Pregnant in Vietnam … Again

I’ve had a few weeks to process this information so I’m probably slightly less surprised than you.

But there it is. I’m pregnant. And it seems I was one of those annoying women who didn’t know about it for ages. Thank goodness I didn’t become one of those went-to-hospital-with-indegestion-came-home-with-a-baby type of women. That would have been super-embarrassing.

As it is, I have six months to prepare for this latest unexpected twist.

We had an early scare with the Down Syndrome risk analysis scan so I’ve decided to go back to Australia to give birth … just in case. My dishy French obstetrician suggested that having the baby in a developed country is a more sensible option if there’s any chance of a difficult birth or a possibility that the baby could require surgery.

The possibility of surgery arose at the same time as the possibility of Down Syndrome … because Down Syndrome babies often have heart and/or stomach defects.

Part of the pre-natal care in Vietnam (and in Australia) is a first trimester two-part test involving an ultrasound and blood tests. The tests are designed to analyse the risk the baby has Down Syndrome.

Miss M came along for the scan because I wanted her to see her little brother or sister. She is only three-and-a-half and she thinks I am going to produce an age-appropriate playmate for her. I am trying to prepare her for a newborn. (I can clearly recall my horror, aged five, when I first met the ugly scrunch-faced red screaming thing my parents insisted was my new sister, the baby that was supposed to replace my annoying three-year-old sister as my best friend.)

So Miss M was beside me in the ultrasound room taking many many photographs of the viewing screen, me, her shoes, the wall and her finger when the sonographer first mentioned the words “high risk”.

Pregnant in Vietnam

She punched all the measurements into the expensive-looking beige sonograph machine and told me the result was a 1 in 21 chance the baby would have Down Syndrome. I, of course, completely freaked out. Internally, of course, because Miss M was with me.

I had to wait a week for the second part of the test to come back. Then, a day before the week was up, the clinic called me to say the doctor wanted to see me that day. In Binh Duong Province, which is 25 minutes outside of Ho Chi Minh City. He wanted to see me before 1pm, the clinic said, because he was flying to France that afternoon for a three-week holiday with his family.

Darling Man and I jumped on our motorbike and headed out to Binh Duong Province, where the new Singapore-standard Hanh Phuc Hospital is located. There, on 70s-style chunky brown lounge chairs on the other side of a low coffee table, the doctor explained how the updated risk factor of 1 in 110 was calculated.

He said the baby was considered high risk because under international standards any number higher than 1 in 350 was deemed high risk. But when he ran through the calculation, it seemed to me that if you took my age out of the equation, everything was fine. So I decided not to worry too much. Only late at night when I was lying awake worrying about other things anyway. Like how we were going to afford school fees for two kids and how four of us would fit on a motorbike.

So here we are preparing to be a family of four. I don’t feel grown-up enough to be a mother of two. And once again I’m wondering whether Dropoutdom is an appropriate state for a supposedly grown-up mother-of-two.

We are moving house next week to reduce our expenses and we are looking at ways to increase our income. And we are taking turns to panic. Darling Man’s reaction to stress is to sleep. Mine is to stay awake and worry. Thank goodness we’ve found a balance.


If you’ve found this post by searching “pregnant in Vietnam”, first of all welcome. Second, don’t panic. If you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, I highly recommend Dr Robert Riche at Hanh Phuc Hospital. Three days a week Dr Riche is available at the hospital’s clinic in district one. Just call to make an appointment, you don’t even need a referral. He an obstetrician and a gynaecologist, so he can deal with non-pregnancy related issues as well.

Dr Riche was my doctor when I was pregnant with Miss M (when he worked for Family Medical Practice) and he was great, especially when I contracted dengue fever at five months and ended up in an isolation ward because my red blood cell count dropped dramatically. He was just as calm and reasonable when I was freaking out about dengue four years ago as he was when he took me through the Down Syndrome risk calculation this time around.


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10 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Juno says:

    I can’t imagine how difficult it must be. I wish you all the best. Take a good care of yourself!
    Juno recently posted..I’m Having a Hard Time in India

  2. Congratulations Barbara! I’m glad to hear that the chances of Downs’ have dropped somewhat since the initial thought was placed in your mind. That must be a relief. I’ve been thinking about you a bit since you announced this on Facebook the other week. My cousin has a Downs’ child and she is the most wonderful little girl!
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..Is Australia Just Too Darn Expensive?

    • Barbara says:

      At least the Down Syndrome scare forced us to confront the possibility of having a special needs baby, Bethaney. We’ve talked about it and if that’s what happens, I think we’ll be (kind of) prepared for it. If we do have a special needs child we’ll have to move back to Australia (as expensive as it is) because there is very little support for those kinds of things here in Vietnam.

  3. Sarah says:

    Oh wow – congratulations! I have to admit, I am excited to read about your adventures in Vietnam with a baby. I am glad the risk for Down Syndrome came back lower than expected.

