Having A Baby In Abu Dhabi

We’re having a baby, my baby and me! In the UAE!

abu dhabi baby

It’s a bit different from our first go-around, in Sweden. I’m in my third trimester now, so I’ll write a bit about how things have been going for me, kind of like I did before, just a general run-down of what it’s been like to be pregnant in Abu Dhabi.

As far as our own family planning, we liked the idea of having two kids very close together, and I wanted to give birth in Sweden again. Alas, that was not in the cards for us, timing-wise. In fact, once we decided to start trying again here (once things were getting more settled) we still weren’t getting any positive tests. I suspect it was a case of breastfeeding being a supreme form of birth control. So, I began the weaning process and sure enough, immediate positive once completely weaned (surprising and comforting).

Luckily, the timing was perfect as I also just received my residence visa, meaning I now had full health coverage in the UAE. Funny how things can align like that.

Here in Abu Dhabi, you need health insurance with Maternity coverage, and you need to present your card at the beginning of each visit (at least for my hospital, I assume others as well?). Similar to the USA, not as much Sweden, you can pick your hospital and your doctor. In Sweden I just called up the women’s health center and they paired me with a midwife, everything was free since we were tax-paying residents, and I just went to the hospital in town once it was go time. This time, I needed to pick which hospital I wanted to go to, and/or pick my doctor. I had seen an advertisement in either Time Out Abu Dhabi or Abu Dhabi Weekly from a hospital that wholly encouraged a woman’s experience how she chooses. It sounded a lot like the care I had received in Sweden, so of course it appealed to me, but I had forgotten where the ad was for. We were driving around one day and visited a hospital just to get information and fortuitously ended up speaking with a senior executive. As she explained things, this hospital sounded just like the ad – positive mother/baby experience, low-intervention – and I was sold.

When making the first appointment I was asked which doctor I wanted and I had no one specific in mind, so I was paired with one and I am quite happy with her! She is an OB/GYN, which is a first for me as I saw only midwives in Sweden. My first appointment was as early on as I wanted, unlike Sweden where they don’t schedule anything until you’re 8-10 weeks (if I recall correctly).

All around, it’s not been too dissimilar an experience, to be honest. The biggest difference has been that I receive an ultrasound in my doctor’s office most visits, where she measures the baby and checks the heartbeat. She readily prints off pictures as well, so it has been exciting and comforting to see baby each month as well as have something to send to the grandparents for each update. Because I’m a brainwashed, nearly-hippie, the amount of ultrasounds do make me a little uneasy…but if I wanted to opt out strongly enough I’d have said something by now…and I don’t, ha.

Much like Sweden, there is the NT scan/combined screening (KUB in Sweden) between 11-14 weeks. It has been optional in both places, the difference being, here in the UAE, our insurance doesn’t cover it. I believe this is because termination options don’t exist here, as that is not customary for locals to do. You may have the test for knowledge and planning purposes, if you so wish, but it is not seen as a necessary exam overall. When we went for the NT scan it was very comprehensive and the doctor performing it was great, she told us everything she was looking at, how things looked and then gave us quite a long 3D scan, too. It was amazing watching this tiny, tiny little baby kick around and dance at only 12 weeks.

Finding out the sex was no worry here, as my doctor looked as soon as she could be sure! I didn’t need to ask, and we did want to know 🙂

We also did the routine 18-20 week anomaly (“anatomy” in the US?) scan. It was very similar to the NT scan: very comprehensive, and again the doctor performing it was very thorough. At my hospital the bigger ultrasounds are done in the radiation department with their specific doctors, and I don’t have enough good things to say about the two that I have seen. At this screening, they do give you a 3D scan as well, but my baby wasn’t in a position where the face could be seen well. In fact, we had clearer pictures with just the regular scan. Technology these days…

The test for gestational diabetes was mandatory, I believe around 24+ weeks? You fast, go in and drink a bottle of sugar drink, then wait around for two hours, getting blood drawn each hour. Super fun. The midwifery model of care doesn’t typically do this test, and if I was able to opt out I would have, but I survived and don’t have GD.

Most recently, we took a hospital tour to see the birthing and recovery rooms. All of which are an upgrade from Sweden, which was fairly bare-bones (could be due to the hospital being renovated at the time I gave birth). I mean, I get a view in both places, and a TV and mini-fridge in my recovery room after delivery. Fancy! We can choose to pay out-of-pocket for a room upgrade and the hospital has amazing options. I don’t think we’ll be getting a suite anytime soon, but this is Abu Dhabi so hopefully you can imagine the luxury. Swoon – I’d maybe never leave!

