Brevi is 50 days already! :D We brought him home after three weeks at the Korean postpartum centre and he’s put on a lot of weight. He’s twice the size of his birthweight… he’s a little cute chubchubs at the moment and do not look anything like how he looked like at birth. So cute how babies change so much! Here’s my belated review on the Korean postpartum system.
I decided to have my child in Korea partially due to my husband’s work and as Korea is known to have superb postpartum care system (산후조리원) for the baby and the mother. Koreans believe that women need to recover for at least 삼칠일 samchil il (three and seven days = 21 days), wrapped up from head to toe, to prevent any ‘air’ to go into your bones, even in the hottest summers. Supposedly, bone joints ‘open up’ while a woman is giving birth and if not recovered properly, you’ll suffer joint pains and shivers for the rest of your life. Moreover, Asian women are generally smaller in built than Caucasian women and yet Asian babies are bigger in size, requiring more time to heal. So while we hear stories of American girls taking cold showers or drinking cold drinks right after giving birth, or returning to work in few days like a champ, that calls for a deer-caught-in-headlights reaction by the Korean ajummas and is a big nono in Korea. (Relatives here still refuse to let me drink cold water or eat ice cream!) I was told in Singapore and China, women do not take showers for one month to fully recover.
We thought about giving birth in Cali and having my mom take care of me during the recovery period, but I thought I’d be better taken care of at postpartum centers that have professional doctors, nurses, and aestheticians around the clock. Upscale postpartum centers are gaining popularity in Korea and many women have been benefiting from the excellent care system. I chose DeRama, where I also gave birth at, which is regarded as one of the best postpartum centers in Seoul and has had many famous celebrities and women from all over (Japan, Hong Kong, China, etc that heard of Korea’s famous postpartum clinics) check in post birth. Another popular one is St.Parks, but I went with DeRama because it has dermatology/gyno/pediatrics doctors all in one building. Overall, these centers provide superb care and restive experience for women who’d like to be pampered post-birth (when you’ll need as much help and care as you can get!) and recover in a spa-like atmosphere. Here is a glimpse of what my day was like at the center:
- “room dining:” be served breakfast, lunch, and dinner made by ex-Lotte Chef directly to you room. Be served little snacks and fruits in between.
- Breastfeed baby either in your room, or at the infant room (신생아실) across the hall, every two hours when the nurses call. Lactation professionals that are available around the clock will help you to get your milk started. You can meet other mothers while breastfeeding and make mommy friends. :)
- Rest and lounge around in bed, watching tv or reading a book. While I had to feed the baby every two hours, it was good having professional nurses watch your baby to help mothers relax and recover. At times, I’d pump my milk ahead of time so that nurses can feed the baby and I can skip one nighttime feeding to get a good night sleep.
- Go up to 7th floor spa daily and receive their famous 2-hr high-frequency wave massage that supposedly gets you back into shape faster (고주파 관리). Loved this! I lost all my pregnancy weight when I left the center.
- Gyno checkup downstairs once a week to check if your ovaries are shrinking regularly.
- Get dermatology services downstairs if you’d like to also get skincare.
St. Parks is newer and has better facilities than DeRama, which is over five years old, so I didn’t expect much from the rooms. Although it has upscale finishings with wood and marble flooring and a hotel-like bed, the electronics were outdated and the rooms small. But the room condition was the least important in what I looked for in a postpartum clinic so this was okay. They have maid service once a day, during the time when you’d be getting your spa service, which was excellent because I didn’t have to inform them on when they need to clean, etc. They contact the spa directly for your schedule that day. The room of course has cable, internet, small fridge, air humidifier, heater, etc.
Every room comes with your own 좌욕기 that they recommend for you to use 3~5 times a day, 15 minutes each. It’s suppose to help you heal and recover faster for those that had natural delivery. I wasn’t sure what this was prior to going in but I heard it does wonders, and I did recover quickly. :) Note: Some postpartum clinics have ones to share with other mothers and I’m not sure how sanitary that’d be, so it’s something to check prior to deciding where to go.
2. Infant Care System
Infant care was the highest on my list and rightfully so, bc the newborn is so fragile and you want to make sure your baby gets the best care. The babies stay in the 24-hr care centre run by registered nurses, unlike ladies at other postpartum centres with no degrees. You get almost private care for your baby- it’s a strict 2:1 baby to nurse ratio and there are usually around 6~8 babies per floor at a time. The VIP rooms that cost $22,000 for two weeks have private 1:1 nurse service.
The nurses call your room when it’s time for your baby to breastfeed (around every two hrs for newborns). They track and keep daily records of when your baby ate, for how long, when your baby change diapers, and weigh and bathe your baby daily, and most importantly, the lactation consultants here help to successfully breastfeed: they help the baby to latch on as well as to help mommy’s milk to start. I went in not knowing a single thing about how to take care of newborns, let alone breastfeeding, and came out being pretty comfortable breastfeeding (me), burping (hubby), bathing (hubby), changing diapers and holding/calming the baby. Another great thing about DeRama is that a pediatric doctor does her rounds to the two infant centers here DAILY to make sure your baby is healthy, and calls you to your room daily to inform you on your baby’s health and measurements. Thank God for this- being first time parents we had SO many question and we wanted to make sure he’d be in good hands in the first few days of his life, and having professionals around calmed all our fears.
Food was superb.The Chef is ex-Lotte hotel chef, and the meals are prepared carefully to meet the nutritional needs of recovering and breastfeeding mothers. The main dish for recovering mothers in Korea is usually 미역국 Miyukgook (seaweed soup) and it was accompanied by a salad, side dishes, and brown rice. Even though it’s no-MSG, low sodium and super healthy food, I didn’t get sick of it as the menu constantly changed.
The daily two-hr high frequency spa that helps put your body back into shape was one of the top reasons why I had chosen Derama. They are known for their spas and pride themselves in being number one in Korea. After having received their massages, including the prenatal ones which in the package, I’m not too sure if they are worthy of being labeled the top. They were great, don’t get me wrong, but it just wasn’t the best to justify the high price tag. But I guess can’t complain- I did come out of the center with most of the pregnancy weight gone and it was great receiving daily massages to relax the tense muscles from labor and breastfeeding.
The service of the receptionists at the spa were too prude for my taste, but this i shall just pass.
In any event, we were satisfied overall with the professional care here from the doctors and the nurses. My husband and I left the center after three weeks of recovery with much knowledge on newborn care and brought home our bundle of joy on Christmas day. :) (best christmas present ever!) I’m so thankful Korea has these top-notch postpartum care for women- I’ve heard first time parents panic bringing the newborns home and frequent the emergency room for anything and everything, and that would’ve totally been us had we had come straight home. If I were to have a second I’ll probably check out the other center. Those who are expecting in Korea should check it out.