Opened in 2013, Al Zahra Hospital Dubai has more than 15 doctors, 12 midwives and seven labour nurses in the obstetrics and gynaecology department, which is headed up by UK-trained consultant ob-gyn Dr Amber Syed.
As the only hospital in Dubai to offer the use of a birthing pool and a hypnobirthing room, it takes pride in its reputation for being pro natural childbirth and this is definitely its selling point in the crowded medical marketplace of Dubai. We have heard many different reports of birth experiences at Al Zahra, the majority of which have been very positive.
It offers a full range of services to pregnant women, from antenatal classes, care in early pregnancy and the management of high-risk pregnancies, all the way to delivery, specialist dietician advice, and postnatal services such as lactation advice and contraception.
WHAT ARE THE DOCTORS LIKE?
Al Zahra's head ob-gyn is Dr Syed, a UK-trained consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in management of early pregnancy complications such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, laparoscopy and hysteroscopy. Prior to her move to Dubai she was working as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at University Hospital Wales in Cardiff, the largest hospital in Wales. Dr Syed is a huge advocate of natural labour and she sees her role as supportive rather than interventional.
“We take pride in our philosophy towards natural child birth and supporting women’s choices,” she says. “We have excellent midwives, who provide safe and evidence-based care to our clients. Women have a wide range of options for pain relief, including epidurals. Inductions are offered for any complications towards end of pregnancy, but mainly for women who have gone several days past their due date. “Child birth is a time to rejoice, and we do all we can to help couples realise this dream, safely.”
Dr Syed is joined by six in-house consultant ob-gyn doctors, as well as nine resident doctors and several community-based doctors. See the full list here.
WHAT ARE THE MIDWIVES LIKE?
The midwifery team is made up of 12 midwives and seven labour nurses and is headed up by British Sally Hunter-Madubuko who is the senior women’s health manager in the nursing administration at AZHD. She explains that it is their policy to advise women to have different choice pathways with their birth plan in case their labour situation changes, as this helps them to feel in control and prepared for all possible birth events.
“We encourage women to “own their birth” by making a birth plan and discussing their birthing options with their physician. We do not practice routine episiotomies and we encourage women to be mobile in labour and, where possible, to go into labour naturally. Birth is a natural process and people should not be put on a clock but allowed to birth in their own time in low risk births. We recognise that some people take longer to deliver than other and this is completely normal.”
WHAT SERVICES DO THEY OFFER WHILE I'M PREGNANT?
The obstetrics department offers two antenatal packages. The first package covers a maximum of 12 consultations with the obstetrician, as well as a all the important blood tests and scans (Dh5,000). However, the package does not cover first trimester dating scan for nuchal translucency (additional Dh650) or the first trimester (radiology department) screening for Down Syndrome (fetal scan, blood test) (additional Dh1,200). The second antenatal package commences at 28 weeks with a maximum of six consultations as well as full blood work up and two ultrasound scans (Dh4,000). Antenatal and parent craft classes are available on request.
WHAT IF I HAVE A HIGH-RISK PREGNANCY?
The obstetrics department has a number of highly trained doctors who specialise in the management of high-risk pregnancies however, each pregnancy is approached on a case-by-case basis and is managed accordingly with a multidisciplinary approach.
WHAT IF MY NEWBORN NEEDS EMERGENCY TREATMENT?
The AZHD department of NICU provides 24-hour medical and nursing care for sick neonates by a well-trained neonate team, as well as provides comprehensive services to their families. There is a special care baby unit for all the neonates with neonatal jaundice, hypoglycemia and mild infection. The hospital has full newborn services, managing all LBW and ELBW, including incubators, resuscitators, monitors, phototherapy, neonatal ventilators/ high frequency ventilators and C-PAP's.
WHAT IS THE C-SECTION RATE?
The benchmark for the unit is 35% however, the C-section rates are variable due to the mix of clinicians practicing at the hospital.
AND THE INDUCTION RATE?
The benchmark for induction rates in the unit is 35%.
WHAT'S THE POLICY ON BIRTH PARTNERS?
A maximum of two companions are allowed and the hospital welcomes husbands as birth partners.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVE BIRTHING FACILITIES?
The obstetrics department encourages hypnobirthing and offers the opportunity to use a birthing pool for labour and birth. There is an active birth room which a birthing pool that is suitable for labour and birth in the water, and three inflatable pools in other rooms which are suitable for labour only. Water mood lighting and music facilities are available for pain relief for labour in all rooms.
WHAT'S OFFERED IN TERMS OF BREASTFEEDING AND POSTNATAL CARE?
The department practices rooming in and supports the initiation of breastfeeding within one hour.
The department ensures that all babies receive skin-to-skin.
BCG and Hep B vaccinations are routine for all newborns and RSV vaccine will be considered according to the protocol in some preterms.
HOW MANY DELIVERY ROOMS?
The department has four delivery rooms.
DO I NEED TO BOOK IN ADVANCE?
Booking with your chosen consultant is advised at the latest by 10 weeks gestation.
WILL MY INSURANCE DO DIRECT BILLING?
Patients can check here for a comprehensive list of insurance companies with direct billing.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
A basic package for a normal delivery starts from Dh10,950 including a one-night stay in a standard room, or Dh12,450 for a VIP room. An epidural is an additional Dh1,825, and vacuum delivery an extra Dh1,300.
A C-section starts from Dh21,450 with one night in a standard room, or Dh23,150 with one night in a VIP room.
For a full list of all maternity packages available with details on what is and is not included, go here.
SO WHAT IS IT ACTUALLY LIKE TO GIVE BIRTH THERE?
Baby & Child team member Tabitha Barda had both of her sons at Al Zahra. Here is what she has to say:
"I had a good experience at Al Zahra with both of my babies; the first was born in February 2014 and the second in January 2016. For both births I brought in my own community doctor rather than using the in-house doctors, although the second time round this was actually with Dr Amber, when she was at her previous clinic. I was induced first time round, and had an epidural.
"The administering of the epidural was probably my least favourite part of the experience, so I was sure to put on my birth preferences list the second time round that if I were to have an epidural I would want it to be administered by someone who introduces themselves and talks me through what they are doing.
"With my second son however I was lucky enough to have a perfect water birth in the hypnobirthing room. I was left almost completely alone while in labour, which is what I had asked for, and the room was dark apart from the mood lighting in the birthing pool, which actually felt really magical. Baby number two came very quickly, so Dr Amber didn't even make it in time for the delivery, but I was in great hands with my midwife and the on-call doctor.
"With both births I found the aftercare good too, and had a lot of hands-on help with breastfeeding and learning how to bathe the baby and change nappies etc. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a non-complicated pregnancy who is interested in hypnobirthing or water births."
See more about hypnobirthing and on Tabitha's birth story here.
Baby & Child reader Victoria Browne also gave birth at Al Zahra hospital. Read her full birth story here.
Have you given birth at Al Zahra? We would love to hear about it, please share your comments below.