Giving Birth in Bratislava – Private vs. Public Hospitals

In 2014, I gave birth to my first baby at Antolska Hospital in Bratislava. Having never had a baby before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that having a baby in Slovakia was not going to be like what I’d seen in American movies! To prepare, I geared myself up with an optimistic outlook that helped me to get through my first birthing experience, which was extremely painful and a little scary. Fast forward two years and one month, and I found myself giving birth to our second child, but this time in Bratislava’s only private maternity hospital, Sanatorium Koch. Of course, giving birth is never a walk in the park, but choosing the right hospital for you and your new baby is a major factor in getting the birthing (and recovery) experience you’re hoping for. Let’s talk about what each hospital has to offer.

Private Hospital Sanatorium Koch

♥ Before Delivery

I switched to care at Koch in my 35th week of pregnancy, and had appointments there once a week until my delivery. These last appointments are just about the same as at other hospitals, you pee on a stick, get a cervical exam, have an ultrasound, and occasionally have the baby’s heart monitored. The staff at Koch do their best to have you see the doctor as close to your appointment time as possible. A drawback to visiting Koch is that they are about two blocks up hill from the nearest bus stop, and parking near the clinic is limited.

♥ Delivery Experience

The greatest benefit to giving birth at Koch was that they really do nothing without your consent, and your birth plan is respected as long as it won’t endanger you or your baby. There is a relatively small number of doctors working at the facility, and as far as I could figure out they all share a similar philosophy that favors natural and spontaneous childbirth. The delivery rooms are private and the delivery bed is adjustable so you don’t have to labor on your back. After my baby was out, they put him directly on my belly where he stayed while the nurses patiently waited for me to pass them my left arm for a quick shot of oxytocin, and he was allowed to stay near me while I pushed out the placenta, and while my husband cut the cord. So they also encourages skin to skin contact which has a great impact on both, the mother and baby. Then the nurses asked if they could take him from me for the quick check up, and I felt like they were actually waiting for me to agree before whisking him out of my arms. My husband and I were allowed to stay alone in the delivery room for two hours to bond with our son.

♥ Stay at the Hospital after Delivery

Across Slovakia, no matter what hospital you choose, mothers and new babies aren’t released from the hospital until at least three days after delivery. In my case, with my second child born at the private hospital, we were kept for a full six days due to jaundice, so I was able to fully appreciate the “hotel-like accommodation” that Koch boasts of. During your stay, they provide you with all your post-delivery basics (night gowns, sanitary pads, toilet paper, clothes for your newborn, water, and snacks twice a day), and you even get to choose your meals from a menu. There is Wi-Fi and a television in all the rooms, and some rooms have a mini refrigerator. Babies room-in with their mothers from the very first night, unless the mother’s condition prevents that. In case a mother/child pair can’t breastfeed, formula is available from the nurses. Another perk at Koch is the visiting hours are from 9am-9pm, and visitors are allowed into the room with your permission.

Public Hospital Antolska

♥ Before Delivery

Check-ups before the delivery were much the same at Antolska as at Koch as far as procedures done. The main difference was that no appointment time was given, so you could show up during office hours at a time convenient for you and wait in line for the nurse to call you in for a check. I didn’t like the unpredictability of check-up times, but I did appreciate that Antolska has a large parking lot, and it’s close to a bus stop.

♥ Delivery Experience

As with the private hospital, it’s possible to reserve a specific doctor to deliver your baby, otherwise whoever is on shift at the time will do the delivery, but you may not know that doctor personally as there are many doctors on staff there. Public hospitals can accommodate many mothers delivering at once, although the delivery boxes are something like cubicles rather than actual rooms. It’s free to deliver at a public hospital as long as you’re insured; you just pay for any extras you want. After my baby was delivered, they held her above me so I could touch her head, but then I was being rushed to deliver the placenta, the cord was cut by a nurse, and my daughter was taken quickly for a check-up before I could have good look at her. She had to stay in the baby bed while I got stitches. There’s no way I could’ve held her during that procedure as I was flailing my arms in agony! After the stitches, we were allowed to stay alone as a family in the delivery room to bond for approximately 30 minutes to an hour.

