The prospect of giving birth in a foreign country is always a little bit daunting. But for expats in Dubai, this process is made easier by knowing what to expect when expecting in Dubai.
So what is it like to give birth in Dubai?
Here are 10 things you can expect when giving birth as an expat in Dubai:
- Doctors can have waiting lists: Very popular doctors will have waiting lists to take you on as a patient. Healthcare in Dubai is a competitive business and doctors who are highly rated in expat circles can often be fully booked or hard to get. When I arrived in Dubai almost 5 months pregnant from Singapore, I did some research and was told that my 1st choice doctor would only be able to take me on a patient, 3 weeks before my due date! Apparently it is quite common for women to start their pregnancy under the care of 1 doctor and then switch to another, once their favoured choice is available. I decided to choose only 1 doctor and was very happy with my choice of doctor and hospital (The American Hospital) in the end.
- Medical insurance is much needed: Giving birth in Dubai without any medical insurance or coverage can be financially tough with prenatal care for the mother costing up to 6000 AED, and the birth costing as much as 25,000 AED depending on whether it’s a natural or a Caesarean delivery. Maternity medical insurance can be applied for, although it is much easier to get it before you fall pregnant. As an expat, check your corporate policy and the coverage it offers for maternity for you and your unborn child. If you are a Dubai resident and not insured, you can also apply for a “Health Card” which entitles you to low-cost medical treatment at a government hospital. Most Emiratis use government hospitals, the doctors and medical staff do speak English at both government and private hospitals.
- Private hospitals feel more like 5 star hotels: Private health care is excellent and of international standards, and maternity wards are private and luxurious. Checking in to a private hospital in Dubai can feel like checking into a 5 star hotel – with water fountains and palm trees galore. Flat-screen TVs, day-beds for your husband, a mini fridge for you in the room and an all-day dining menu are some of the regular features you can expect when giving birth in Dubai.
- Your OBGYN is most likely going to be female: Since the UAE is a Muslim country, cultural norms and expectations include women feeling comfortable with female doctors. This is why most gynaecologists and OBGYNS in Dubai tend to be female, since there is a demand for that. If you are giving birth as an expat in Dubai, you can expect that your OBGYN is most likely going to be female too.
- You will be asked for your marriage certificate when you register at a hospital for a maternity package: As an expat registering to give birth in the UAE, be prepared to make several copies of your marriage certificate and have them handy, when registering for antenatal packages at a hospital. It is not legal to give birth in the UAE if you are not married, so be aware of this in advance. UAE law also requires your marriage certificate in order to issue a birth certificate for your baby after it is born. If you are unmarried and pregnant when you arrive in Dubai as an expat, you might consider giving birth in your home country as an option.
- Expect frequent appointments and many ultrasound scans: Being pregnant in Dubai means frequent appointments (usually every 2 weeks) and many ultrasound scans. Tests like the glucose test for gestational diabetes is also mandatory. In general, there is a medical culture favoured towards more testing and procedures, so expect to be seen regularly by your OBGYN.
- Doulas are popular in Dubai: Having a doula to assist you and provide emotional and physical support during your birth is a popular option in Dubai. It’s an option used by many expat women who are away from family and friends when giving birth. Most doulas are UK or US trained and can provide support to you and your spouse before, during, and after childbirth. Keep in mind that home births though are not permitted in the UAE.
- Breastfeeding support is widely available: Hospitals and staff encourage breastfeeding in Dubai when you give birth, and there is in general a lot of support for a breastfeeding mom. There is a La Leche league, along with lots of breastfeeding support groups in Dubai. Dubai malls all provide nursing rooms and attitudes to breastfeeding are very positive. Most women use a nursing cover when feeding in public spaces.
- Your baby will room with you at the hospital: Your newborn baby will room with you right after birth instead of being placed in a nursery. Most hospitals in Dubai encourage mother/baby bonding and rest assured most private hospitals will also allow your husband to be present in the room when you give birth.
- There is a lot of paperwork: Your baby will have a birth certificate issued in Arabic after it is born. Your baby will also need a passport, a residence visa and an Emirates ID in order to achieve legal residency status in Dubai. Expect a lot of paperwork and plan to be on top of it, so that you can adhere to local timelines. For more information on what you need to do and the documents you need, check out our article “Born in Dubai”.
Have you given birth in Dubai? What else can you expect when giving birth in Dubai, as an expat? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below!