In Dubai, Al Zahra Hospital was the first to offer a facility for water birth in a groundbreaking move in 2015. Since then, there have been more than 100 deliveries in the birthing pool which is housed in a plush suite where dimmed mood lights create a serene, almost spa-like ambience. An adjoining hypnobirthing suite offers a calming atmosphere with motivational quotes on the walls, stools, ropes and birthing balls. As of October 2017, Mediclinic City Hospital now also offers a state-of-the-art water birthing suite with staff fully trained in all aspects of birthing in water.
In Abu Dhabi, the Corniche Hospital boasts the capital’s largest maternity unit and has recently opened to expats again. Leading the way in promoting breastfeeding and supporting mothers with parent education, the hospital is also a top teaching facility and is the first to start a midwifery programme in the UAE.
However, home births are currently legally not allowed in the UAE as complications can only be handled by trained midwives, who are not permitted to work outside of hospitals.
This childbirth technique has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, and Dubai-based hypnobirthing expert Jasmine Collin says its relaxing visualisations and meditations can be an essential form of preparation for mums-to-be hoping for a birth with minimal interventions. “Hypnobirthing classes are hugely beneficial for couples and their babies before, during and way after the birth,” she says. “Before the birth it helps couples to feel prepared and reduces any fear or anxiety, as well as addressing any worries about becoming parents.
“During the birth both parents are able to stay calm, the father knows just what to do to support his wife and she knows how to deeply relax and let go mentally so that her body can play out nature’s beautiful design for birth.
“Every mother should come out of her birth feeling that she was safe, supported, respected, and made informed decisions for herself – that she did her best with the circumstances she had, no matter what kind of birth it turned out to be.”
Another resource currently available throughout the UAE are doulas – birth workers who can accompany women to offer moral support during birth. A wealth of research suggests doulas can make a real difference when it comes to minimising C-sections and supporting natural birth. A Cochrane Review study published in 2017 found that using a doula lowered the risk of C-section by 39 per cent, while using a doula increased the chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth by 15 per cent.
For Lala Langry-White, her own invaluable experiences of birth support from doulas led her to train to become one. “I think that the consistency of emotional and physical support that doulas can offer women during the most important life change imaginable is enormous. Research shows us that doula support can enhance a positive birth experience, lower induction rates, shorten labour time, reduce the need for pain relief and results in fewer cesareans.
She adds: “I’m enormously passionate about doula support for all women – including those needing or choosing to birth by caesarean, those with multiples and those born prematurely rather than the notion that doula support is just for women anticipating a physiological birth.”
While a strong community is emerging throughout the UAE to help support women in their birth choices, birth workers say there is still scope to expand that further.
More water birth facilities are in the works, while the much-anticipated London’s King’s College Hospital (KCH) is set to open its first full-fledged branch outside the UK in Dubai later this year. The 100-bed multi-speciality facility will be located at Dubai Hills and at a cost of US$200 million (Dhs734 million), is expected to bring state-of-the-art facilities, including a specialisation in obstetrics and gynaecology, which is planned to have a focus on supporting natural birth practices.
While progress is on the horizon, Lala feels we can go further to improve existing options with some simple changes.
She says: “I feel we are making some advances with the introduction of birthing pools in some hospitals in recent years, but I’d like to see some basic fundamentals improved upon in our labour and birthing rooms here in the UAE. I would like to see more rooms with blackout curtains, dimmable lights and suitable speaker systems for music – simple but effective techniques to help a woman feel safe, secure and relaxed thereby stimulating oxytocin production – the hormone needed for birth.”