What’s it really like being pregnant in Italy? Many foreigners are a little worried about the healthcare here in Italy. While it has the upside of being free when it comes to pregnancy many moms-to-be are worried about the organization and not exact precise timing of Italian culture…
As I have long promised, I’m continuing the series on being pregnant in Italy. If you are just thinking about pregnancy, and conceiving in Italy, you might want to check out this article first. In this post, we’ll explore what it’s like to be pregnant in Italy during the first trimester, from figuring out a pregnancy test and finding your doctor, to all the various tests you’ll need to go through.
So you figured out you are pregnant, what now?
If you’ve noticed your period is a little late, or are having some other symptoms popping up, it might be time for a pregnancy test. So where to go?
Head to your local pharmacy and you will have to ask at the counter for one. Normally they are tucked away, making for an awkward request.
Once you head home and see a positive response, it’s time to hop into the wonderful world of Italian prenatal care! If you have a private gynecologist that you can trust you can call them and set up an appointment as soon as you can. If you don’t have one you should contact your local Consultorio Familiare.
There is Consultorio Familiare for every Azienda Sanitaria Locale and distretto (the smaller town sections of your ASL). You’ll have to do a little search and find the closest one to you, give them a call, and make your first appointment with an obstetrician.
Private or Public?
During your pregnancy, you can choose to be followed by public healthcare with the Consultorio, or a private gynecologist. There are pros and cons to both, I personally did a little mix, choosing to go with the public at the beginning to cover all my primary exams and checkups, then going to a private one to follow me specifically for giving birth and being there with me at the hospital.
The big plus of being followed by the Consultorio is that it is entirely free. All your checkups and 99% of your exams are covered by the Sanitaria system. They make sure you get all the necessary information and care, ensuring to measure your risk and refer you to specialists if needed.
However, under this public healthcare, I couldn’t access my gynecologist or obstetrician outside of my meetings. I didn’t have their number and if I needed to contact them for any reason, the Consultorio only accepted phone calls for about one hour per day. And as you would expect, during that one hour they were nearly always busy.
With a private gynecologist, you have to spend money for every appointment you have with them. This usually will cost over 100€ (mine was 130€ I did see others for 180€). However, for the required exams, they are able to give you a “prescription” and you won’t have to pay for all these. However if you then choose to do the exams through private clinics, you of course have to pay those.
The big plus of having a private gynecologist is that you do have access to them usually via WhatsApp if you have any concerns. You also can schedule appointments easier and be sure they will be with you throughout the whole process.
Your First Appointment
When you first meet with your obstetrician or gynecologist, you will have quite a long meeting to go over all your family history and the things you should prepare for. In Piedmont, they give you a prepared binder with all the information and tests you’ll need for all your pregnancy. But not every region is so organized, many might just be a figure it out as you go.
Before you go, check-in with your partner and parents about any medical history – mainly they are concerned with direct parents, rather than grandparents. Be sure to also mention any and all allergies.
(By the way, they will continue to call your partner your marito, even if you constantly correct them.)
They will want to get you to start taking Folic Acid immediately if you haven’t already. Then they will also be ready to prescribe you something for nausea (for me it was Nuperal and while expensive it was really helpful!)
Then you will get the instructions for all your first tests. These first tests will be blood tests to check for HIV, your blood type, glycemia, general white blood cell count, and toxoplasmosis (a virus you can pick up from cats and unwashed or raw food, it won’t hurt you but can effect your baby). They might give you additional tests to check your thyroid and immunity to cytomegalovirus (a virus from little kids, that again won’t hurt you but can hurt your baby).
Your first ultrasound scan will be scheduled further towards your 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Until you get your results of Toxo back you should avoid salumi, cured meats, and raw milk cheeses (they’ll have a whole list for you!)
Aborting Late in Term
In Italy, by law, you can legally abort up to the 21st week of pregnancy if your child shows a risk of genetic disorder such as Downs, or a malformation. There are a few public tests you can get done to determine a risk but they will only give you a general range of the risk.
You should make sure to schedule these early on so that you’ll have enough time to talk with your doctor and make a decision.
If you want a quicker result, and more secure results you can opt for a Test DNA Fetale – NIPT, these are a private test that can cost between 500-800€ depending on all the information you’d like to get.
They are offered by private hospitals and clinics and involve getting your blood drawn, sometimes more than once. These tests are entirely a choice, but if any genetic disorder or rare condition runs in your family, you might want to get one done. Not only to make a decision to abort or not, but also to prepare yourself for difficulties in the pregnancy or first years of your childs life.
Questions I got a lot during the first trimester
“Are you going home to have the baby?” – Many Italians still didn’t understand the cost of healthcare in Italy so many asked me about this. I laughed a little everytime when I had to explain just how much it cost to have a baby back in the US.
“But does it get dual citizenship?” – Actually a great question to dive into. Americans give their citizenship to their kids visa blood, but also if you are born on American soil you automatically are American. Instead in Italy it only works by blood. If you are a foreign couple in Italy, your child will not receive Italian citizenship, instead they will need to get a Carta di Soggiorno. If one of the partners is Italian, your kid will get Italian citizenship as well.
Other things to know
During this first trimester you obviously won’t be showing, but you might have to make quite a few adjustments. Food and wine become the hardest thing about hiding the start of your pregnancy, it means sitting out of quite a few social gatherings if you don’t want to tell people.
If you feel ok telling people – you don’t need to miss out on aperitivo! Many bars in larger cities might have some mocktail options, or you can opt for a Crodino, which essentially has all the taste of a Spritz without the alcohol.
If your region does have something like the Piedmontese Green Binder – whip it out at appointments, it can get you to skip lines. But also you should bring along all your previous tests and reports from doctors to all your next appointments.
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