1. Check your insurance

The first question you need to ask about a prospective birthing hospital is whether it’s covered by your health insurance. Although the Dubai Health Insurance Law of 2013 mandates health insurance coverage (including maternity) for all residents, not all insurers will cover treatment at every hospital, and often the amount may be capped, or may exclude certain things such as epidurals, emergency blood transfusions or elective C-sections. Check your policy thoroughly, and double-check anything you aren’t sure of with the insurance company: “Follow up any phone calls with your insurer with an email, to get the information in writing, and ask for a reply confirming what you understood,” says midwife Cecile de Scally from Malaak Mama & Baby Care. Finally, look at baby cover after the birth, advises Cecile. “Some packages will limit the care given to newborns.” While it’s uncomfortable to think about, make sure you know where you stand financially if your baby needs specialist care. “You need to discuss the possibility of neonatal intensive care (NICU) or complications, as a lot of companies do not cover these.”

Read more: Everything you need to know about UAE maternity insurance

2. Pick public or private

Depending on the level of maternity cover your insurer provides, you may have to choose between government (public) hospital and a private hospital to give birth. The latter generally offers private rooms and suites costing as much as Dh22,000, while government hospitals offer more affordable packages from around Dh6,000. To deliver at a government hospital, you need to have a valid health card (you can get the application form at the hospital), and the choice of hospital really depends on which one is closest to your residence. The two specially equipped maternity hospitals are Latifa Hospital (Bur Dubai, Satwa, Jumeirah, New Dubai, Safa, etc) and Dubai Hospital (for Deira and adjoining areas). Wherever you choose, ensure your chosen hospital has NICU facilities, says Cecile, who adds, “If you will be on a ward, ask how many mothers to a room? Enquire about the staff to mother ratio in labour and after,” says Cecile. And be warned: some public hospitals may limit access for husbands. “Find out where Dad would sleep, are his meals included or additional extras, how involved may he be?” adds Cecile.  

3. Research your OB/GYN

All  hospitals have their own in-house OB/GYNs and it is less expensive to use these in-house staff to deliver your baby than to bring in your own ‘community doctor’ from an external clinic, which will carry an extra fee (around Dh5,000 to Dh10,00). Nevertheless, the in-house staff at popular birth hospitals can often be busy and hard to get antenatal appointments with. Plus, some obstetricians who work within hospitals will be on a roster system, says Dru Campbell, head midwife and lactation consultant at HealthBay Polyclinic. “If they are not on duty when you go into labour, you may have the on-duty obstetrician caring for you. A community obstetrician will be on call for you 24 hours a day.” To narrow down your OB/GYN search, Google is your friend: reviews on forums or comments on Facebook groups such as Mums and Bumps Dubai or Real Mums Dubai can be enlightening. If you like the sound of someone, check their bio and credentials to get a sense of their style of practice, before booking an appointment to meet them in person. “Find out how their approach and policies will complement what you want from your birth,” says Dr Kiren Sahota, consultant family medicine, HealthBay Marina Branch. “Go with someone you feel comfortable with and who will be able to manage you as the patient you are.” 

Read more: Pregnant in the UAE: How to choose your doctor

4. See it with your own eyes

The best way to get a feel of a hospital’s overall approach to maternity care is through a visit to the labour ward. Most have regular weekly tours that you can turn up to on the day (they often don’t advertise these online so a quick phone call is necessary). These are usually led by the midwives, and this is a great opportunity to get to know them, as well as to gauge the hospital’s atmosphere and of course to ask questions. While the luxury of some of the private hospitals’ facilities can be tantalising (valet parking and Burj Al Arab views anyone?), it’s the quality of the medical care that is of the utmost importance, especially the NICU facilities. Consider asking questions like: How much support is available to you after the baby is born? Is there a qualified lactation consultant available to help you with breastfeeding? What’s the induction rate and the C-section rate? Are there any alternative birthing facilities (if you’re interested in these)? Are multiple birth partners or doulas allowed or discouraged?

5. Prepare your birth plan

Even at the best hospitals, a birthing plan or birth preferences list is vital in order to communicate clearly and easily how you wish to be treated during your labour and birth. In order to make an informed choice about your birthing plan, you need to understand what is available here in the UAE, so book yourself in for an antenatal course, which are offered at most hospitals and at external venues such as Malaak, Babies and Beyond and Healthbay Polyclinic. While you always need to keep an open mind when it comes to things such as labour drugs and medically necessary interventions, these classes will help you make an informed choice. 

Read more: The Birth Plan: What is it and why do you need it?

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