Giving birth in the UAE – Your concerns answered

Our guest medical expert Dr. Mitesh Patel, Spokesperson with health insurers, Aetna International discusses giving birth in the UAE. Here and your top concerns as an expat woman.

 Giving birth in the UAE

What are your roles and responsibilities within Aetna International, Dr. Patel?

As Medical Director for Aetna International, I provide guidance, support, and medical leadership for care management activities, primarily in Europe. I also manage Aetna International’s emergency evacuation programme, helping to ensure appropriate health care delivery for our members around the globe. I am also a practicing physician in Emergency Medicine.

What are the top fears of expat mothers giving birth in the UAE?

Thanks to the advancements of modern science, most pregnancies occur without complications. However, some women might experience complications that can involve either their or their baby’s health, or both. Naturally this will always be a concern or a fear for any mother anywhere in the world, however the added stress of not having family or friends around, being in a foreign country and the lack of additional support and after care is always a key factor. Some mothers ask to stay an additional night in the hospital until they feel ‘ready’ to go home and take care of their new born child. We find this especially with first time mothers.

What do you believe these fears are based on?

The UAE healthcare sector is a mature and robust system, the Ministry of Health continuously undertakes multimillion-dollar programmes towards improving health facilities and hospitals expansions in all seven emirates.

The majority of hospitals in the UAE are private; for example, out of the 24 hospitals in Dubai, there are only four governmental hospitals and therefore some would say there is an obvious existence of hospitals that operate to a commercial model, which could lead to some unnecessary scepticism when it comes to healthcare in the region.

This goes alongside the notion that private doctors may request additional tests, which may or may not prove necessary, knowing that the cost is covered by insurance companies. This can sometimes waste the patient’s time and puts pregnant women through needless obstacles. It is quite different to other parts of the world where extra procedures are avoided unless the practitioner requests, based on established medical facts or for further patient analyses.

Ex-pat mothers are used to standard procedures in their home countries and so, although some may view the standard of healthcare at times as over-cautious, others welcome the additional procedures that make them feel more secure about giving birth away from home.

Are any of these fears legitimate concerns? Why?

The majority of concerns stem from common doubts, misconceptions and completely normal anxiety that is associated with pregnancy, from pain, to the health of the newborn, to the parenting duties that follow. However, the majority of fears are non-medical relates and can be overcome with mental preparation and taking all of the necessary steps recommended by a physician prior to the delivery date.

What are the best ways to bring peace of mind to the situation when giving birth in the UAE?

Pregnancy in the UAE can be expensive for expats, so it is important to understand exactly how insurance companies cover the costs. Fortunately, in the UAE, it is now mandatory for all health insurance plans secured by residents to cover maternity and the cost of giving birth. While health insurance plans secured by Dubai residents do cover the cost of giving birth, many plans offer fairly low levels of coverage and so it’s important to check the small print.

What is the best kind of health insurance for pregnant expat mothers planning to deliver their babies in the UAE?

There is a variety of health insurance options available however, it is important to understand what coverage the policy provides. Before you start trying to conceive, perhaps consider upgrading your plan to cover potential circumstances such as ante-natal complications and assisted/natural conception if it’s not included in your current policy. If you are planning to have your baby outside the UAE, it is important that your policy has a sufficient level of cover as some countries are far more expensive to give birth in.

Another point to consider is if your policy covers newborns and congenital abnormalities; it is good to be aware of when your insurance company needs to receive the details of your new baby to ensure enrollment on your health insurance plan.

How do UAE healthcare standards compare to other regions?

The UAE’s ongoing increased spending and investment in the sector has raised the standards to levels of excellency which, in recent years, has helped to change the general perception amongst expats and raised the region’s status amongst other leading countries. All the investments, applications, and new technologies implemented in healthcare systems demonstrate the importance the UAE government places when it comes to healthcare and should provide peace of mind to expectant mothers who are some way from home.

In addition, doctors in the UAE are exposed to a wide range of cultures and are skilled in dealing with all kinds of medical conditions.

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