♥ Stay at the Hospital after Delivery

An advantage to staying at Antolska is that it is fully equipped to care for any child born in critical condition. Women are encouraged to room together with their baby from the first night, unless the circumstances don’t allow it, in which case the nurses will care for the baby during the night. Breastfeeding is encouraged, but from my experience I would recommend that if you don’t want your child to be given any formula then you need to make that clear to the nurses beforehand. Some private hospital rooms are available at the public hospital for a fee, and families staying in those rooms are given exceptional visiting hours, but the space is limited and they are first come first serve. There were some things that surprised me about hospital life, and as a foreigner with limited Slovak I had a tough time figuring out what I was supposed to do, or not do. The biggest perk of the whole experience was that it was free, and the greatest drawback was the limited visiting hours where family members weren’t allowed to hold the new baby.

So Which Should You Choose?

Whichever hospital you choose, the most important thing to remember is that all the doctors working at both hospitals are qualified medical professionals who should be able to safely deliver a baby.

♥ Koch is great for comfort and for women who have a specific birth plan that they would like implemented, but it’s pricey and not good for high risk situations.

♥ Public hospitals like Antolska aren’t as comfortable, but they are free and well equipped to care for any medical emergencies.

If you’re in the Bratislava area and not happy with the three public hospitals or Koch, you might research for yourself the baby friendly hospital in Banská Štiavnica, the hospital in Hainburg, Austria, or a hospital in Vienna, Austria.

Did you give birth in Bratislava? What were the highs and lows of your hospital experience?

6 thoughts on “Giving Birth in Bratislava – Private vs. Public Hospitals

  1. Livia Barilla says:

    Leah, I also delivered Eva in Antolska, and I had her on my chest while the nurse was sewing me down there. I was in agony and crying,asking my husband to hold the baby with his hand on me , as I was in so much pain I couldnt focus on her. From this point of view, I think Koch rules.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leah Raczova says:

      I agree, Livia! My main priority (aside from the safety of the baby) was to delivery naturally and without injuries, and I told that to the doctor at Koch during our first meeting. I was really satisfied how she was willing to work with me on this and make that her priority as well. Let me tell you, having a baby and NOT getting stitches afterward is the BEST way to have a baby, in my opinion 😉

      Like

  2. Lea Steele says:

    Hi Leah, I am slovak married to an English man 😊. Our first son was born in UK and the experience was frightening ( as my son was born by emergency c-section) but staff there was amazing and encouraged bonding. Which meant I could breastfed my son straight away. Our second son was born in Bratislava at Kramare ( public hospital) I have choosen my doctor who was great and delivered via c-section again… I saw my son for about 15 minutes and then I was taken into a recovery unit to be monitored. My son was born 18:33 and I had to wait until 21.00 next day to see him again. This meant I could not breastfeed which slowed my milk as I only had colostrum at that time and it was not satisfying enough for him as the staff formula fed him ( sometimes they even give a breast milk from other mums who extract it….).Nobody came to ask me if that would be ok. If I have to compare these two births I choose one in UK for bonding and encouraged breadtfeeding from the birth.
    Maybe I would have that experience in private hospital….. who knows only one way to find out 😉😉😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leah Raczova says:

      Hi Lea, oh my gosh, I’m so sad to hear they took your baby from you during that vital time for bonding at Kramare! But then again, I’m not too surprised as I’ve heard similar stories from other women. I think when it comes to care for the mother/child relationship, the private hospital is usually better than the public hospitals in Bratislava!

      Like

  3. Naomi says:

    Having babies in hospitals…oh my, this is a topic I could go on and on about! My Slovak born babies were born in Trnava, and while it has improved over the years I’m still a little resentful about some things. Not that I’m planning on it, but if the occasion comes up I will try a place like Koch!

    Like

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