Lately, Argentina, which provides birthright citizenship, has been turning into a top birth tourism destination for Russian women. The Consular section of the Russian Embassy to Argentina puts the number of Russian citizens’ arrivals into the country at over 2,000 since early 2022. Lots of these are pregnant women. Five times as many are likely to arrive this year. Holod interviewed three women who recently gave birth in Argentina about what makes childbirth in that country different. We also asked what was so attractive to them about Argentina besides its passport, and how locals are reacting to the influx of the Russian expectant mothers.
“For us the very decision to become parents always went hand in hand with emigration”
Lena Tretyakova, 34, ex-bass guitarist of the Ranetki band, clinical psychologist, and Gestalt therapist
Me and my wife, Diana, planned for childbirth outside of Russia right from the start. For us, the very decision to become parents always went hand in hand with emigration. We wanted our child to grow up in a free country, where people are not divided depending on their race, skin color, orientation, weight, or other features. We wanted to be able to simply live without fear. I love Russia very much, but the lack of freedom to be yourself is too high a price for the right to live there.
In January 2022, we chose Argentina. We liked the fact that the child automatically receives Argentine citizenship, which also significantly speeds up the naturalization procedure for the parents. Another strong reason to opt for Argentina was a powerful passport that guarantees visa-free entry into 170 countries.
We arrived in Buenos Aires in June, when I was at my 32nd week of pregnancy. I had been to Argentina in the 2010s for the filming of the Zhestokiye Igry (Cruel Games) show, but that was a brief stay and I only got a vague impression of the country. Before coming here, me and my wife read a lot about the thefts and crime here, but we haven’t encountered anything of the sort during our eight months in Buenos Aires. Of course, at first, scared by all these stories, we tried not to use our phones on the street, kept away from crowds and watched our bags closely. But we were through with all that soon.
Argentina lives at a leisurely pace. You can see people lining up everywhere, and the lines always move forward very, very slowly. However, for the pregnant there’s no waiting in line: they let you go first everywhere, and people are so kind they literally take you to the cash desk by the hand. So being pregnant in Argentina is a special kind of pleasure.
The pregnancy care team we signed a contract with was very helpful. They picked us up at the airport, brought us to the temporary accommodation, answered our questions about the city and took us to the doctors. Thanks to them it didn’t take us long to complete the paperwork for the child. We also applied for permanent residence and citizenship right away.
I got insurance and gave birth in a for-profit Alemán hospital. It didn’t take me long to choose the doctor and thanks to the doula-interpreter, who accompanied us at every appointment, I could ask any questions I wanted time and again. We had a separate room, which also had a couch for my wife to sleep on. But, of course, it’s possible to give birth without paying anything. It’s just a question of your comfort, knowledge, command of language, time you’re willing to spend and effort you are ready to make.
Argentina’s another major plus is that here all families enjoy equal rights. My wife accompanied me at all the visits to doctors, the ultrasound scans, and in the delivery room. And nobody even frowned upon us, which was really cool. Overall, I experienced a wonderful, very comfortable delivery. The doctor and his team were incredibly caring, always in touch with us, explaining everything and taking care of me.
There are, indeed, signs of booming popularity of childbirth in Argentina among Russian women. Previously we’d come across Russian-speaking people downtown once every two or three weeks. Now we joke that if you meet a pregnant woman in Palermo (a neighborhood of Buenos Aires—ed.Holod) and she’s not Russian, it’s time to make a wish. My wife and I haven’t had an opportunity to make a wish so far.
Now we’re absolutely okay with everything in Argentina: excellent climate, lots of fruit and vegetables, incredible nature, and very welcoming people. We’re planning a big journey throughout the country. After that, possibly, throughout the whole Latin America. As for what comes after that, we don’t look too far ahead.
“We only make up a tiny fraction of the total number of migrants”
Galina Tolstykh, 36, former employee of a construction company in Saint-Petersburg
It was my husband’s decision that we go to Argentina for childbirth: he was attracted by the opportunity of getting a second citizenship. And I viewed giving birth abroad as an opportunity to change my child’s life for the better. Argentina also appealed to us because of its high level of free medical services. Besides, we thought that Spanish is easier than any other language.
At the same time, we were worried about the financial aspects. Flying there is expensive, and so is renting long-term accommodation. And my husband’s income dropped after he started working remotely. The cost of the delivery stands at four to five thousand dollars, depending on the clinic and other factors. A cesarean section entails additional costs, so does neonatal care, if it is necessary. We didn’t go to a private clinic because you don’t know in advance which of these services you will need. I gave birth in a public hospital. All in all, our trip lasted six months and cost us ten to fifteen thousand dollars even though we didn’t pay for the childbirth itself.
It was my first time in Buenos Aires. I was at my 35th week of pregnancy by then. Before I came there, Argentina had always seemed to me an impoverished country with acute social inequality, going through political turmoil. But it turned out that there’s advanced social support in Argentina , as well as a comfortable urban environment and the very friendly people, who are always ready to help.
This friendliness was very much felt at the hospital: the staff treated babies with sincere affection. All post-delivery procedures, such as examinations by the doctors, tests, and even vaccination, were all conducted in the room — for my comfort. I never had to get out and leave the child alone.
I’m also happy with the way the delivery went. Most of all I was surprised at the number of medical staff: almost ten people were involved in the process of delivery. Friends told me that Russian maternity hospitals currently suffer from severe shortage of personnel. While still in Russia, I had to visit my doctor at different clinics, see different gynecologists, which would sometimes cancel one another’s prescriptions. That was very inconvenient.
