Before you deliver your baby, you might like to research the rules regarding topics such as maternity and paternity leave in South Africa, maternity benefits, the South African birth register, and finding the best maternity hospital in Johannesburg (or another one of the big cities). This guide supports you on your journey to parenthood.
For expats with private health insurance, maternity care in South Africa is of a high standard, with just a few differences from the process you might be used to in your home country.
As with other forms of healthcare in South Africa, public services lag behind those offered by private hospitals. Here, we explain the common processes involved when having a baby in South Africa.
Giving birth in South Africa
If you’re looking for top quality maternity or antenatal care when having a baby, there’s no reason why you can’t find it in South Africa.
Some things might be a little different to what you’re used to, however. The biggest is that South Africa has remarkably high levels of caesarean sections – with 70% of privately insured patients opting to have one.
In some cities this figure is even higher, so your clinic might assume a C-section is your preference. This means it’s important to do your research to find the right clinic in advance, especially if you want to have a natural birth.
The cost(s) of giving birth in South Africa
To what degree you’ll be covered for the costs of having a baby in South Africa depends on your health insurance scheme. Some insurers will insist that you’ve had a policy with them for a set amount of time (in some cases 10 months) before they’ll cover your hospital and specialist costs.
Giving birth in South Africa can be an expensive business, as you’ll need to pay your gynaecologist (or midwife) and the hospital. In many cases, it’s possible to take some of the hassle out of the process, as you should be able to set up payments between your insurer and the hospital to save you needed to manually recoup each medical bill yourself.
Finding the best maternity hospital in Johannesburg or another South African city of your choice
You’ll need to do a bit of research to find the right place to have your baby. In South Africa, specialists tend to work for a specific hospital, and as you’ll deal with the same person throughout the process, it’s important to choose your location wisely. Read our guide on South African hospitals for more information.
With this in mind, most hospitals offer tours of their birthing centres. When visiting, make sure you’ve prepared any make or break questions you want to ask – for example, will you partner be able to stay with you, and can you have a private room? While it’s important to ensure the clinic meets your basic requirements, follow your gut instinct when making your decision. Doctors and staff will also be able to answer queries you might have about joining the birth register in South Africa and antenatal care in South Africa.
– A list of some of the best maternity hopsitals in Johannesburg can be found here.
– A list of maternity hospitals in Cape Town can be found here.
– A list of hospitals in South Africa can be found here.
Prenatal care in South Africa
Scans in South Africa usually take place after 13 and 20 weeks (or in some cases 12 and 22 weeks). You’ll also have regular ultrasounds (in some places as often as every month if you so wish) and some clinics even offer a 4D scan after 26 weeks.
You’ll deal with the same specialist throughout your pregnancy, and whether you choose to have a midwife or a gynaecologist is up to you. Either way, you’ll be seeing a lot of your chosen specialist, so it’s important to meet them first and feel you can build a positive relationship.
The birth register in South Africa
Once you’ve gone through child birth in South Africa, there’s no massive rush to register it with the relevant authorities.
In most cases, it’s easy to complete the formalities. Some hospitals in South Africa will provide you with the relevant paperwork while you’re still admitted, meaning you could send the paperwork off and get your child’s birth certificate in a matter of days.
If this isn’t the case, don’t worry, as you have 30 days to formally register the birth. To do this, you will need to fill in a BI-24 form and submit it to the Department of Home Affairs. Once this is received and processed, you’ll be provided with a birth certificate free of charge.
A child born in South Africa to foreign parents
Usually, yes. If you or your partner is a South African citizen or a permanent resident, your child will automatically have South African citizenship. Otherwise, your child can still gain citizenship as long as they have not been given citizen status in another country and their birth has been registered with the South African authorities. Do not forget to ensure your baby joins the birth register in South Africa. The hospital staff with assist you in arranging this.
Postnatal care in South Africa
After the birth, you paediatrician will usually visit you to discuss the next steps, including important vaccinations such as BCG – which protects your child against tuberculosis. It’s up to you how soon you arrange optional vaccinations, and you can either visit your paediatrician or a clinic in your local area to arrange them.
Maternity leave in South Africa and paternity leave in South Africa
Maternity leave in South Africa is regulated under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. If you’re having a baby, you’ll be entitled to at least four months of maternity leave, which you can start four weeks before the expected birth date (or earlier if a medical practitioner certifies it). You also won’t be allowed to work within six weeks of having the baby unless a practitioner signs it off.
You’ll need to notify your employer in writing at least four weeks before you’re intending to start and finish maternity leave.
Maternity benefits in South Africa
Workplace regulations in many industries are agreed through collective bargaining, meaning some industries offer paid or partly paid maternity leave for a fixed number of months. Aside from this, there’s no legal requirement that employers must pay you while you’re on maternity leave.
If you’re a full-time worker, you can claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), as long as you’ve contributed to it for at least four months. Under the fund, you’re allowed between 38% and 60% of your usual income, depending on how much you earn for 17 weeks.
If you work less than 24 hours a week you’re not entitled to payments through the UIF.
Nurseries and childcare in South Africa
Many expats living in South Africa choose to either employ au-pairs/nannies to look after their children while they work.
When your child is a little older, pre-schools are split in to two age groups. The first, pre-grade reception, covers children aged up to four years old, while the second is for children aged five and six. Compulsory education doesn’t start until the age of 7.
The South African government is currently planning to ensure all creches and nurseries in South Africa are regulated by the Department of Social Development, and have passed inspections from the Department of Health. All childcare facilities for six or more children will need to have a registration certificate under the proposals. See if the creche of your chioce is registered here.
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