Interested in hearing her unique perspective, we recently interviewed Dr. Zara Chan, an obstetrician who happens to be 9 months pregnant with her second child. We want to know, what is it like being an obstetrician and being pregnant?
After studying and practicing obstetrics for more than a decade and spending so much time around pregnant women, is there anything about pregnancy that came as a surprise?
Yes, I was surprised at the degree of my own happiness at seeing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time on ultrasound. I’ve always adored seeing little hands and feet kicking on the ultrasound, but now I love it even more as it reminds me of my own pregnancy.
As a second-time expectant mom, is there any advice would you give yourself in your first pregnancy?
Be prepared for the itchiness! In both my last pregnancy and this one I had polymorphic eruption of pregnancy (PEP), a hives-like rash affecting pregnant women. It was extremely itchy, and no amount of cream could resolve the itchiness!
As an obstetrician, you know of all the things that can go wrong in pregnancy, so it’s easy to become worried about your own outcome. In both pregnancies, I have tried as much as possible to approach it in a positive and cautious way. In practicing obstetrics you also see how little control you have over the outcome of a vaginal delivery. That is something I kept reminding myself of in both this pregnancy and the last.
Was there anything you took away from being a pregnant mom and applied to your role as an obstetrician?
In my last delivery, I wanted to try as many different types of pain relief options as possible so that I could experience what other mothers go through. I tried everything from just breathing techniques whilst in active labour, to water baths, then to Entonox and finally, an epidural. So now when I give an opinion on the various options I can give more than what other people and theory tells me, I can also add my own opinion. That has been very useful.
And what did you look for when searching for an obstetrician in Hong Kong?
I wanted a vaginal delivery so that was my key requirement. I also wanted someone who I knew would be technically good in case an instrumental or cesarean delivery was necessary. Even though I am an obstetrician myself, I would like to have a doctor who is generally reassuring so I know that if they’re worried, I should worry too.
Is there anything in particular us Hong Kong moms need to be aware of while we’re pregnant?
Foods to avoid. This is particularly hard to follow for people who live in Hong Kong because we travel and eat out a lot, and it’s hard to keep track of all the foods to eat and not to eat. In general I tell parents if you’re not sure whether to eat it, then don’t. Better to not eat and not feel guilty or worried than spend weeks being worried over a meal you had.
And keep active during pregnancy. It will help keep swelling to a minimum and make vaginal delivery easier for those who are planning for one.
Which prenatal vitamins do you take?
I was taking a combined prenatal vitamin and DHA in my last pregnancy. This time I’ve decided to try a gummy with a separate DHA. It feels the same.
Be honest, how closely do you follow the ‘foods to avoid for pregnant women’ guidelines?
Honestly, very obsessively. My rationale is that the pregnancy only lasts 9 months. I only have to avoid that food for 9 months before I can indulge in it again. But if I ate it and anything happened to the baby I would probably feel guilty for a lifetime.
Both you and your husband are doctors. Have you ever snuck in a few extra ultrasounds just to ‘check in’ with your little one?
Always! Sometime I do an ultrasound not even to measure anything. It’s just to say “hi” to the baby and watch them kick around for a while.
Did you go through the public or private health system in your first pregnancy? And this one?
I tried both the public and private health systems in Hong Kong and the UK for my last pregnancy. Again, it was just because I wanted to try everything my patients experience. I’ve found it helpful to have a first-hand experience of the advice I’m giving to my patients. Having tried both, my recommendations for parents haven’t changed.
For this pregnancy I’ve decided to go through the private system for convenience.
Lastly, is there a question you wish more of your patients would ask you?
Not specifically. But I do prefer it when my patients ask their questions rather than just Google them as the internet is a confusing place for pregnant women. There are so many aspects and issues in pregnancy that it’s impossible to cover it all in one or two consultations. When patients ask questions, I get a sense of what aspects of pregnancy are most important to them.