Your guide to being pregnant in the UAE

Everything you need to know once you've had a positive pregnancy test

Your guide to being pregnant in the UAE

You’ve disappeared into the bathroom, used the stick, looked at it in awe, shoved it under your husband’s nose and put it somewhere safe (the first of many disgusting things you’ll do as a mother), but now what?

In the UAE the vast majority of residents have private healthcare provided by their job or spouse’s company, which means that what unfolds over the next 40 weeks might be a little different to what your friends back home might experience. While they might have two scans throughout the whole pregnancy, most pregnant women in the UAE can have a scan each month, then more nearer to the due date, with high-risk pregnancies very closely monitored.

While in your home country you might be in a shared labour ward, with a midwife you’ve never met before delivering your baby, here in the UAE you’ll have the same gynecologist consultant throughout the 40 weeks, and they will deliver your baby.

This can be hugely reassuring for many couples, as you can form a relationship over those appointments, get recommendations from people you know on which doctor will “suit” you best, and some part of the uncertainty of birth is taken away. Chances are, you’ll also have a private room, both for giving birth and afterwards, and many have some pretty flashy features as standard, such as films on demand, room service and fold-out double beds for the father.

Using the UK as an example, there most mothers will stay only one night – or even a couple of hours – after giving birth, while insurance generally covers a three-night stay in a UAE hospital, or five nights following a caesarian. This can be useful for getting advice from nurses (who are a press of the button away) on breastfeeding, bathing and more, as well as having a much-needed rest after labour. You are, of course, under no obligation to stay for the duration, and mums who already have children at home often leave after a night to get back to the family – while others enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the hospital.

While some differences, such as excellent healthcare, are big positives, others can be more challenging. Many expats are far from home, which means your usual support network of family and friends who have known you since that unfortunate haircut circa 1994 and love you anyway, will only be able to hear your news and updates via phone and messenger, instead of over cups of tea. This isn’t easy at times, so you’ll need to find your tribe to help you through the rough spots and celebrate the good times.

According to UAE law, you must be legally wed to give birth here – in order to receive a birth certificate, you need to provide your marriage certificate, so make sure everything is in order before deciding to start your family. Some clinics also ask for it before taking you on as a patient for the duration of your pregnancy.

If you work, your company now legally has to offer health insurance that covers maternity care, so speak to the provider and see what is included. You might find that your spouse’s insurance is better, with more options for clinics, hospitals, physio and even choices like caesarian sections and epidurals (which can be billed as “extra” for about Dhs3,000).

Do note, however, that with public healthcare systems, such as the UK’s NHS, new mums will see a health visitor or midwife at their home as a matter of course (and it’s free), but this is not available in the UAE. It can be an extremely useful service, with the baby being weighed, you being able to have a chat about practical aspects of parenting, and talking to someone about how you’re feeling, so spending some money on having an expert visit your home after the birth is well worth it.

Do also be aware that maternity leave in this region is considerably shorter than elsewhere in the world, so be prepared for a chat with your HR department, once you’re ready to tell work. It might mean that you want to take unpaid leave to spend longer with the baby, take a career break, or enlist the help of a nanny or nursery for more on these options.

Congratulations!

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