The Argentines have different feelings about the Russians coming to their country, but mostly they’re understanding of the fact that we’re in a complicated situation and we come out of necessity. Besides, we only make up a tiny fraction of the total number of migrants. There are many more Peruvians and Bolivians here.
Our family never had any negative experience. But we know that the attitude towards Russians in clinics has changed, because some of Russians refuse to have their kids vaccinated. Some hospitals even introduced a condition: now the Russian expectant mothers have to be accompanied by an interpreter. The thing is that local medical staff often do not speak English, and online translators are also incorrect now and then.
“We were surrounded by so much care, it even made us tired”
Maria Rzayeva, 30, journalist from Saint-Petersburg
I saw a list of countries where “the right of soil” (jus soli, or birthright citizenship, is a rule, according to which a child is entitled to citizenship of the country where they were born, even if their parents are not citizens of that country—ed. Holod) applies long before I got pregnant. Back then I singled Argentina out as the most “Europeanized” Latin American country on the list. But we never gave emigration any serious consideration. We were born and lived our entire lives in Saint-Petersburg. That's also where we developed a local media, Bumaga (“Paper”). Were it not for the war, we wouldn’t have to move anywhere and seek a second citizenship for our child. We decided that our child should get a different passport, not a Russian one, since we can invest time and money in that. He is just a little boy and is not to blame for what’s happening now. He must have some options in life.
Neither me nor my husband Kirill had ever been to Argentina, and we had some concerns. We were wary of the admiration with which people (those we knew personally, as well as the folks on the Internet), would tell about the life in Argentina. We thought Argentina had a high crime rate. A big time difference with Russia, which, it seemed, would complicate our work, and a long flight time were also matters of our concern.
And yet we decided to do it. We landed in Argentina on September 21, 2022. During the flight we were nervous, and not just because I was flying across the Atlantic for the first time 32 weeks into my pregnancy, but also because we knew that Putin and Shoigu’s address was scheduled (they declared mobilization in Russia on September 21, 2022—ed. Holod). I had thought of flying later, so that I could get more work done: besides, most airlines allow flying up to the 36th week of pregnancy. However, my husband insisted that we go early, and I am very grateful to him for that: at my 36th week I already gave birth. Had we arrived later, I simply wouldn’t have had the time to choose a doctor.
We found an agency that helped us rent an apartment, find a doctor, and translated all our documents. Knowing that someone was waiting for us and would help us gave us confidence. My advice is, pay for the agent service if you can afford one, because once you give birth, you’ll want to focus on your baby rather than on the paperwork.
Upon arriving in Argentina, we realized that our fears of rampant crime were groundless. We felt completely safe. On the whole, we were surprised to see how much Buenos Aires resembles European cities. We soon understood that Argentina is no exotic place, it’s no jungle.
We paid for the maternity hospital, although we knew we could expect just as high a level of service for free. For-profit hospitals, however, offer better amenities. We had a separate room that looked like a hotel one, with a shower and a toilet, a bed for the father, an adjustable bed for the mother, and a bassinet for the baby. Every 45 minutes we would be visited by the nurses bringing medication for me or checking the baby, by the lactation consultants, by the housekeepers that cleaned our room and brought the food. At some moment even a baby hairdresser came around to give the newborn a haircut. I had never thought such service even existed. In fact, we were surrounded by so much care it even made us tired.
We prioritized finding a doctor. We chose the Otamendi clinic because the doctor that we liked worked there. The delivery and stay at the hospital cost us $2,500. I didn’t have a c-section, and the child, luckily, didn’t need intensive care. Both of these things would have increased the overall cost. We also paid a deposit of $2000, which was later returned. The deposit was necessary in case we’d need those extra services. As far as I know from the agent, the prices have now gone slightly up. But I can’t say for sure if that’s because of the wild inflation or because of the uptick in patients from Russia.
It was the first time that I gave birth, and I can only compare my experience with lots of scary stories I had heard about Russian maternity hospitals. I find it difficult to imagine someone yelling at the mothers or making them clean their room themselves in an Argentine maternity hospital. Everyone is truly very friendly and gentle with the young mothers there. I was also glad to have my husband and the interpreter around. I was in pain and scared and I can’t imagine how I would have felt in a toxic environment or without the people that held my hand.
As parents of a child born in Argentina, we obtained the right to permanent residence, and in some time we are going to get our DNI cards.
DNI, for Documento Nacional de Identidad, is a national identity document issued to Argentine citizens and foreigners with a temporary or permanent residence permit. Parents of a child who was born on Argentine soil qualify not just for a permanent residence, but also for the citizenship, without having to live in the country for two years.
We soon left Argentina because we had things to do in Europe. We were among the few clients of our agency who left the country after giving birth. But after September 21st, the number of people leaving Argentina dropped abruptly.
People stay because Argentina is a nice and inexpensive place for those who make money elsewhere. Russians, in my experience, don’t feel any negative attitude from the locals. Argentine society is not as concerned about what’s happening in Ukraine as people in European countries are. For many Russians, that is yet another reason to move to Argentina. I’m happy about the Argentine passport guaranteeing my child access to life in a country with excellent medical services and free good education, albeit an unstable economy.
It’s also the feeling of total freedom that draws many Russians to Argentina. You can be whoever and whatever you want to be, display any interests and be different in any kind, and you’ll still be a part of this society, where being kind and loving to one another is the norm.