Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An incomplete guide to the cost of having a baby in Dubai

Here I am, back with another post about having a baby. The reasons for this are as follows: 

1. Desert Baby is nearly six weeks old, and although I am getting the hang of this parenting lark, my brain is basically a lump of breast milk cheese. To be frank, there is not much else going on in my head at the moment.

2. I spent quite a lot of the time on the phone and trotting around hospitals in the run up to Desert Baby's birth in the name of research, all of which could have been prevented if hospitals posted their costs on their websites. Some now do, but many don't, so this post includes a non-comprehensive guide to the costs. I should add that the hospitals mentioned are the ones affiliated to my insurance company, so they are the ones that I looked at when thinking about where to have Desert Baby. There are many more options in Dubai and the wider UAE including government hospitals, for which the costs are likely to be lower, or in some cases, higher.  

The first thing you need to do is check your health insurance maternity coverage. I was told by our insurer that we were covered, but when I started to look into what actually was covered, I found out that there was a financial limit. This is common, and it's also fairly common that the financial limit does not cover the full cost of the birth, unless you go to the cheapest hospital you can find. You also need to check, as mentioned above, which hospitals have a direct billing arrangement with your insurance company, as this makes the administrative side much simpler. 

It is probably no surprise that if you really want to, or have gold-plated insurance, you can spend an absolute s***load of money having a baby in our fair Emirate. For example, if you are so inclined, you can pay AED104,700 (just under GBP19,500 at current exchange rates) on having your baby delivered by cesarean section at City Hospital if you opt to stay in the Royal Suite. Bear in mind there may well be additional costs if you have a multiple birth, for stem cell collection, and for little luxuries like blood transfusions, medication and other "consumables" as well as neonatal intensive care and treatment of complications. If you are not feeling particularly monarchical, you can opt for the "normal" delivery, if medically viable, which starts from AED 12,500 and still have your own private room. Mediclinic Welcare Garhoud prices are similar, as the hospital is part of the same group. 

At the other end of the scale, there is Belhoul Specialty Hospital, where a straightforward hospital birth on a shared ward will set you back AED 6,000 (GBP 1,115). 

Various other options include the Canadian Specialist Hospital, starting at AED 10,800 for a "normal" birth and a shared room, up to AED 37,000 for a cesarean delivery and accommodation in the royal suite, and the American Hospital - starting from AED 11,950 for a normal delivery, Saudi German Hospital starts from AED 9,000.  

So far, so not as bad as it could be, you may be thinking, particularly when you compare it to the USA, for example, which can be pretty horrendous when it comes to childbirth costs according to this article.

Well, it is not quite as simple as that, as you also need to bear in mind the cost of all your antenatal care. Most hospitals offer a prenatal package which starts at either 12 weeks or around 25 weeks, and includes scans and various tests such as the dreaded glucose tolerance test (GTT) which detects gestational diabetes. They typically range from around AED 3,000-5,000 and more. But, you need to keep in mind that if your pregnancy is deemed in any way "complicated" there will likely be additional costs for treatment and extra tests on top of that. I never sat down and calculated how much my various tests and extra appointments for high blood pressure and blood sugar costs me, and frankly, I don't want to.

The potential for financial trickiness does not end once the baby has been delivered. One way new parents quickly get into financial strife in the UAE is if their baby is unexpectedly born prematurely. I have a friend whose baby was born seven weeks early, and she and her husband were presented with a bill for AED 40,000 for the cost of her son's stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Her health insurance company charmingly decided that premature birth was classified as a "birth defect" and initially refused to cough up, saying they don't cover birth defects. This is, of course, exactly what you want when your infant child's health is hanging in the balance - a battle over health insurance. After a lot of back and forth, the insurer eventually saw the error of their ways and agreed to cover 70 per cent of the costs. 

If there is any chance at all that your baby may be born prematurely (and I am fully aware of the fact that in the majority of cases, there is no way of knowing whether this will happen) you really need to do your homework as to how you are going to cover the cost of your child's care. First, is neonatal intensive care covered by your insurer? Ask them, then ask again, as I have often found I got different answers depending on who I spoke to at the provider. If it isn't, you need a backup plan, as stories like this one crop up all too regularly in the UAE press - families caught out by huge medical bills when their offspring unexpectedly arrive early, needing intensive care, and without adequate health insurance. If you're not insured and you haven't got a friend or relative who can bail you out, or, a sympathetic employer or bank to lend you the money, your only option is to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Finally, one thing that has really struck me about not just having a baby but healthcare in general in the UAE, is that people tend to set a lot of store by selecting their care by the individual doctor, rather than the hospital, although, being Dubai, things like valet parking and presidential suites are likely high on the agenda for many. 

For what it's worth, from my experience, aside from small hands, slim fingers and short fingernails (I don't need to go into details of reasons behind those particular requirements) a good ob/gyn needs to be able understand you and your cultural background when it comes to childbirth. Believe me, there are some wildly differing ideas out there about what women will want and expect from childbirth. 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hello i do not know how to contact you. i was wondering if you could share this guide on your blog:

    My name is Sandrine, mom of Lucia Maria, premature baby born 29w+4 that died of an IVH grade 4 on the 10th of November 2015. After 51 days in NICU (neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in Mediclinic city hospital in Dubai.

    Lucia was my first baby. And the pain of loosing her in such awful circumstances was more than I could bear. But the moms in NICU kept me going.

    What kept me going was the power to help other moms like me. Because the NICU world is the most frightening one you can enter as a new mom. You most likely had a C-section done as an emergency like me, you are not ready to have your baby, your hormones are crashing down, you cannot touch your baby, plus you need to pump every 3 hours and the lack of sleep doesn’t help.

    I made a promise to my daughter to make her little life count for something. To leave a print, a mark on the earth… and that’s where this guide I created with the help of amazing moms comes from. is the link to the blog where everybody can download the guide freely.

    It recapitulates everything a new mom entering an NICU should know:

    – what support groups you can contact here in Dubai

    – the common rules in NICU

    – what happens the first day you leave the hospital and come back at home alone without your baby that is still in NICU

    – what are all the machines surrounding your baby

    – the logistics of having a baby in NICU (insurance issues etc)

    – breastfeeding tips to inspirational quotes

    – What to do when you finally bring your preemie back home

    – A glossary about all the medical terms nurses and doctors use

    – How to cope, how to be a parent

    – And a success story of course

    This welcome guide was made from pain, tears, love and joy. Joy of getting to know amazing women that went through hell with me. That helped me grow as a woman, as a wife and as a mother. If I can still call myself that. And love from my caring husband and amazing family.

    This welcome guide needs to be shared to all the NICU moms you know. Please share the word: you are not alone.

    I hope My baby Lucia lives within this guide and can help has many moms as she can.

    With lots of love

    Sandrine Piedras

    1. Hi Sandrine
      Happy to host your info. This situation comes up quite a lot in the Dubai news - mums who give birth to premature babies and then discover their insurance isn't going to cover the quite frankly frightening medical bills. Good luck with your blog, DubaiSandWitch

  3. I liked your post, thanks for sharing this informative blog....

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