‘In a nutshell, active birth means being upright during labour,’ says Health Bay Polyclinic’s midwife, Dru Campbell. ‘You don’t have to walk around for hours, you just need to use items like birth balls, mats, chairs, a bath, even straps hanging from the ceiling to support yourself if you squat – anything that helps you to not lie down. The “active” bit only really comes into effect once you’re four centimetres dilated, having minute-long contractions every five minutes. Before this stage, I recommend that women get some rest, eat a carbohydrate-packed meal and really build up their strength so that they’re as physically prepared as they can be for what lies ahead.’ Dru explains that certain pain relief during active birth is an option. ‘The simple fact that you’re able to move around helps. You can use a TENS machine, which delivers pulses into your back via little sticky pads and which you can intensify during contractions via the controls. There’s also Entonox – also called gas and air. Many women find water, lying in a bath for example, to be therapeutic, too. Hospitals in Dubai are definitely becoming more receptive to the active birth concept.’
For more information on active birth, contact the Midwifery and Baby Centre at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqiem. www.healthbay.ae.
I had epidurals with my first two deliveries, and I really wanted to be able to have a drug-free birth with my third baby. I was scared at first because I thought I wouldn’t be able to deal with the pain. But the midwives were so reassuring and encouraging. Moving around really helped ease the contractions – at one point I stood in the shower for an hour! I would definitely recommend an active birth to other mums. It was a great experience.’
Hynobirthing is probably one of the best options for women who are fearful of the birth process, explains Jasmine Collin, a Dubai-based practitioner who teaches Mongan Method HypnoBirthing. ‘Lots of women are nervous and fearful of birth, and this hasn’t been helped by numerous soap operas and films depicting it in a dramatic and scary way,’ she says. ‘Hypnobirthing really just arms you with the techniques to cope with your fears. When you are fearful, you become tense, and that can make the birth experience much more painful than it needs to be.’ Jasmine, who gave birth to both her children using hypnobirthing techniques and had positive experiences with both, adds: ‘We don’t give medical advice. Instead, we teach breathing, visualization and positive affirmation techniques. We also explain that, although natural birth is the goal, hypnobirthing can help mums accept intervention and a different kind of delivery when it is required.’ Mongan Method HypnoBirthing is learned during a five-week-long course (one 2 ½ hour lesson per week plus daily CD practice at home) and can be started as early as the 12th week, or as late as the 34th week. However, Jasmine recommends the 28th week as the optimum time to begin learning.
For more information contact Jasmine Collin at 050 132 3669.
I took breathing lessons from GMC hospital, Ajman, to manage labour pains and kept practicing special yoga asanas to maintain flexibility in the perineum region. By the time I reached the hospital, I was six centimetres dilated and doctors were amazed at my poise. I knew I wanted to welcome my baby and congratulate him on his first independent breath.’
One criticism of Dubai’s maternity scene is that it is too clinical and that mums aren’t always given their say in the delivery room. If this is your particular concern, and you can already see your birth plan being tossed out of the nearest window by an over-bearing doctor, enlisting a doula could well be the answer. ‘I’d had such good support myself that I really saw a need to do something to provide more positive information and support to new families in Dubai,’ says Nicola Philbin, co-founder of Dubai Doulas, who was suprised by the differences between the midwifery-led system and support available in the UK and here in Dubai. ‘Here, the system is much more medicalized, being completely doctor-led, and there is very little in the way of ante-natal preparation or post-natal support. What worried me most was that the expectant mothers I met in Dubai seemed so lacking in confidence in their ability to give birth – they were almost “expecting” to need a C-section before they even went into labour.’ She adds: ‘A doula will support a woman unconditionally in whatever choices she makes about how she wishes to give birth.’
For more information visit www.dubaidoulas.com.
My first son was born five weeks early by emergency C-section. The second time around I had my heart set on a natural delivery, but my doctor was going to take some convincing. I needed back-up and the best option was to turn to a doula. Like many expats, I was separated from my close family, which can make a woman feel very isolated.’
According to reports, Dubai has a high rate of C-section deliveries compared to the UK and the US, but most doctors here agree that the standards of care are excellent. Caesarians generally fall under two camps – namely, planned and emergency procedures. Planned caesarians are carried out when a complication in pregnancy, which could result in a dangerous birth, is flagged up by an obstetrician. An emergency caesarian is just that – an operation that occurs when what was assumed to be a normal delivery just doesn’t go to plan. Usually it’s your own doctor, who has monitored your pregnancy from the beginning, will perform the operation. C-sections are more expensive than natural deliveries, and usually cost between Dhs15,000-25,000. While it’s not an ideal scenario for any mother who had hoped for a straightforward delivery, in general, the aftercare available in Dubai for mums who have been through a surgical delivery, is of a high standard, says Dr Christian Jozsa, German board certified specialist obstetrian and gynecologist at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqiem.
For more information visit www.caesarian.org or call Health Bay on 800 4272.
I had a planned C-section at the American Hospital with my second baby and found the whole experience very positive. The C-section team met with me the week before the operation and talked me through. On the day everything went like clockwork and 24 hours later I was up and about. I found my recovery was faster than my previous, natural delivery.’
Yes! At long last, water births are now available in the UAE, at the Cromwell Women and Children’s Hospital in Al Ain. Director of nursing, Noreen Healy, says the process has many benefits, including easing labour and birth and reducing the need for medical intervention. ‘A warm bath takes away the stress of anyone’s day and aids relaxation,’ she explains. ‘In labour, water can have a similar effect, reducing anxiety and helping women focus on the process of labour and birth.’ Noreen says that water births help to relieve pain by boosting oxytocin, easing dilatation of the cervix, stretching of the birth canal and offering the baby a smooth transition into the world. Noreen points out that fathers also comment on the calming properties of water, which is great news for wives who are worried that hubby might be the fainting type! ‘The buoyancy of water makes it easy to move and find comfortable positions. Equally, the depth of the pool allows a woman the privacy and security to labour naturally,’ she adds. And, it won’t break the bank either, at a bargainous Dhs3,500 for the water birth package.
Cromwell Woman and Children’s Hospital, Al Ain, www.alaincromwell.ae (03 799 0000).
I had read that birth is the single most traumatic event in any person’s life and I wanted to be actively involved in helping my unborn child on her journey into the world. I chose to use a birthing pool as they are meant to have a calming effect on the labour – and it certainly did. My contractions all but stopped because I was so relaxed in there! I got back in when I was close to delivering and as everything became more intense. I hadn’t planned on giving birth in the water necessarily but I was in such an endorphin-induced state (in spite of the pain) that I stayed in and Skye Rose was born. I would definitely recommend a water birth – great for the baby and for mum as it is so much more soothing than lying on any bed!’