Pregnant, Pregnancy, Childbirth and Giving Birth in Dubai and UAE
How to get pregnant in Dubai
- The usual methods work equally as well in Dubai as in any other countries. Once you are pregnant, whether or not you are married makes a significant difference in terms of how the authorities will treat you. Being pregnant is usually used as evidence against you for the crime of having sex with someone you are not married to.
- Night clubs in Dubai often have an eager selection of sperm donors, however this method is not highly recommended.
How not to get pregnant in Dubai
None of what is written here should be taken as any sort of advice, or legal or moral opinion. It is intended to be information reflecting how things are in Dubai and the UAE based on our experiences of living in the country. If you are unsure about anything medically related, you should get a doctor's opinion (a real one, not an internet one or from Dr House). If you are sure about anything medically related, you should still get a doctor's opinion anyway, especially if your confidence came from reading something on this page, Wikipedia, internet discussion forums or blogs, Facebook, or any other websites, or from talking to one or more friends or family members.
- Again, the usual contraceptive and birth control methods work in much the same way in Dubai and the UAE as in other countries. Which tends to boil down to, for most people (not a comprehensive list):
- Abstinence - barring unusual circumstances is 100% effective. However, human sex drives being what they are, some might have the opinion that this method can have undesirable consequences. And no, getting pregnant off a toilet seat is not a realistic risk, but give it a wipe with a kleenex or something anyway if you're still worried.
- Condoms - easily available without prescription from supermarkets, gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc in the UAE.
- Contraceptive Pill - usually available without prescription from pharmacies in Dubai. Prescription required in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. In some pharmacies in Dubai they are on display stands with condoms etc, in others you might have to ask the pharmacist to hand them over. If starting on the pill for the first time, it is important to see a doctor and not rely on opinions from the internet, friends, or the pharmacist about which one to take (and if a doctor appears to pick one at random and suggests you try it to see if it works for you, you should consider trying a different doctor first). Not all brands are available in the UAE, in particular, those which can be also be used as an Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP) - usually the ones containing progesterone, levonorgestrel, or progestin. There is some overlap in how those three terms are used in relation to contraceptives and hormones - progesterone is the natural hormone, progestin is a synthetic version of progesterone, levonorgestrel is a progestin commonly used for Emergency Contraception (EC).
- Contraceptive Pill as emergency contraception - some contraceptive pills can be used as emergency contraception by taking a larger than normal dose, usually several pills as soon as possible, then another several pills some time later. We don't want to say how many pills or hours because it varies, and we are not doctors or other medical professionals. However, not all contraceptive pills can be used this way, and the ones that could are apparently not available in Dubai and the UAE anymore (possibly as of 2009 or later as stocks ran out). Princeton University has a useful looking Emergency Contraception website with country specific information, although it appears to be last updated in 2002 for the UAE. We'd consider Princeton University to be more reliable than many other online sources.
- Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP) (or "morning-after" pill) - no longer available (officially) in the UAE, if it ever was officially available anyway. If you're determined or lucky or both, you might find a doctor in a hospital or medical center who might be able to prescribe one for you, or you might get it at a hospital pharmacy. We stress the word "might" in this situation, especially because we're sort of guessing rather than making a statement based on experience or factual information, so don't count on it (Oct 2014 update: we tried several different hospital pharmacies and none had any ECP pills available). If your condom broke or you got carried away or whatever the reason is, don't count on getting an ECP in Dubai or the UAE. Normal contraceptive pills containing levonorgestrel are also unavailable (possibly banned) since they can be used as an ECP.
- Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) or Intra-Uterine System - appears to be available in pharmacies over the counter or off the shelf in Dubai? At least that's how it looks in some chemists, but that seems a bit odd given that it's hardly a do-it-yourself procedure to install one.
- Morning-after pill - "morning-after" is a bit of a nickname, to be more accurate, it should be called the 0-to-72 or 120-hours-after pill. Nevertheless, see Emergency Contraceptive Pill for more information. Which is basically that it's not available in the UAE.
- Rhythm Method - Question: What do you call those who use the Rhythm Method? Answer: Parents. Jokes aside, the Rhythm Method is a method used to figure out the days in the monthly cycle when pregnancy is least likely. That's not the same as impossible - it is possible to get pregnant on any day of the menstrual cycle (perhaps very unlikely on some days but still possible).
- Withdrawal - about as effective or ineffective as anywhere else. The prospect of a jail sentence for illegal sex does not affect this method since the courts do not recognise pulling-out-in-time as something that nullifies the putting-it-in part of the act.
- Visiting shopping malls on Friday evenings - the number of screaming brats running around until late in the evening can have a short term contraceptive effect on some people by reducing the desire for having their own children (or more children). However if moving on to a bar or nightclub the same evening, the desire for sex might rise rapidly enough to quickly render this method ineffective.
