Why you should care
Because what if giving birth didn’t have to be such a drag?
The sandy shores of Sunny Isles, a beach north of Miami, is now nicknamed “Little Russia” for the scores of women who vacation here for months at a time. And in California, waves of mostly Chinese nationals pay Asian travel agencies heaps of money for extended stays in Los Angeles. In both cases, they aren’t there just for the sights. No, these tourists are actually expecting mothers, flying thousands of miles to give birth on American soil.
Yep, birth tourism is on the rise. To be honest, these soon-to-be parents are probably less in it for the tiki drinks and more for the prestige of dual citizenship for their tykes, not to mention lifelong access to American jobs, colleges and benefits. And yes, the anchor baby trail has been pooh-poohed by President Donald Trump, recently leading to ICE crackdowns on Chinese travel agencies and maternity hotels. But rather than cry over spilled milk, I say bring us your tired, bloated masses and, in turn, Americans should return the favor by flattering these expat infant expellers with imitation.
That’s right — gird your loins, because next pregnancy, you should consider taking your own international birth vacation.
Now don’t throw your copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, fifth edition, at us just yet. We hear your concerns. Is it even safe to fly that late in your term? Actually, yes, it is. The no-fly rule primarily exists to protect airlines, and with a doctor’s note, you can get off the hook. Some pregnant women are more at risk for forming blood clots, so it’s important to guard against that with proper hydration and not sitting still for too long — make sure to stretch or take a walk down the aisle mid-flight or on long train rides, says Maria Todd, a consultant specializing in medical tourism. “As long as you cover that responsibly, you should be fine,” she says.
What about the hospitals? Well, the myth that American health care is appreciably better has been thoroughly debunked. In fact, women are more likely to die in America from childbirth than in any other developed nation, according to a USA Today investigation last year. And the price? That is trickier: You’ll want to make sure you are taken to the nearest public hospital or sign a contract enumerating the costs beforehand, otherwise “you could be jumping from the frying pan to the fire” in terms of medical costs, Todd says. Custom Assurance Placements in Columbia, South Carolina, provides one of the world’s only policies covering medical tourism complications, but even that won’t cover you. “I’ve read how many dozens of travel policies, and all of them exclude pregnancy,” says Ben Simons, the international marketing director at Custom Assurance Placements.
Still, it’s possible you could save money birthing abroad even without insurance, if you plan well. The United Kingdom has detained and sent back hundreds of pregnant foreigners (often from West Africa) trying to give birth for free, a journey that’s become referred to as the “Lagos loop.” Even for countries where it isn’t free, consider the average cost of deliveries across the world:
And while the above are all important questions, there are perhaps more important ones. For instance, would you rather be spending those first few weeks of sleepless nights looking at your apartment ceiling fan, or at the full moon as you coo your baby to sleep with a long walk along the beach? And consider the lifelong benefits. While your little tourist is unlikely to snag European Union membership — no EU nation offers no-strings-attached birthright citizenship — there are plenty of other exotic locales that come with a fancy second passport, everywhere from Barbados and Costa Rica to Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro.
This all may seem ludicrous, especially to parents who already have enough stress on their plate with figuring out whether to paint the nursery’s walls baby blue, pretty pink or nonconforming gray. You’ll likely need a friendly parental leave policy at work and an uncommon willingness to give up the dream that little JoJo will become president one day (don’t blame me, blame the U.S. Constitution’s natural-born citizen clause).
But thinking about it, birth vacations are just the next step in the $100 billion medical tourism industry that’s already seen hundreds of thousands head overseas for their surgical needs. And don’t worry about language barriers: Most doctors are likely to understand the words “I will choke you if I don’t get an epidural NOW,” no matter where you are. So proudly lift up those postpartum mojitos — virgin, if you plan on breastfeeding — because by God, you’ve earned them.
What do you think: Say yes to warmer climes this pregnancy, or hell, no? Comment below.