Being a mother abroad. Reports of Brazilians living in Canada, Japan, Italy, and Portugal

Brasileiras contam a experiência de ter um filho em países como Canadá, Japão, Itália e Portugal

Going through the maternity process in a country other than the one where we were born is a big challenge. The experience creates a whirlwind of emotions for the future mom, who may feel even more insecure if she is away from family, friends, and the doctor she already knew.

Confidence in the person who will care for her during the prenatal period, and in the hospital where she will have the child is fundamental for the pregnant woman to experience this moment with tranquility and without major complications.


Translated and edited by Rosemary Baptista, CILISAT certified translator

Letícia Labarca with new born son Mattew (Photo: archive)

Brazilian, Letícia Labarca, who lives in Toronto for 15 years, went through a positive experience of birthing a child outside of Brazil. She says that her biggest fear was finding a trusted doctor in the country she chose to live in. “In Brazil, my friends always told me that they had the doctor’s WhatsApp. I heard it and thought it was funny, because I knew that here in Canada it would be different!” – she says. In addition, Letícia reports that they always claimed to have a cesarean section scheduled for that day and that in a foreign country it would not be so, as the type of delivery would be normal. “In Brazil, we grew up with this mentality that we should have a cesarean section at the encouragement of the doctors themselves. That may be already changing, but here is not something that women have the option to decide!” – she comments. 

Canada’s healthcare system is public and equal for everyone. “You go to the same hospital as the mayor and the prime minister. This is common here!” – she says. All my prenatal medical appointments were paid for by the government. “Here we pay a lot of taxes and they are efficiently invested into healthcare and education!” – she says.   

The common thing in Canada is that people have a family doctor, who cares for the mother, baby, and dad. “Consultations here are quick and everything is very objective, like a Drive Thru. “My husband, my son and I, go to this doctor for everything. It is like a general practitioner who attends to us for any problem”- she says. When this Brazilian lady found out that she was pregnant, she went to her family doctor who ordered blood tests and followed up visits until the third month into the pregnancy. “To my surprise, there was no ultrasound during this period! Then she referred me to an obstetrician gynecologist who asked for some tests and ultrasounds, but few! And this doctor could deliver my baby, but that was not a certainty”- she recalls.

To Letícia’s surprise, the gynecologist was a young Chinese woman and was very attentive to her needs. She answered all her questions and left with the impression that the consultation would be the integrated citizen public service deliverance, known in the state of Goiais in brazil as the “vapt, vupt” model.

In Canada, the hospital where the expectant mother delivers her baby is not a choice, but rather determined, in accordance with where the doctor delivering the baby works. This will change only during an emergency, when the mother-to-be will be able to go to the hospital closest to her home. “My doctor’s hospital was 45 minutes away from my home, which left me feeling very apprehensive if I experienced birth pains along the way. However, this did not happen, as my bag broke at 5 am and, around 7 am, I was already in the maternity ward, without contraction and with an inch of dilation. After that, they let me stay in the hospital and gave me a pill to induce labour. After about three hours with severe cramps and seven centimeters of dilation, they administered anesthesia”- she says.

Another curious fact that happened before the 20th week of pregnancy, was that when the doctor received the results from the blood test which she had ordered, she called Leticia for an update appointment. Upon arriving at the doctor’s office, Letícia was informed that there was a change, and her baby could have some syndrome, such as Down’s. Since Leticia was 35 years old, she was at higher risk. During this visit, the doctor delivered a class outlining all the possible risks in case of a late pregnancy.

In Canada, if the baby has any syndrome, women can choose to terminate the pregnancy until and into the 20th week of pregnancy. However, that would not be Letícia’s option, even if her son had some changes. “Thank goodness, my son Matthew was born healthy, with no syndrome, and this episode was just an alarm!” – she recalls. 


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Meire Shibutani with son and husband. (Photo: archive)

Having a son in Japan for Brazilian Meire Norie Alves Shibutani, who has lived in Aichi Ken Nishio Kira for 16 years, was a very peaceful and very pleasant experience. This is because the Japanese health system is extremely modern and has state-of-the-art technology with regard to hospital equipment and infrastructure – which gives a lot of security to pregnant women living in the country. “Here you pay Hoken, which is a health insurance that allows you to use the country’s clinics and hospitals” – says Meire. According to the Brazilian, according to the family income and the age of the insured, patients pay 10% to 30% of the regulated fees and the government pays the remaining fee.

