When it comes to childbirth, many first-time parents aren't actually sure of what they want. Most of what we know about labour is through the hysteria-fuelled few moments of huffing and puffing portrayed on-screen, and so anything that people tell you will make things go as quickly and quietly as possible seems preferable at first.
But there's a lot more to childbirth than the classic Hollywood depiction, and the choices you make can have a big impact on your recovery period and on the chances of you and your new baby getting off on the right foot together. This isn't some actress squealing on a screen after all; it's your own actual body, and your own flesh and blood.
Read more: How to choose your birth hospital in the UAE
Which is why it's important to do you research to find out what sort of birth might suit you best, especially as what is on offer in the UAE may not be what is normal in your home country. “In Dubai, we are dealing with a very medical model, instead of the midwifery model," explains hypnobirthing expert Jasmine Collin. "The midwifery model supports natural physiological birth and sees midwives delivering babies, with doctors only being called in for high risk births. Here, birth is led by an obstetrician, who, although very highly trained, has been trained on how to manage a birth using intervention methods, rather than how to allow a birth to happen naturally."
Because of this, “Getting the right doctor is very important. There are some doctors here that are very pro-natural and happy to wait. And there are others who aren’t. It largely depends on their training and the standard approach of the country they trained in. You are looking for a doctor that will be a life-guard – someone who will trust your abilities to be able to swim, but who will jump in if you need them. Of course, if medical intervention is needed for the safety of the baby or the mother, then it must be used – C-sections save lives. The issue comes with the overuse of them when they aren’t absolutely necessary."
Here's Jasmine takes us through seven steps to helping ensure you get the right birth for you in the UAE...
1. Research, research, research
“Know what you want and educate yourself. Listen to ‘Evidence Based Birth’ – a podcast that pulls together research on any given topic. My colleague Amy Vogelaar is the first Evidence Based Birth Instructor in the UAE – she trains parents and doulas in this approach.”
2. Interview doctors
“Once you know what you want, interview doctors before you decide on one. Before you tell them your birth preferences, ask them what their normal practice is as, if you tell them your preferences first, they might just say, ‘yes’ without having any experience of that type of birth and without any intention of helping you have it. In my antenatal classes, I tell parents to say, ‘Talk me through what a normal birth looks like for you. What will happen when I arrive at the hospital.’ This will help you get an idea of whether they will allow the birth to unfold naturally, or if they will try and manage it medically. You want a doctor whose default style of birth matches your preferences.”
3. Skill up
“Do hypnobirthing or something similar that will help prepare you and arm you with tools to be able to have the birth you would like to have. Some tools that can help include visualisation, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques to help create a calm mental environment. The external environment is important, such as the lighting, but the internal environment of the mother’s mind is important too.”
4. Have a doula
“A doula adds another layer of protection to the mum and dad and relieves the pressure on the father so that he can enjoy the birth too. A doula can help when decisions need to be made by offering emotional, physical and information support. I always say that a doula is like a wedding planner – people will fork out thousands on a wedding planner, but will balk at spending on a doula.”
5. Be strong
“Prepare for your birth physically as well as mentally.”
6. Prepare to be flexible
“It’s important to be educated about your options and to plan for your preferences. But it’s also important to be prepared to take different paths if needed. People can get disappointed when they don’t get what was written on their birth plan. After the event, it’s important that no matter what type of birth you had, you don’t feel disappointed and you feel like you did a good job.”
7. Plan a debrief
“Debriefing is so important. Women’s traumas in childbirth are often minimized after the birth with comments such as, ‘Well, you have a healthy and perfect baby.’ Another issue is with women sharing their horror stories, which can end up making other mothers scared. At Love Parenting, we have a professional Birth Story Listener, Gaby, who can sit and listen and help you to retell and reframe the story in your mind.”
Jasmine Collin is a hypnotherapist and hypnobirthing expert at Love Parenting (loveparentinguae.com) and runs antenatal classes for parents-to-be.