Interested in our Partner Program for businesses or our Local Guide Program for experienced expats and digital nomads? Click here to learn more.
Expat Exchange - Having a Baby in Italy
Expat Exchange
Free MembershipSign In
Italy's Chianti Region South of Florence

Having a Baby in Italy

By Joshua Wood, LPC


Summary: This article explores key aspects of expecting in Italy, from choosing between public and private hospitals to pain management strategies. Gain insights on selecting the right doctor, and read firsthand accounts from expats who have experienced childbirth in Italy.

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience, and having a baby in a foreign country can add an extra layer of complexity and excitement. For expats and digital nomads living in Italy, navigating the healthcare system and understanding cultural norms around childbirth can be particularly challenging. Italy offers a high standard of healthcare, and expats can expect good quality prenatal and postnatal care. However, the experience can vary greatly depending on whether you choose a public or private healthcare provider, your location within Italy, and your personal preferences. Understanding the Italian healthcare system, finding the right medical support, and preparing for the birth can help ensure a smooth and positive experience for expat parents-to-be in Italy.

Choosing a Doctor

When expecting a baby in Italy, the first step for an expat is to find a gynecologist or obstetrician who will manage the pregnancy. Many expats prefer to find an English-speaking doctor to ease communication. In major cities and expat hubs like Rome, Milan, and Florence, there are a fair number of English-speaking doctors, but they may be less common in smaller towns and rural areas. It's also possible to hire a midwife for prenatal care and delivery, especially if you're interested in a more natural birthing experience. To find a suitable healthcare provider, expats can seek recommendations from local expat communities, consult the embassy or consulate, or use online platforms and forums dedicated to expats living in Italy.

What to Expect for Prenatal Care

Prenatal care in Italy is thorough and generally includes regular check-ups, blood tests, ultrasounds, and screenings for genetic conditions. The Italian healthcare system provides these services free of charge or at a low cost for residents enrolled in the national health service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, SSN). Expats with private health insurance may opt for additional services or more frequent appointments. Prenatal classes are also available, although they may not always be offered in English.

Do Expats Typically Have Private Health Insurance when Having a Baby in Italy?

While Italy's public healthcare system is accessible to residents, including expats who are registered, many expats choose to have private health insurance to cover additional services and to have more options in terms of healthcare providers and facilities. Private insurance can also reduce waiting times for appointments and procedures. When planning to have a baby in Italy, it's advisable for expats to review their insurance coverage and consider whether a private plan that includes maternity care is a worthwhile investment.

Giving Birth at Public vs. Private Hospitals

The experience of giving birth in a public hospital in Italy is generally positive, with a high standard of care. Public hospitals are equipped to handle routine and emergency situations, and childbirth services are provided free of charge for residents enrolled in the SSN. However, public hospitals can be busy, and there may be less privacy and fewer amenities compared to private hospitals. Private hospitals offer more personalized care, private rooms, and often a wider choice of pain management options. They also tend to have more English-speaking staff, which can be a significant advantage for expats. However, services at private hospitals can be expensive without adequate insurance coverage.

C-Sections in Italy

In Italy, the rate of cesarean sections (C-sections) is relatively high compared to some other European countries, although there is a growing movement towards promoting natural births. The decision to perform a C-section is typically based on medical necessity, but maternal request and private healthcare practices can also influence the rates. Expats should discuss their birth plan and any preferences with their healthcare provider early on to understand the likelihood and circumstances under which a C-section would be recommended or performed.

Pain Management During Delivery

Pain management during delivery in Italy varies depending on the hospital and the mother's birth plan. Epidural anesthesia is available in most hospitals, but its use is less common than in some other countries. Other forms of pain relief, such as gas and air (nitrous oxide) or pethidine injections, may also be offered. Some women opt for natural pain management techniques, such as water birth, massage, or acupuncture. It's important for expats to discuss pain management options with their healthcare provider well in advance of the delivery date.

Hospitals with Neonatal Intensive Care Units

Most major cities in Italy, including Rome, Milan, Turin, and Naples, have hospitals with neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) equipped to care for premature babies and those with medical complications. These facilities are staffed by specialized healthcare professionals and provide advanced care for newborns in need. Expats living in more remote areas may need to travel to larger cities for access to these services. It's advisable to check the availability of NICU facilities at your chosen hospital during the prenatal period, especially if there are known risk factors for complications.

