Pregnancy in Brazil: what to expect if you choose the public health system

When I learned I was pregnant with my second child, of course I was happy. But once the excitement settled came the fear of not knowing what to do next.

At least when I was pregnant of Ellie, I was in France, my home country. So the information was easily accessible.

Here in Brazil the first thing you need to know is if you’re gonna choose the public or the private health system.

With Davidson, we decided to choose the public health system even though we knew nobody in our circle of friends or family who went through it.

I checked online if I could find any information in French or English but there were none. Only articles talking about the private system and how much is pricey depending on where you live.

So in this blog post, I just want to share my experience. Maybe it will be useful to someone else in the future. Who knows?

One important document to have before having your first consultation

To get your first consultation, you’ll need to create a SUS card at a ‘posto de saude’.

You’ll need to bring:

  • Your CPF
  • Your passport
  • A proof of residency

The SUS card will be done on the spot.

Your first exam

The receptionist will then give you a prescription for a blood test to confirm your pregnancy.

Depending on where you live, the lab can be at this posto (like it was the case for me in Cuiabá) or you’ll have to go to another place (like when I was still living in Matupá).

Either way, she will tell you when and where to go. It will most likely be between 6 and 7AM.

Note: they don’t make appointments. It’s first arrived, first served.

Your first consultation

Once you get the result, come back at the posto to schedule your first appointment and she will give you a ‘cartão da gestante’. This card will follow you all along your pregnancy.

Yes you’ll need to come physically.

No appointments scheduled by phone or internet… yet. Maybe someday this will change.

Everyone is requested to arrive at the same time.

So if your appointment is on a Monday at 7AM, be prepared for a looooong wait.

Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll be out in an hour but from my experience, I always had to wait around 2h or 3h before getting back home.

What to expect during a consultation?

It’s a 2-step procedure:

  1. A nurse will call your name and she will take your weight and your blood pressure.
    • Duration: 2min
  2. The doctor will call your name and he/she will do a quick check-up:
    • Asking questions like: Do you feel well? Do you feel pain when you pee? Did you have a blood discharge? Is the baby moving? …
    • Depending on where you’re at in your pregnancy, the doctor will also check the size of your uterus and listen to baby’s heart. This usually happens after the first trimester.
    • Finally, he/she will give you prescriptions for more exams or for drugs.
    • Duration: 5 to 10min

On your first appointment, there will be questions about your previous pregnancies.

Then as long as you’re in your first trimester, the doctor will keep reminding you that if you feel any pain to come back at the posto because you’re still prone to miscarriage at this stage.

About the drugs

There should be a small pharmacy available at the posto.

Just show your prescription and if they have what you need, they’ll give it to you for free, otherwise you’ll need to buy it in a regular pharmacy.

Note: I had to buy iron pills and some antibiotics because they ran out of stock and couldn’t tell me when they would have a new delivery.

Overview of my consultations and exams by trimester

First trimester: in Matupá

  • Blood exam: to confirm pregnancy
  • Consultation 1: doctor
    • Blood exam + urine exam: to check iron levels, HIV test, toxoplasmose test, …
    • Ultrasound: confirm due date
      • Done in a public center
      • Cost: Free
  • Consultation 2: doctor + dentist
    • Flu vaccine
    • Vaccine xxx (to check)
  • Consultation 3: doctor + dentist

Second trimester: in Cuiabá

  • Consultation 4: gynecologist
    • Blood exam + urine exam
    • Ultrasound: confirm sex and if baby is having a normal growth
      • Had to be done in a private center because there were no spots available in any of the public centers in Cuiabá.
      • Cost: 130BRL
  • Consultation 5: gynecologist
    • Vaccine (after 27 weeks) – to check

Third trimester

  • Consultation 6: gynecologist
    • Exam for gestational diabetes
      • To be scheduled 🙂
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