Other than that, I’ve been seen once a month until 8 months when it switches to every two to three weeks, then weekly at 9 months. Internal checks won’t be done unless I’m in pain, or after 39 weeks if I want, and since I had a normal delivery before and am having a normal pregnancy now, I won’t be bothered to induce until probably 42 weeks (God help us all if I go that long). Pretty similar to Sweden.

The care I’m receiving here has been wonderful so far, and after talking with my doctor about labor and delivery, I have full confidence that they will respect all of the wishes of my tentative “birth plan” as much as they can, given the circumstances. My hospital does encourage mothers to go after the experience they want, which is great! I also have trained a giant Marine/bodyguard/baby daddy to help me out 😉 From what I’ve heard from a handful of women who have given birth at the hospital I’ve chosen, their experiences were fantastic, and from many other women, having a baby in Abu Dhabi was great overall. This city is filled with children, so families seem to be in great hands here 🙂

Some things of note: when I asked early on about foods that I should avoid (good to ask in places you aren’t familiar with), I was told not to eat salads at restaurants because of the risk of toxoplasmosis, and do not drink the tap water (fairly common here to have water filters/delivery). That was about it… I have been relaxed (but smart) about what I eat and drink again, like before. Is it just America where there are strict food/drink guidelines/suggestions for pregnant ladies? Luckily here you can find good decaf coffee and tea (unlike Sweden), but for most of my pregnancy the thought of drip coffee was displeasing. That has changed and I have a cup or two a day now and it is SO GOOD.

I also asked my doctor if it was OK to keep up my running routine and she actually said no. Her reason was the running poses the risk of tripping or falling and thus is like a “contact sport”. Since she didn’t give me a reason that I specifically couldn’t run, and my pregnancy has been progressing without complication…I continued to run once or twice a week. By “run” I mean jog. Slowly and controlled. I really tried to focus on walking, but since I practically walk as fast as I jog anyway, I figured it was fine as long as I wasn’t overheating, could hold a conversation, and kept my heart rate low – which I’ve wanted to get my body used to doing anyway. My midwife in Sweden said no problem running, and I’ve read enough to suggest it’s just fine (if not very healthy) within limits, I just try to use my best judgement. I have stopped in my third trimester, though, because I don’t want to push things.

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In other pregnancy related news, Ina May Gaskin‘s books are being read again (I LOVE them), and I have been doing Tracy Anderson’s The Pregnancy Project workouts as well as my old prenatal yoga dvd. I bought a really cute baby book at Marks & Spencer “for the baby” for Christmas, but other than that this pregnancy has been focused on far less than the first – stereotypical for a second child?

Final note: there has been lovely cooler weather here the past couple of months, so if you are planning on being pregnant in the desert, aim for your third trimester to be in the winter 😉

I have enjoyed being pregnant both in Sweden and here in the UAE. What I like is getting to know how other cultures handle pregnancy, regard giving birth and raising children. I wish I was more outgoing, so I could pick the brains of women around me about their experiences, especially here in Abu Dhabi as it is such a melting pot of people! The thing I appreciate the most is that, from the women and mothers I’ve been around, there have been no judgements, no preachiness – only helpful, supportive, or understanding women. Really positive people – I need that and I hope I can return it to anyone else as needed. It really does take a village, and rather than hearing anything divisive about mothering (as seems more common from the US), it’s been a blessing to just be lifted up by neighbors, friends, and acquaintances.

Let me know if you have any questions about being pregnant here in the UAE. I’m not a wealth of knowledge, but if I can help steer you the right direction in any way I’m happy to do so!

    4 Comment

    1. […] 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 […]

    2. Hey there, your post is super helpful. I am a first time expectant mum who has just moved to Abu Dhabi. Things are quite different here to New Zealand. Can I ask which hospital and doctor you saw? I too am looking for the ‘whole’ experience but I don’t know where to start!

    3. Would you share which hospital you chose? I’m an Abu Dhabi resident working on baby #2 and looking for hospital and OB/GYN recommendations.

      1. Nevermind! I saw your part 2 post that names the hospital. Congrats on your beautiful baby — it sounds like you had an awesome experience.

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