Maternity care in the UAE

(To those of you who don't care to read much about the experience of being pregnant in the UAE, I apologize in advance. I have 7.5 months' worth of stuff to say and only a few weeks in which to post it.)

To set the stage for future posts about Sasha 3.0, I'll tell you a little bit about prenatal care and birth culture in the UAE. The joke is, it is almost impossible to define a single mainstream birth culture in the UAE, just as it is impossible to define a single culture, period. There are as many nationalities of OBs, and kinds of hospitals, and approaches toward pregnancy as you can imagine. What I'm going to write here is based on my own experience and my own research (from disparate and sometimes anecdotal sources, which is sometimes all you can find).

Midwives exist in the UAE, but as far as I understand, they operate more like glorified, maternity-specialist nurses rather than birth professionals. Midwives cannot attend a birth on their own. They may only assist an OB.

Home birth is illegal in the UAE. This is largely (if not entirely) because pregnancy/giving birth outside of wedlock is a crime in the UAE. If you have a baby at home, planned or unplanned, then there is no way for the authorities to know if it was a legitimate or illegitimate birth, because they can't be sure who the certified mom of the baby should be. For example, an unmarried, pregnant woman could try to pass off her baby as the legitimate child of her sister and her sister's husband. This leads to really dodgy things like a police investigation being launched within hours of an unplanned home birth and an actual examination of a woman's birth canal to see if it was recently used or not. Yeah.

I researched water birth in the UAE extensively in the early months of this pregnancy not because I am intent on having one, but because I knew that a facility/doctors who supported water birth would probably support my style of giving birth - fewer interventions, etc. - and also have a lovely tub for me to labor in. Unfortunately, water birth is not generally done in the UAE. There is one hospital in Al Ain that offers water births, but that's a stressful, 90-minute drive away from us. I have heard other stories of women purchasing their own birthing tubs and bringing them to hospitals in Dubai and setting them up there, but results were mixed - sometimes they weren't allowed to, etc., and I never read of anyone doing that in Sharjah.

All this is to say that I am seeing a female, Palestinian OB at the hospital nearest my house. It's a 7-minute drive from my front door to the hospital entrance. I am so pleased to have the chance to go somewhere close. In general, hospitals in Dubai/Sharjah tend to want to manage birth more than I like, but I think I've found a good balance at this hospital. They don't have a tub in the birthing rooms (sigh), but there is a shower. There is a chart on the wall with lots of suggestions for birthing positions and the nurse and supervisor there told me that they generally allow the woman to be in charge of her labor. However, they both told me that I would at least need to have a hep lock, which I am not happy about.

I hesitate to write this part, but here goes: I have heard three negative stories about the anesthesiologist(s) at this hospital. They are all from over a year ago, when the hospital was first opened, but I really need to look into this more and ask the hospital about it. One woman told me she could totally feel her C-section. Yikes. She made a formal complaint to the hospital. The other two women complained of poorly administered epidurals. I don't plan on needing an anesthesiologist, but dear goodness, I would like to have the comfort of knowing that if it comes to a C-section, I won't have to feel it!

Otherwise, it's business as usual being pregnant in the Middle East. Just like in Syria, I get a sonogram at every visit, administered by the doctor herself. We have insurance here, since I am a married female of childbearing age (you can't get maternity insurance if you are unmarried). Each visit to the doctor costs me 70dhs ($19).

That's the business of being pregnant in the UAE so far, from a medical care perspective (more perspectives to come). If you have questions, please ask.

Library books

Road Trip, Part We Will Never Be Done Driving