I am a big believer in sharing birth stories, usually more one-on-one with people; however, since this is an expat family blog, it’s worth sharing for others who may be interested or in the same situation. Having a baby in Abu Dhabi was different from Sweden, yet still a great experience for us. I’ll touch on the health care here a bit more, and my experience, and being able to have a (mostly) un-medicated birth in a hospital.
If you’d like to hear more about it, read on –
Having had my first in Sweden, with midwives and no intervention practices, and seeing the great benefits of that, I wanted that same the second time around.
Since it is after the fact, I feel more comfortable discussing details. I went to Brightpoint Royal Women’s Hospital in Abu Dhabi; it had just opened before I found out I was pregnant. It is a beautiful women’s and children’s hospital, very clean, bright, and professional. Everyone there is wonderfully friendly and helpful! My only complaint has been that scheduling seemed to need some work. You cannot make appointments a month or more in advance, which is annoying for pregnant ladies when you need to be scheduling appointments each month. I suppose I understand it since doctor’s schedules can change. Like a lot of things here, you just learn to work around it.
My doctor, Dr. Razia, was assigned to me (you can request the doctor you’d like, I didn’t though) and she is fantastic. She always remembered me and my family, asked how we were doing and got to know us a little more each time we went in. When talking to her about how I’d like to give birth (no interventions if possible, immediate skin-to-skin contact, etc.) she was like, “No problem.” She was awesome about listening to me and answering questions. It was really great to have a doctor who knew me, who cared, and who supported me throughout.
All of the doctors, nursing staff, receptionists – everyone from the top down has been great to our family. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone to go to Brightpoint and can’t recommend it enough.
As far as the birth goes, it was rather uneventful thankfully! It was a week past my due date, again and I suspect that I had been having prodromal labor for a while before that. I had three sweeps to get things going after my actual due date, but my body is just stubborn and must go for that extra week.
I woke up at 3am with contractions, but this time they didn’t go away when I got up, and quickly kept progressing. We needed to get going pretty quickly because they were already 4-5 mins apart and 1 minute long. When we arrived at the hospital before dawn they had slowed down a bit (due to sitting in the car and a bit of anxiety, I assume). I was first taken to a room to be monitored and found to be not too far along yet, but in labor, so I was admitted. Once we got in the delivery room, the nurses brought a labor ball and a menu to pick food for the day, and then pretty much left us alone. We started by walking around the hallways to get the contractions going strong and regularly again. Breakfast was quickly delivered and I was allowed to eat. All was going well.
From 6am to 10am I labored on my own, listening to music, chatting with Matt, doing what you do to labor. In Sweden, we walked the dogs all over Linköping while I was laboring which I think helped everything greatly. This time around, I had been having severe back issues for the entire last month and couldn’t walk at all. I had seen a chiropractor two weeks earlier, and spent as much time on “bed rest” as possible, which helped but labor was far less physical, if you will, this time around. Lots of swaying and pacing in the hospital room. Normally I would recommend laboring at home for as long as possible (be upright! go for walks!) but I was glad to be in the hospital early for my second.
Things started to ramp up around 10-ish, and by 10:30am or so I let my attending nurse know that it was painful and things were about to get real. At this point in Sweden, the midwife checked me and I was at a 10, so I was expecting something similar this time around. Nope. I got checked and the doctor said, “You’re only at a 5.” I was like, WHAT?
Then I asked for an epidural because it was painful and I wasn’t feeling like I cared to handle it at that point.
I was actually probably going into transition. Friends have said that even during subsequent labors, you will still feel like you can’t do it – handle the pain, give birth, whatever – and that’s where I was at. You really need to focus to get through part.
The contractions were really coming fast and strong at that point, and the feeling to push. My doctor didn’t want me to get an epidural, but a dose of pethidine (which I had actually never heard of before). Pethidine is like Demerol, an opioid, and I would have refused had I known what it was, just my personal preference. They proceeded to prepare the shot, but I figured I was transitioning due to the contractions being relentless and demanded to be checked again first. I tried to refuse the drugs because once you’re at a certain point, they probably aren’t going to help. They did check me again, and again at my request, and I was opening up fast but I was still given a half dose of pethidine.
Doctor Razia showed up, and seemingly twirled and was out of her normal clothes and into scrubs. The room was all a flutter – curtains being drawn, nurses coming in and preparing everything – and me on the bed groaning with each contraction. They told me not to make so much noise but it felt so much better to do so at that point. Matt got them to bring out the gas and I tried using that to breathe and focus, and I tried not to make too much noise, and I tried to remember that it’s a “good” pain, but honestly I was a hot mess. Sigggghhhhhhh.
I gave birth to a 9.5 lbs baby. He was put on my chest immediately thanks to Matt reminding everyone during delivery and Dr. R supporting us. There was a pediatric team right there in the room, and I’m guessing they usually get the baby very soon after delivery for APGAR tests and what not, but Dr. R seemed to hold them off a bit. We all got to coo and admire my second little dumpling who turned beautifully pink and stared at me and was calm. All was perfect 🙂 Such overwhelming feelings of love and relief.
Since it was all good and I was overflowing with oxytocin, I gave him over to be checked and measured (Matt dutifully followed and hovered like a hawk, ha) and finished with the delivery business. Baby was returned to me and started nursing right away. He wasn’t cleaned up more than a few wipes, and I believe it’s hospital policy to not bathe the baby until after 24 hours – so great for the child!
We were left alone for a bit after delivery, and then transferred to my recovery room. It had a TV, mini fridge, and a view of Al Jazira stadium and downtown Abu Dhabi, which – along with a Caribou coffee from the hospital lobby – I felt like a damn rock star compared to the more basic room in Sweden! Brightpoint does have bigger rooms and AMAZING suites though, which they showed us and I’d probably never leave if I got to recover there… The rest of the day included routine checks from my own nurse and from baby’s nurse, and a late night quick visit from my doctor, who I could not – and can not – thank enough. Baby received his hearing test first thing the next morning, and first vaccines just before we left. We were able to be discharged by noon the following day (a bit rushed on our part since we needed to get home to our toddler).
We were blessed beyond measure a second time around. Childbirth is the most natural and normal thing on the planet, yet it is still something that is so incredible and miraculous. Having a baby in Abu Dhabi was wonderful.
Birth In Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is filled with young families, both local and expat. For anyone curious about it, the medical care here is definitely on par with what you would expect anywhere in the Western world. (I mention this only because I’ve recently heard of some Americans having no clue what Abu Dhabi or the UAE is…sigh) There are multiple hospitals and doctors to choose from, given your insurance is taken where you’d like to go.
- You need health insurance (no universal health care like Sweden).
- Home birth is not allowed here, as far as I know.
- Water birth is available at a couple of hospitals, one in Al Ain and one in Dubai. (I love that in that link there is this quote: “The UAE is empowering women in their individual choice for birthing options.”)
- You can find doctors here from all over the world, you can seek out the experience you’d like, and I know there are highly skilled professionals to guide more complicated pregnancies or deliveries.
- Babies born here do not receive citizenship – I have been asked that a few times – the answer is no.
- There are also options for couples who need help getting pregnant, too. I have seen a lot advertised for IVF, for example, so these options are available as well.
Most of this is probably well-known, but worth being noted.
All in all, I had a wonderfully positive experience with pregnancy and delivery here. I was able to give birth exactly how I wanted (natural birth [mostly unmedicated] in a hospital – and with the doctor who had seen me all along!) and was supported in doing so. What more can you ask for?