Expatriate Birth Choices – Saudi Arabia

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To return home, birth in your expatriate residence, or birth in a 3rd country are questions faced by parents- to -be when living in a foreign country.

I have met women who have preferred to fly home in their 7th or 8th month and wait it out at a family home and have their partner fly out either 2 weeks before or even closer to the birth date. I have met women who have birthed in their new country of residence, but have faced language problems, differing models of obstetric care to what was expected and greater out of pocket expenses. I have met women who have birthed in 3rd country which is close by their country of residence, because of a perceived better health care system. They have told me of the financial costs,difficulties and benefits of choosing this option.

Below is a segment from an interview with of one of the women who chose to birth in a foreign country. I chose this interview to be the first in a series because it was such a positive voice to be heard and may be particularly useful for any parents- to -be planning to birth in Saudi Arabia.

Jo Kelley-Quinn is from Liverpool, UK. She lives in Doha, with her husband ,John,and their three beautiful sons, Lewis, Leon and Luca. The family have been in The Middle East for the past 6 years having lived in Dubai (UAE), Jeddah(Saudi Arabia) and in Doha.(Qatar).

Jo and John planned their 3rd pregnancy while living in Saudi Arabia.They had no doubts or concerns about being pregnant in Saudi as Jo had met many expat women who chose to add another member to their family while living there. She said there is a “big support network” in Jeddah for pregnant women and new parents.

What concerns did you have when choosing where to birth your baby?
“When it came to the option of hospitals there was a choice of 3. One had a good reputation amongst expat nurses and midwives but had stopped accepting insurance patients. Another was pretty popular and regularly used by expat mums but this was an older hospital and had stricter rules about the father being present during childbirth. The hospital I chose was the private International Medical Hospital.(IMC) , I was lucky that my insurance fully covered pregnancy and birth in this hospital as this was the hospital of my choice due the clean modern facility and reputation as the best private hospital in the city. One of my concerns was that lots of expat women would say that that the Dr’s will try to pressure you into a C section and that you have to stay strong about what it is you want for your birth.”

What finally influenced your birth and healthcare choices?
“My birth and health care choices were influenced by my own pregnancy conditions, Dr’s advice and the support network around me on the compound where I lived. Eg ( attending breathing/ relaxation classes ).

How did you prepare for birth and what did you need to do to make it easier for you?
“Apart from eating healthy and abstaining from alcohol during my pregnancy the only other thing I did in preparation for the birth was attend some group classes and a one to one session to educate me on the physical effects of labour, breathing exercises etc. Although I already had 2 children this was a new experience from which I learned new things and understood the physical process of labour and the calming effects of slow deep breathing. The birthing experience is something I have a relaxed attitude towards as you can work so hard towards a plan and the needs of the birth can easily takeover turning the plan on its head.With this is mind I headed towards my birthdate feeling more prepared as I had a better understanding of my imminent labour, I also felt better equipped to deal with labour as I had my breathing techniques and some positive new words to use, courtesy of my birth education class.”

Is there anything you would like to add about birth preparation , pregnancy, birth and parenting in a foreign country?
“I would advise people not to be scared to birth outside of their own country and that the experience may well be a much better one due to using private medical facilities. Also the fact that is pretty common to have help at home ( in Middle East ) can make the early days much more relaxing and enjoyable. Their is no pressure on the expat women to be out performing as superwoman, days or weeks after giving birth.”

Was there anything you found unusual or unexpected in your care during pregnancy birth and postnatally with the baby?
“There are definitely cultural differences to take into account when using foreign medical services but as long as you are open minded and patient, you will probably have a positive experience. If I was a UK mum of 3 I would be grumpy and tired from work and household chores, but as an expat mum I have the privilege to choose whether I work or look after my young family, also as is quite normal in the Middle East I have home help to look after the mundane household chores and allow me to focus on my kids in a positive way.”

NobleBirth respects the choices of all women for the birth of their babies.
belly rubs
andy xox

Andy Mayer is the CBO of NobleBirth ,a childbirth educator and digital media publisher. She lives in UlaanBaatar with her husband and 2 children.

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