Think about all those pretty, fluffy things you want to buy: the latest Bugaboo pram, the top of the range car seat, the best cot and the matching Moses basket. The list goes on and on.
But the cost of having a baby doesn’t stop at toys and accessories. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that parents can spend up to US$500,000 (Dhs1.8million) on their children between birth and 17 years of age. That’s an annual US$30,000 a year that needs to be found. Not easy, particularly if you’re down to one income.
To make matters worse, your baby won’t conform to a steady payment schedule. It’s not like buying a house; you know you need a new kitchen sink, but you can always make do with the one that’s there for now and get a really nice one later. Just one baby needs a drawer full of clothes, his own set of furniture and more paraphernalia than you can imagine.
However, living in Dubai, the biggest single cost you are likely to face is the hospital fees. ‘It’s an expensive place,’ says Dannielle MacDonald, financial services manager for Lifecare International and mother to three children under five. Her best advice is to start saving now. ‘Couples should ideally start planning financially before the child is conceived. All insurance companies have at least a nine-month waiting period for maternity benefits if you are not part of a group.’
Choosing the best (and most wallet-friendly) hospital is an arduous task at the best of times, and it’s certainly not made easier by the raging hormones and swollen ankles of pregnancy, so it’s best to be prepared.
There is a variety of private and government-run hospitals in Dubai. Al Wasl, which is government-run, is considered the ‘no frills’ option compared to private hospitals. Nurses may not have the bedside manner you’ve come to expect living in such a glitzy emirate, but it does have an excellent reputation for having the best maternity and pediatric units in Dubai. Where the services at Al Wasl and other government hospitals such as Al Rafa were once free, expats are now charged, albeit at a cheaper rate than private alternatives. A Caesarean will cost about Dhs4,000, including a four-day stay. If you do choose one of the government hospitals, make sure you’re registered before the birth and that you have a health card. You should also remember that men are often not allowed into the labour suite in government hospitals, so decide if giving birth without your partner is what you really want.
At the other end of the scale, private organisations Welcare Hospital and The American Hospital are about on par when it comes to package costs and what you get. New mum Claire Young gave birth to Maya back in September and was happy with the care she received. ‘The American Hospital was excellent,’ she says. ‘It is very modern and I felt really pampered. It was not at all clinical, which was nice, as it can be quite scary having a baby. All the staff were very calming. Once I had the baby and was in my suite, the staff were on call if I needed them for assistance. They were always happy to help, but were also very unobtrusive.’
Claire was insured and although her bill came to Dhs12,000, it was covered. ‘We had a normal delivery including an epidural. We were insured with BUPA and it was absolutely fantastic. It took about five minutes over the phone to get it all set up, so when we left the hospital there were no quibbles. All we paid was Dhs100 for the food my husband bought over the two days I was in hospital.’
It was a different story for another new mum who had her baby at Welcare Hospital in Garhoud this year. Without insurance cover it cost her dearly, with the final bill coming in at a whopping Dhs33,000. On top of the expense of an emergency C-section, she also had to pay for her baby’s three-day stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Of course it was worth every dirham, but still expensive and perhaps not necessary had the correct insurance been in place.
So if you haven’t had time to plan ahead and it’s too late to get insured, what are the best options? ‘Think long and hard about what services you want to use and choose the provider accordingly,’ says Dannielle. ‘Do a budget and stick to it. It’s the only way.’
Shop around. Hospitals offer packages that cover antenatal care, which you will need to pay upfront at about 12 weeks and 28 weeks, and a separate delivery fee, which you will pay for on the big day itself. Some offer community packages, where you ‘rent’ a delivery suite from a private hospital, and then pay extra for your community doctor to deliver your baby. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a cheaper option as it can end up costing double.
Ask the hospital what else is included or excluded such as vaccines, hearing tests, nursery use and any medicines. Are meals included if you order out of allocated serving times?
Finally, you should budget for the worst case scenario and at least then you won’t be too shocked when the final bill comes in.