, but note that midwifery is still rather restricted on the island: it is more usual to be under the care of a doctor.
You will then be registered for a ‘booking appointment’ at around 8- 12 weeks. This may be either at a hospital or in a community clinic, at your GP, or at home. You may have an ultrasound and blood tests at this point.
24 weeks into your pregnancy, appointments will increase in frequency. It is at this stage that you should start discussing your birth plan with your midwife and the doctors. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has guidelines available regarding the timeline of your maternity appointments.
If you give birth in a public hospital, such as Makarios, you can expect to stay in for around 3-5 days. Check with the hospital if your partner is allowed to attend the birth; some hospitals apparently won’t allow partners to attend Caesarean sections.
Home births are not common on the island and midwives are not allowed to attend them, by law.
If you are under the national health scheme, you may be eligible for a birth grant, which you can apply for within twelve months of your baby’s date of birth. You will need to send in your baby’s birth certificate along with this application form.
Maternity allowance will be payable if you are signed up with Gesy, and if at least 26 weeks have passed between the day your insurance began and the week in which your maternity leave begins. The allowance entitlement is 18 weeks. The amount of the allowance depends on your salary and the number of social security contributions you have made. It will be paid to you in installments. After those 18 weeks you will be entitled to claim another four months of unpaid leave.
You may choose to give birth in a private clinic, in which case the cost of the birth will depend on the choice of the clinic and whether or not you have private health cover. Costs are on average:
• 3-4 day stay in the hospital during birth: €2000-3000
• tests in the later stages of pregnancy and after delivery, including ultrasound: €1500
• pediatric services (doctor present at birth and a following 6-7 consultations): €400-500
The overall cost is likely to be in the region of €5000, plus the cost of accommodation and meals. One expat mother reported that the companies associated with the clinic gave her free supplies of baby items after the birth.
If you do have private cover, remember to check whether your policy has a clause regarding pregnancy and childbirth costs. With some policies, maternity cover only applies after one full policy year has passed, so before this you will need to pay your own costs.
Will the baby be a Cypriot citizen?
Your baby will only have Cypriot citizenship if one or both parents have Cypriot nationality, otherwise your child will have the nationality/citizenship of its parents.
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