Abortion and unwanted pregnancies in the UAE
- Abortion is illegal in the UAE. Exceptions can be made where the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. But there is a proviso that this only applies in the first 4 months or 120 days (not clear which) of a pregnancy, and husband's or guardian's permission is required. Anyone who might be in that situation should get specific legal and medical advice as soon as they can.
- Information is less clear about abortion in cases where the child's life is in danger - abortion might be legal if the foetus is not expected to survive the pregnancy, or is expected to die after birth as a result of any conditions it has prior to birth. But the 120 day rule still seems to apply.
- Abortion is not legal for rape victims as far as we know (unless one of the previous exceptions applies).
- Abortion is not legal if the foetus suffers from any sort of deformity, handicap, genetic disorder, etc, unless its life is in danger, although there have been reports that the UAE might reconsider this reason and change the law to allow abortions in such cases. Unknown how seriously this is being considered and what the time frame is.
- Illegal abortions result in hefty punishment - jail sentences of several years for the mother and anyone else involved, and deportation for expats following the period in prison.
- The "abortion pill" (RU486) is either banned or unobtainable in the UAE, and using it is illegal.
- The legal stuff is from the UAE Penal Code 1987, Section 340, which says "Any person inducing a voluntary pregnancy termination in a pregnant woman by providing her with medicaments or by using instruments for this purpose is liable to up to five years imprisonment. The maximum penalty is increased to seven years if the termination is performed without the woman's consent." Information is from secondary sources, translated from Arabic.
- Flying to another country to have an abortion can be done without any legal penalty in the UAE as far as we know. At least we have not heard of any cases brought to court in the UAE because the mother had an abortion overseas - but it might be wise to keep the reason for a trip to yourself as much as possible. The UAE does sometimes prosecute residents or visitors for breaking UAE laws overseas (if that phrasing makes sense), for example if taking medicines which are illegal in the UAE, but legal where you take them.
- The Emergency Contraception Pill (ECP) was available in one form or another but became unavailable (or more restricted) by about 2010. It's not clear why since other forms of contraception are freely available, and the ECP prevents pregnancy rather than aborts an existing pregnancy (it doesn't usually affect an existing pregnancy according to relevant medical information we have studied).
Maternity Care, Pre-Natal, Post-Natal, Ante-Natal Care, Delivery
Update 23 December 2010 (Khaleej Times): Delivery fees at UAE government hospitals will increase in January 2011 to AED 5,000 for natural births, and AED 8,000 for ceasarean section (previously AED 2,500 for natural birth and AED 5,000 for c-section). Or double that to AED 10,000 and AED 16,000 for those not holding a UAE health card. The same report said private hospital fees ranged from AED 6,000 to AED 25,000.
You can visit a Government Hospital with a health card to pay low fees for care and delivery. There will be extra charges if there are complications and/or you choose to have a private room (usually a few hundred dhs per day). Al Wasl Hospital near the Wafi Center seems to be the preferred choice of many opting for delivery in a Government Hospital but other options include Al Maktoum and Rashid Hospitals. See further below for contact details and individual hospital comments.
You'll need a government health card, marriage certificate, passport copies for you and your husband, and possibly some evidence of where you live (rent contract, phone bill, DEWA bill). Phone the hospital of your choice to find out when to go and register.
If you have private medical insurance (which includes pregnancy) or lots of money, then you can try one of the private hospitals like American hospital, Welcare hospital, or start with one of the private gynaecological clinics in Dubai. Delivery fees at Welcare and American hospital start from about AED 10,000-20,000 depending on whether or not you have a ceasarean section. Al Zahra Hospital in Sharjah (they have a medical clinic in Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road for check-ups and tests but deliveries are performed at the hospital in Sharjah) may be a bit cheaper.
Some hospitals offer ante-natal packages for example about 4,000 dhs at American Hospital for visits and tests (not including delivery though).
Dubai Healthcare City (behond the Wafi Center) has a variety of clinics catering to all medical needs, including a hospital and other specialist services.
[Price update needed] If you are pregnant without insurance in Dubai and don't have much money, try one of these (prices for pregnancy and delivery packages valid ~2012-2015):
- A government hospital. Many regard Latifa Hospital in Dubai as the best for childbirth (renamed from Al Wasl Hospital in 2012).
- Iranian Hospital in Dubai. Husbands are not or may not be permitted in the delivery rooom at birth. Normal delivery AED 6,000-8,000. Caesarean AED 9,000-12,000.