Expats Talk about Having a Baby in Italy

"A clarification first, i gave birth in my own country. But arrived from the UK just few weeks before giving birth, so the whole experience was similar to the experience an expatriate would have (not the same of course, but close enough). I gave birth in a public hospital. I chose beforehand a midwife that would assist me through delivery, on top of the midewives that would have been doing their shift, I chose he through word of mouth. I used no pain relief, but didn't want any, I did suffer for few minutes but it was short and overall very good (happy to share how I prepared for the event, but it's a different story). The delivery room was huge, about 6 times bigger than the delivery rooms I had seen in London, great! I had problems with breastfeeding and found the hospital didn't offer much support, although Il Melograno (breastfeeding support org) and a pharmacy offered me great support. I eventually breastfed for 9 months, on a mixed regime," commented an expat living in Verona.

"The hospital in Vasto offers pre-birthing classes, which are useful for meeting other moms-to-be, and for getting used to the hospital scene. Not so useful for really preparing you for birth. Most of the GYNs are highly qualified and the Obstetricians seem to be more like nurses, however, there are a couple of gyns who are hideous and do not treat patients with respect or understanding. The hospital is trying to update some of their equipment, allowing water births and such, but the basic equipment (iv sack racks, beds, bathrooms, monitors for tracking baby's heartbeat, etc.) are really out-of-date. All the rooms are shared with another patient. If you happen to give birth during a slow time you can pay a small amount of € and have a whole room to yourself. Husbands don't spend the night, babies are all kept in the nursery (still in the 50's?). I had to argue and sign off to accept all responsibility to keep my baby in the room with me so I could nurse her at night. I did not get any reports about the baby's health. She had jaundice and they suspected it and didn't tell me. I was all packed and ready to check out of the hospital after 3 days and they told me to go ahead and go but they were keeping the baby! I flipped and ended up staying another 3 days. I was getting no rest because they had left me the baby and didn't give me any breaks. They are very noisy, about 5 different people pass through your room every day banging stuff and cleaning stuff. Then the nurses are all chatting loudly in the hall right after lunch when you are trying to fall asleep. And, yes, you have to bring your own tp, silverware, wipes, baby clothes, pads, towels, extra blankets and pillows if you want them, etc. Obviously there are no phones for patients to use, so bring a cell phone. Oh, yes, and no epidurals or pain killers unless you are having a c-section," said an expat in Vasto.

"It was really positive experience. I gave birth to my daughter to one of the largest public hospitals of Rome - Gemelli and I definitely recommend it to everybody. It is free, delivery room is private and huge with a toilet and shower etc. There was 5 members of the staff with me, including 2 students on practice. Everyone was really nice, caring and professional. As I had a spontaneous birth-giving, I couldn't use any anesthesia, so no experience there. But a couple of weeks before, I had a meeting with anesthesiologist in the same hospital, signed all the papers, and had all things explained, really useful. Almost all doctors there are English-speaking, such a relief! The maternity rooms are semi-private, with a toilet and the shower, and the nursery is next-door. They taking the babies away only for the tests and for the night, from 12 till 6, but if you'll ask, the nurses will leave the baby with you the whole night. The nurses are professional and helpful, you can always ask for the help in changing, brest-feeding etc," remarked one expat who made the move to Rome.

"Italians are obsessed with anything that could go wrong. the british instead tell you Ok you are pregnant so what? millions are. come back in 9 months. The righ approach for me is somewhere in the middle, so don't get too paranoid like most italians do... (but still be carefull with your salad if you haven't had the Toxo) In my town I found great services supporting mom and baby in the first months, and mostly free. But again, don't search on the internet, you won't find. Talk to other mothers, in Italy word of mouth is key," said one expat living in Verona.

"Just be ready for the unexpected and find someone who will advocate for you so that you will have full access to your rights to choose on all the issues like breastfeeding vs. bottles etc," wrote a member in Vasto.

"Don't waste your time and money on private clinics. Maybe they will have nicer looking reception and not so many people waiting, but the best professionals are working in large state hospitals, best equipment end supplies are there either. One of my friends had a horrible experience in one of the most popular private clinics - Artemisia," commented one expat who made the move to Rome.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.



Italy's Chianti Region South of Florence

SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

Contribute to Italy Network Contribute
Help others in Italy by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Italy.


Copyright 1997-2024 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal Partners & Local Guides