  4. Heather says:

    Congratulations Barbara! We wish you and your family all the best! And as for the four of you riding on a motorbike, you may have stumbled on a gap in the marketplace that you could fill. They have bicycles built for three here in China as a result of the one-child policy. I bet you could figure out how to make one for four!
    Heather recently posted..A Multicultural Lunch at the Langham Xintiandi

    • Barbara says:

      Yes, four or five Vietnamese people can fit on a motorbike but I am not Vietnamese-sized. I’m already finding it very uncomfortable to be three plus a bump on the bike, even though the bump is barely there yet.

  5. denise says:

    Oh boy Barbara! A big big big congratulations.

  6. Super big CONGRATS! First of all, glad that you had a doctor with a great bedside manner there to help walk you through things. Secondly, good to hear that your numbers have gone down. I was considered “high risk” specifically based on age plus autoimmune disease (Multiple Sclerosis) that has no bearing on childbirth. Sometimes they’re just over cautious. I’ll be sending well wishes to the universe for you, your family, and your baby! Can’t wait to read more!
    CoreyAnn – Adventure Bee recently posted..Top 6 California National Park Units Nobody Knows About

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks CoreyAnn. The doctor is lovely and I’m really glad I found him. Sometimes I wonder about the term “high risk”. If it just means they’re going to keep an eye on you, surely they could find a less scary term?

  7. Angela says:

    Oh I hope everything turns out right! And of course: congratulations! πŸ™‚

  8. I’m so excited for you! A second child is much easier than the first–you will be old hats at it, now! Good luck with moving houses, etc. I hope it has less stairs….those would be killing me right now with my gigantic belly! Haha!

  9. Carmel says:

    Wow, what a shock! I’m sure you’re overwhelmed right now and I have no idea how it will turn out, but just keep taking care of yourself. You have a lot of strangers pulling for you and your little family!
    Carmel recently posted..INTRODUCING…

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks Carmel. It was a bit of a shock, but now we’re over the shock we’re very happy. You should have seen how my mum reacted to the news. It was hilarious!

  10. Congratulations! A baby will be so lucky to be in your family, full of love and life and joie d’ vivre. πŸ™‚
    wanderingeducators recently posted..Joanna Lumley’s Nile

  11. budget jan says:

    Congratulations Barbara. Fingers crossed for you and bub. I did not feel grown up enough to have two children, until they were almost adults themselves, and I started late with my first born when I was 31. I sometimes wonder if we had not had children at all, would I ever have grown up, or – am I really grown up now?
    Good to know Miss M has captured the moment from every possible angle.
    Four on a bike is the norm in Vietnam anyway isn’t it πŸ™‚
    budget jan recently posted..Tuesday in Townsville – Cape Cleveland

    • Barbara says:

      I think by law, three is the maximum number of people allowed on a motorbike in Vietnam. However the definition of “person” is open to interpretation.

      Good to know that other non-grown-ups survived parenthood!

  12. Hey Barb & DM – Congrats on your awesome news! How exciting to become a family of 4! I had a giggle over fitting you all on a motorbike. I remember when I had my fourth we had to buy a bloody minivan! I drove a van for years after and was super glad to get rid of it as they all got older. These days they want to DRIVE my car!!!
    Tracey – Life Changing Year recently posted..It’s Finally Time For Us To Help You Prepare For Travel!

    • Barbara says:

      A minivan just wouldn’t work in Ho Chi Minh City. First of all there’s the 200% sales tax which means we just couldn’t afford one. And if we could — there’s hardly any parking!
      But four on a bike … I just can’t see it happening. My rule is that babies under two don’t ride motorbikes, so it’s going to be taxis for quite a while.

  13. Maria says:

    Congrats Barbara! Once again I exclaimed, out loud, “Ohhh,” laughed at your keen wit and ended the read with a smile and thoughts of admiration for you; seems I do that often with Dropout posts. πŸ™‚

    I also like your reassurring last two paragraphs filled with great info for others who may live or be traveling through Vietnam and find themselves with similar news… you turned an update into a resource. Kudos!

    Best wishes for health and happiness and I’m looking forward to the next 6 months with you.

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks for such lovely words, Maria. The next six months might not be so interesting on the blog. I’m going to be working a lot to save money for the trip home so I’m going to have less time for the blog. But I’ll do my best to keep you entertained. Thankfully I’ve got my appetite back so I’m out eating street food again. Yay!

  14. Congrats! And I’m glad you guys have found the right balance too πŸ™‚
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Quirky, small town America

  15. Jenny says:

    Take care of yourself and congrats on the upcoming arrival!

    Don’t worry or stress out too much, you’ll figure out how to handle everything like a boss. Like you always do! : ]

  16. Steverino says:

    Oh wow B …. that is amaaaazing! Congratulations to you and darling man.

  17. Jen says:

    All the best to you, sounds like you have the right attitude and support for whatever comes your way. I had to laugh at the sleep vs. stay up reactions to stress as that’s my life. My husband just passes out when overwhelmed while i can’t manage a wink of sleep. Take care.

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