- Al Raffa Hospital (Al Rafa Hospital) in Mankhool, Bur Dubai. More expensive than Iranian hospital, cheaper than American and Welcare. Renamed as Aster Hospital? Normal pregnancy package AED 5,000-7,000, caeserean AED 9,000-12,000 (2013 prices).
- Zulekha Hospital, in Dubai and Sharjah. Normal delivery AED 6,000-10,000. Caesarean AED 10,000-16,000 (2015 prices).
- Several hospitals in Sharjah and Ajman have much cheaper rates for maternity packages, for example Thumbay and GMC hospitals. Normal delivery AED 3,000-5,000. Caesarian AED 6,000-10,000. Husbands not permitted in delivery room in Sharjah hospitals.
- GMC Fujairah is even cheaper with normal delivery AED 1,000-2,000 and caesarean AED 3,000-5,000.
- Al Zahra Hospital sometimes suggested but their rates are more expensive, AED 8,000-12,000 for normal delivery and AED 16,000-20,000 for Caeserean.
[Update needed] If you are a pregnant tourist who ends up in a situation where you need to give birth in the UAE, you'll either have to go to a private hospital or pay a higher fee at a government hospital. Government hospitals require a government issued health card or Emirates ID card which is only given to citizens and legal residents.
Married and pregnant
If you are married, your main concern will be where to have your baby, where to buy baby food, maternity dresses and baby clothes, where to do yoga classes while pregnant, and a few years later, how many grandchildren you'll have. Phone the hospitals listed to get an idea of cost and waiting times for baby delivery appointments and procedures. For the rest, supermarkets are well stocked with baby food, and shopping malls have plenty of shops with clothing for you and your offspring. We can't help you with the grandchildren question though.
Unmarried and pregnant in Dubai
If you're not married and get pregnant in Dubai, you'll be in a bit of trouble. A girlfriend/boyfriend defacto relationship in Dubai is illegal, sort of ... the relationship might be a grey area legally but the having sex part of it is what is illegal when the two people involved are not married to each other. There are many cases of unmarried mothers in Dubai ending up in jail (with their baby) after delivery, followed by deportation on completion of their sentence, because giving birth out of wedlock, or being pregnant, can be used as evidence of having had illegal sex. Rather than end up in that situation, you can either leave the UAE and go to your home country, or get a wedding organised in a hurry. Bear in mind that there are flying restrictions depending on how close to delivery you are so if you are unlikely to get married before giving birth, get your exit from the UAE organised as soon as possible.
It's not clear how you'd be treated if you were not married and had sex in another country where it was legal, got pregnant, then came to the UAE while pregnant and attepted to give birth in the UAE as a single mother. We'd suggest you not test that series of events given that the outcome for getting it wrong is likely to be a jail sentence. However, giving birth in another country as a single mother does not prevent you from legally visiting or living in the UAE.
There are many women in the UAE who are single, widowed, or divorced supporting their own children back in their home country. It is also possible to reside in the UAE with your children even if they were born outside of marriage, but there might be some restrictions on profession and/or minimum income to obtain a residency visa. Being an unmarried mother in the UAE is not illegal as long as the becoming a mother part of your status was done outside the UAE.
Being pregnant and unmarried and visiting the UAE as a tourist is not in itself illegal (as far as we know, and many women do that with no problems), but if something happens to you which requires a hospital visit in the UAE (whether a miscarriage or something unrelated to your pregnancy), and the hospital notifies the police of your pregnancy, the police could conceivably investigate whether or not you had illegal sex in the UAE. However unlikely this situation sounds, it's worth considering, especially if planning a visit in the summer when the extreme heat might affect you more than you expect.
For women who are married but get pregnant as a result of liason with someone other than their husband, the authorities are unlikely to investigate since they'll usually assume that a married woman's child has been fathered by her husband. If a complaint is made by her husband (or someone else), then the police might investigate.
- Government hospitals in Dubai will probably give you a hard time if you go for maternity care without a marriage certificate since the are legally obliged to notify the police of your pregnant and unmarried status. You'll definitely have a problem if you try and give birth while still unmarried.
- Private hospitals such as the American hospital and Welcare hospital might be more helpful during ante-natal care but you'll still be in trouble if you end up giving birth there as a single mother.
- Your religion and nationality may make a difference here. Unmarried mothers reported in the press as ending up in jail usually seem to be from Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka.
- An unmarried Muslim mother is likely to find themselves in a lot more bother than an unmarried Christian mother, even before giving birth.
Procedure and paperwork for giving birth in Dubai
- Once you've chosen a hospital to give birth at, phone them a few weeks before delivery to register and pre-arrange some of the paperwork.
- When the child is born, the hospital should give you a Notification of Birth document, in Arabic. Use this to get a birth certificate.