“The interesting thing about Japan is that women have health insurance the moment they become pregnant, as the exams are much more expensive. The government helps with 420,000 yen, regardless of whether the pregnant woman has insurance or not. The other expenses are on her account! ”- says Meire. In addition, she says the Japanese government helps and encourages women to have children in the country.

Meire says that there are differences in having a child in Japan and having in Brazil. “I had my first child in Brazil and it was very different than having here in Japan. In Brazil, I was attended at Maternidade São Paulo when I went into labor. Once there, they put me in a room with other women, and gave me IV to have the contractions. So, my bag was punctured and my son was born quickly, in less than four hours ”- he says.

As for her second child, who was born in Japan, the Brazilian reports that she went into labor and was taken to a well-equipped room. “I was put on a drip and after that, the contractions started. However, they gave me nothing to speed up the process. This was really a normal delivery, as the bag burst by itself ”- he recalls.

According to Meire, the obstetrician was excellent and the fact that they allowed her husband to stay together for the entire time also helped her to be much more relaxed.


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Maria Fernanda with son Pietro and daughter Anna Sofia. (Photo: archive)

Professor Maria Fernanda Zavattini had her two children, Pietro and Anna Sofia, in Italy and says that the experience was very positive.

During the entire gestational period, she received medical and hospital treatment from the National Public Health System, except for the gynecological part, as she opted for a private doctor she already knew.

The medical care offered by the Italian government continued after the birth of the teacher’s children and it was thanks to this service that Pietro, her first child, was saved after facing some health problems that she had during her early life. “Pietro was born premature and what saved his life was the care received at the public hospital in the city of Mantova. The department of neonatal pathology took care of him for 12 days, so that his airways and lung were recovered ”- he says.

During the pregnancy of her daughter Anna Sofia, Maria Fernanda did all the pregnancy tests – ultrasound, blood tests and others – by the National Health System. According to the professor, a value is deducted from the citizens’ wages to cover expenses with possible exams. “The higher a person’s salary, the higher the payment quota, that is, the so-called‘ mandatory ticket ’.”

During the first week after the baby is born, when the mother and son are already at home, a nurse and an obstetrician – provided by the government – pay a visit to the family to check on their health and to find out how breastfeeding is going on. If necessary, they return to the family home until the mother and baby are well. In addition, a basic pediatrician always visits the newborn and there is no cost. This happens until the child is 12 years old.

In addition, at the time of the birth of Maria Fernanda’s children, the government donated 1000 euros to families to cover the costs of the layette and everything the baby needed. And that, regardless of family income.


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Katia and daughter Sofia

Brazilian Katia Aparecida de Oliveira Souza also had the experience of having a child outside of Brazil. She and her family moved to Portugal three years ago to obtain better health and safety conditions.

The Brazilian’s husband already had a job in Portuguese lands when they arrived in Europe and, therefore, they could be seen at the health center closest to the family’s residence, in the city of Lisbon, and by a family doctor. “Here in Portugal, you don’t have to want to be seen by this or that gynecologist or that your child be seen by such a pediatrician. Unless you choose a private service, which you don’t usually need because public health in the country is of excellent quality! ” – he says. And it was the family doctor of the Brazilian who discovered her pregnancy and followed the pregnancy during the first three months.

The Brazilian says she did several types of exams and did not pay anything for it. “When I found out I was pregnant, due to my age, 44 years old, I was exempt from all the tests I needed to do during the gestational period and up to three months after the birth of my baby” – she says.

At three and a half months of gestation, Katia was warned by the doctor that there was a risk of her baby having Down Syndrome. In Portugal, every woman over the age of 30 is already treated with greater care, as they think that the chances for the baby to be born with the syndrome are very great. In the country, abortion is a legal practice and many women who discover they have a child with an extra chromosome decide to have an abortion. Therefore, there are not many children with the syndrome in the country. “I wouldn’t have an abortion if my daughter had it!” – he says. Due to the situation, the Brazilian was referred to a referral medical center for high-risk pregnancies. “I was attended by the best doctors, I had psychological support, I had ultrasounds every 15 days and a very expensive exam, amniocentesis, at no cost. And thank God, I found out that my daughter didn’t have the problem! – says.

The delivery performed was cesarean section, as it was the third pregnancy of the Brazilian. “It was very peaceful! I was assisted by two obstetricians, an anesthesiologist, four nurses and a pediatrician. The operating room is wonderful, a First World thing! ” – counts.