A guide to pregnancy and giving birth in the UAE

25 July 2019

Having a baby is a whole new experience for first time parents, and if you’re going to do it in another country, there’s a whole host of other things to think about. So, where do you start?

Health Cards in Dubai 
If you’re a UAE resident and not covered by private health insurance, or your insurance doesn’t cover maternity care, you can apply for a Health Card. 

The Health Card will cover you for low-cost treatment at public hospitals, but you’ll need to self fund the bigger treatment costs, such as your delivery. 

You can pick up an application form from any public hospital and return it completed in Arabic along with some additional paperwork to any public medical centre. The application costs a fee, and will need renewing each year.

In Abu Dhabi 
If you’re living in Abu Dhabi, you should already have a Health Card to prove that you have the required health insurance to be in the emirate. 

Public hospitals tend to provide a similar quality of care to private hospitals in the UAE, but private hospitals are popular with expats because they generally have private rooms and shorter waiting times. Emiratis (UAE nationals) receive treatment at public hospitals for free – and care provided for expats is much cheaper than at private hospitals. 

Public hospitals and popular doctors and OBs can have very lengthy wait times, meaning you may have to book your delivery early on in your pregnancy if you want to be treated by a particular doctor or OB. 

Health Cards in Dubai 
If you’re a UAE resident and not covered by private health insurance, or your insurance doesn’t cover maternity care, you can apply for a Health Card. 

The Health Card will cover you for low-cost treatment at public hospitals, but you’ll need to self fund the bigger treatment costs, such as your delivery. 

You can pick up an application form from any public hospital and return it completed in Arabic along with some additional paperwork to any public medical centre. The application costs 300 AED for expat adults and will need renewing each year. 

In Abu Dhabi 
If you’re living in Abu Dhabi, you should already have a Health Card to prove that you have the required health insurance to be in the emirate. 

Public hospitals tend to provide a similar quality of care to private hospitals in the UAE, but private hospitals are popular with expats because they generally have private rooms and shorter waiting times. Emiratis (UAE nationals) receive treatment at public hospitals for free – and care provided for expats is much cheaper than at private hospitals. 

Public hospitals and popular doctors and OBs can have very lengthy wait times, meaning you may have to book your delivery early on in your pregnancy if you want to be treated by a particular doctor or OB. 

If you’re an AXA - Global Healthcare customer and need help finding a provider in your area, our online search tool can help. You can search the for an AXA Select medical provider in your area, where we can settle bills directly. You can find out more here.  

Prenatal care 
During prenatal appointments you’ll either see your OB, or a member of their maternity team who’ll follow your pregnancy. Most facilities offer antenatal packages, so you can book all of your appointments early in your pregnancy. These packages are useful because you’re likely to have more appointments throughout your pregnancy than you would if you’re from a Western country – they also allow you to book around your OB’s availability. 

A prenatal package, including 12 prenatal appointments and a routine delivery can cost around 6,000 AED in a public hospital, although this price can increase with any extra tests or medication you need. 

Many private hospitals also offer prenatal packages. These can vary widely in cost from around 6,000 AED to over 22,000 AED. You can use online reviews and recommendations from friends to help you find an OB who’ll deliver a package suited to your needs. 

Many expat women in the UAE choose to use a Doula to support them through their pregnancy and delivery. Most Doulas in the UAE are trained in the UK or USA, and are expats themselves. They will be familiar with the local health system and offer physical and emotional support throughout your pregnancy. 

Your delivery 
When you’re choosing your OB and where to deliver your baby, make sure you discuss the details of your birth plan. Private hospitals are more likely to try and accommodate your wishes, but it’s worth noting that home births aren’t allowed in the UAE. Some hospitals will go as far as providing hypno- or water-births if they’re part of your birthing plan – which aren’t common practice in the UAE. However, there is also a tendency for hospitals to schedule C-section deliveries so that they can manage patient flow, so be sure you make your preferences known in advance. You can read more about c-sections here. 

You should also check whether you’re allowed anyone to accompany you in the delivery suite when you have your baby, and find out when visitors will be allowed to come and see you. This will be down to the hospital you choose. 

Even if you choose a specific OB, there’s always a chance you’ll go in to labour when they’re unavailable. If this happens, the OB working at the time will deliver your baby. They’ll usually be working alongside a delivery team. In the UAE, your OB and delivery team are likely to be expats themselves and all-female.

The stand alone cost for a routine delivery in a public hospital is usually around 700 AED. A routine delivery at a private hospital can start from 7,500 AED, but can increase to around 16,500 AED once your accommodation costs and any extras are added. If you’re thinking of having an epidural, they cost around 3,770 AED and will be billed on top of your package cost.

Pregnancy and parenthood - cultural traditions in the UAE 
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are very popular with expats from all around the world. From construction workers to heart surgeons, over 88% of the UAE population are expats. Because of this, the UAE is a melting pot of different cultures and ways of life.

Islamic law prescribes modesty among women, but breastfeeding is also strongly encouraged. Most malls or large shops have nursing rooms for mothers to use. It’s also acceptable to breastfeed discreetly in female prayer rooms. 

Emirati tradition dictates that new-born boys are circumcised and that new-born girls have their ears pierced. Many hospitals offer the option of circumcision (around 2,300 AED) or ear piercing (around 325 AED). This isn’t compulsory and is a decision you’ll be able to make for your child.

Finding the support you need 
If you’re new to parenting and to the neighbourhood, it can be overwhelming if you don’t have your support network around. There are a number of mums’ groups that you can join where you’ll be able to connect with other new parents – as both locals and expats. You’ll be able to find out more about these groups and how to join them by asking your doctor or OB, and by doing some online research. 

Our World of Wellbeing hub contains lots of useful tips and information about being a parent abroad. Whether you’re about to have your first baby, or you’re moving your whole family to a new country, there’s plenty of advice about how to help things go smoothly. 

And if you’re ever unsure of anything, no matter where you are, we’ll always do our best to put you at ease. There’s a team of midwives on hand through our health information helpline who’ll be able to answer any questions you might have about your pregnancy. You’ll just need to call +44 (0)1892 556 753 between 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, until 4pm on Saturday and until 12pm on Sunday (UK time).

If you have any questions about making a claim with us or what your policy covers, you can call us anytime, day or night on +44 (0)1892 503 856. 

Sources: 
1. https://www.relocatemagazine.com/articles/10-things-to-know-about-medical-treatment-in-dubai 
2. http://www.expatechodubai.com/new-to-dubai/pregnancy-marriage/ 
3. http://dubai.ae/en/Lists/HowToGuide/DispForm.aspx?ID=7 
4. https://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/United-Arab-Emirates.html 
5. http://www.livingindubai.org/giving-birth-in-dubai-as-an-expat/ 
6. https://marhababy.com/ae-en/knowledge/ultimate-guide-baby-dubai/ 
7. http://abudhabiblog.com/water-birthing-an-option-in-the-uae/ 
8. https://www.expatwoman.com/ewmums/en/mums-uae/giving-birth-uae/11-things-expect-when-giving-birth-dubai 
9. https://britishexpats.com/wiki/Giving_birth_in_the_UAE 
10. https://www.cia.gov/Library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ae.html 
11. https://arabiannotes.com/baby-feeding-rooms-abu-dhabi/ 
12. http://azhd.ae/images/maternity_package.pdf