- Go to Al Baraha Birth Certificate Office at Al Baraha Hospital with passports/residence visas and copies from both parents, and marriage certificate.
- They'll give you an Arabic birth certificate after a couple of days, cost about 50 dhs. You can get it translated to English for a further fee of 50+ dhs.
- Take the birth certificate to the Ministry of Health office at the hospital to get it attested (~10 dhs).
- Take the attested birth certificate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get it attested again (~50 dhs)
- All, or most, government and related departments are open about 0800-1300 Sun to Thu, some may be open until 1400 or from 0700.
- If the Date of Birth is much less than 9 months after your marriage date, you may find it difficult to get the birth certificate. Eventually it'll get done though - a bigger time difference will usually mean less hassle hence the importance of getting married as soon as possible after discovering you are pregnant.
Nationality and Passports of Children Born in Dubai
Babies born in the UAE will not have UAE nationality (unless the father is Emirati), they will receive the same nationality as the father by default. Receiving the mother's nationality depends on the laws of the country the mother is from.
As soon as the child is born, you should start getting a passport organised. It is not advisable to include children on your own passport, get them separate passports. You have up to 4 months from the date of birth to get passports organised. After that, babies get fined 100 dhs per day. This procedure can be tedious but you'll get there in the end. Allow a few days or a couple of weeks for all the paperwork to be completed.
Take the baby's birth certificate along with parent's birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports and copies to your embassy or consulate and fill in a birth registration form and passport application form. After the passport is issued, apply for a residence visa for the wee tyke. Minimum working age in the UAE is 18 (or 15 for some jobs) so you have some time before needing to get a work permit organised.
Contact details and hospital comments
In general terms, the major noticeable difference between private hospitals and government hospitals (apart from cost) is that there is a significant lack of 'customer care' in government hospitals. Medically, there's probably not that much difference but you'll definitely feel a lot more comfortable about it all in a good private hospital. This applies to Dubai and probably Abu Dhabi. In the smaller emirates, many expats would advise you to go to one of the better hospitals in Dubai or maybe Sharjah for important medical procedures like childbirth. You should certainly try and visit the hospitals on your short list for giving birth, to form an opinion.
For some difficult/unusual situations, private hospitals will send patients to government hospitals anyway (eg premature babies needing an ICU unit).
- Al Maktoom Hospital
- Al Wasl Hospital (Al Wasel, Alwasl, Alwasel Hospital) - see Latifa Hospital, was renamed in January 2012.
- Al Zahra Private Hospital, Sharjah - Tel +971-4-5624382. Has a reasonably good reputation. Popular with people coming from Sharjah and the Northern Emirates rather than Dubai.
- Al Zahra Private Medical Center, Sheikh Zayed Rd, Dubai - Tel +971-4-3315000
- American Hospital, Lamcy Plaza area, Dubai - Tel +971-4-3367777, fax +971-4-3365176. Has quite a good reputation, doctors and nurses all speak good English and try to make you feel comfortable. Food and accommodation good.
- Corniche Hospital, Abu Dhabi - popular, was cheap (1500 dhs for delivery) but prices raised to 10,000 dhs for normal birth and 14,000 dhs for caesarian in April 2009.
- DOHMS - Department of Health and Medical Services - Tel 8004991 (?)
- General Medical Center - Tel +971-4-3495959, Fax +971-4-3495634
- International Modern Hospital - tel +971-4-3988888, fax +971-4-3988444, PO Box 914, Dubai, email firstname.lastname@example.org, web www.imh.ae. New (2006) so unknown but appears to be a good private hospital.
- Latifa Hospital (previously called Al Wasl Hospital), near Wafi Center, Dubai - Tel +971-4-3241111. Popular for giving birth but a bit of a lottery in terms of how comfortable you will feel. You'll probably be in a ward with other mothers rather than a private room (husband can't be with you), doctors and nurses should speak some English but maybe not. Any requests you have in terms of medical procedures will likely be ignored. Medically, probably just as sound as American Hospital or Welcare.
- NMC Hospitals - Dubai tel +971 4-2689800, in Deira on Salahuddin Rd next to Sana, and conveniently close to The Baby Shop. Maternity packages from 2,500-12,000 dhs. Hospitals and clinics in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Mussafah (baby delivery may not be available in all locations). No opinion on quality of medical care.
- Rashid Hospital - Tel +971-4-3374000.
- Welcare Hospital, Garhood, Dubai, Tel +971-4-2827788, fax +971-4-2828226 (Gynaecology and Obstetrics Tel +971-4-2137252. Has a good enough reputation. Comparable to the American Hospital with some saying it's better and some saying it's worse. Doctors and nurses speak good English and will make you feel comfortable.
Last update Saturday 25-Jul-2015