Seven things to do when you find out you're pregnant in the UAE

From finding a doctor to choosing a hospital

Seven things to do when you find out you’re pregnant in the UAE

So there are two lines on the stick – now what? Don’t worry, we’ve been there. Once you’ve stopped staring at each other a in fresh mixture of shock and delight (and “why didn’t we start saving sooner?”), here are the next steps.

Confirming the pregnancy
Unless you have conceived via IVF, it’s difficult to know just how many weeks pregnant you are, so many couples will have it confirmed via a blood test. This could be with your family medicine doctor or gynaecologist, and the results usually come back within a few hours as it quickly detects the same hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone as urine tests do. However, blood tests can ascertain the exact amount of hCG in your body, giving your doctor the information to calculate your due date. They can also determine pregnancy sooner (even as early as seven days) than urine tests.

Finding a doctor
If your gynaecologist delivers babies, and you feel comfortable with them delivering yours, then open a maternity file at their clinic. If not, then it’s time to find the safe pair of hands that will deliver your baby.

You wouldn’t get your hair cut without a good recommendation, and this is far more important, so now is the time to use your network to find Dr Dreamy. This could be asking friends, posting in Facebook groups, or speaking to your GP. Don’t feel like you need to go with the first doctor you meet either; it might be a bit awkward not making a follow-up appointment, but not as awkward as seeing someone you don’t like every month, and them ultimately being your most trusted expert in the delivery room. So take the time to find your Mr or Ms Right, and ask all your questions in that first meeting.

Factors to consider include their qualifications, reviews from other patients (ask around), which hospitals they deliver at, if the clinic is covered by your insurance (and if it’s direct billing or pay-and-claim), and if their outlook fits yours in terms of vaginal or caesarian births, pain relief, hynobirthing, water births and so on. Personality plays a huge part too, and you need to find someone you can trust, communicate with and feel comfortable with. You might prefer a man or a woman, would like someone with your mother tongue as their first language, and perhaps you’ll need a doctor with a gentle bedside manner, or just want someone to give it to you straight. The right doctor is out there for you.

The check-ups
With private healthcare you’re able to have monthly scans, if you wish. Some mums-to-be don’t want to be at the doctor’s clinic that often, while others love the reassurance that this offers, so do what you feel is right. You’ll also be tested along the way, with blood taken at around 12 weeks to check for markers that might indicate genetic conditions. Should the chances of this be higher than your doctor would like, you have the option of further investigations, such as the Harmony test, which is more accurate, and amniocentesis, a procedure used to take out a small sample of the amniotic fluid for testing. Blood tests can also give you an earlier indication of gender than ultrasound scans.

At 20 weeks your doctor will do a more detailed scan, checking development, taking measurements of the head circumference, abdominal circumference and length of the femur bone and looking the organs of the foetus. They will also check where the placenta is lying.

This is also the most common time to find out if you’re having a boy or girl, although if your little one is in an awkward position you might need to wait longer.

A lot of women will have a glucose resistance test for gestational diabetes at around 24 weeks (if you didn’t have it in your first pregnancy then you probably won’t need to do this test in subsequent pregnancies) and a Group B Strep culture test, via a swab, towards the end of your pregnancy. This checks for an infection that can be passed onto your baby during a vaginal birth. If you test positive, it will be put in your notes for the hospital, and you’ll be given an IV of antibiotics before you deliver. 

Choosing a hospital
Most doctors will only deliver at one or two hospitals in the city, so your choice of gynaecologist will dictate where you give birth. It’s important that you visit the hospital ahead of time, not only for that crucial “how long will it take us to get there?” route checker, but to feel comfortable with the space and get familiar with what is there in terms of ATMs, cafés, shops and parking.

Do also consider its location, as you could find yourself stuck in rush-hour traffic mid-contraction, and speak to friends or Facebook groups about their experiences.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy or are anticipating health issues with your baby, ensuring that your hospital has a reputable and well-equipped neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is crucial.

Maternity leave
Once you’re ready to tell people about your pregnancy, make time for a chat with your boss and/or the HR department. If you work in the private sector and have completed one year of continuous employment for the same employer, you are entitled to 45 days of maternity leave at full pay, according to Articles 27 to 34 of the UAE’s labour law. If you haven’t completed a year’s continuous service, you’ll get half pay. Do note that these 45 days are calendar days, not working days, so weekends are counted. If you work in the public sector, you will receive 60 days of maternity leave, according to Article 53. A man working for the public sector is entitled to three days of paternity leave.

After returning to work, women are able to take two half-hour breaks each day for 18 months for breastfeeding the baby. Speak to your boss, as going home twice a day to breastfeed or pump is rarely possible, and at most companies a new mum will simply leave an hour early.

There is often some leeway when it comes to maternity leave, whether that’s a company offering more time off (fully paid) to an expectant employee, coming to an agreement about unpaid leave, or use of annual leave. If you have had health problems following the birth, your doctor can sign you off work on sick leave for up to 100 days and issue a medical certificate.

When do you tell people?
When you want to, is the short answer. Sadly, no pregnancy is 100 percent safe, but as you fly past the 12-week mark, it gets more and more likely that you’ll hold a happy, healthy baby at the end of it all. And there’s no right or wrong time to tell people. Pregnancy can be stressful enough without more pressures, so do what makes you feel comfortable. Then you need to decide if you’re going to do a big social media reveal, share with people when you see them or rely on your mother-in-law telling the world…

It is, however, difficult to conceal a pregnancy if you’re suffering from morning sickness, exhaustion or have had complications, so you might find yourself laying low for the first few months. Go easy on yourself – you’re growing a human.

This might sound crazy, but…
Many UAE parents (more than you think) sign up their unborn children for education at this stage. Yes, really. At some of the more in-demand schools, waiting lists are long, and with debentures and spots going to siblings, the only way to secure a place is to put your foetus’ name down (your surname usually suffices) before they’ve even been introduced to the world.

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