One thing that is greatly different in Qatar to the UK is the healthcare system, especially in relation to pregnancy. From what friends and family have told me, in the UK you have maybe a handful of ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy and very rarely see a doctor unless necessary. It is a midwife that follows you throughout the pregnancy. In Qatar you will be seen by an Obstetrician at every appointment.
Here in Qatar there are two options for medical providers:
- You can use the local government care providers at the Hamad Medical Corporation Hospitals.
- If you have private medical insurance (which I believe most expats are offered this as part of their contract) then you can attend a private clinic or hospital.
The clear benefit for me of attending appointments and follow ups at a private health provider is that my husband is allowed to attend with me including having the opportunity to be present at the birth. This is something which is totally not permitted at HMC hospitals unless you go to the Cuban Hospital in Dukhan on the other side of the country (it’s just over an hour away from me however I’m sure that’s long enough when you are in the throws of labour).
With my first pregnancy then, we decided to go to Doha Clinic Hospital. I had previously had a minor surgery there and I felt the level of care provided was excellent, not to mention that my wait time was literally like a week (at home I had been waiting 9 months and wasn’t even booked in to see a surgeon). At my first appointment I saw my doctor (Dr Natalia, an OBGYN) who referred me for my previous surgery, I had a six week viability and dating scan and was asked to return at 12 weeks for my next ultrasound.
Government Healthcare Services
It was at this 12 week scan we discovered there was something wrong (you can read about this in my first blog post) and we were referred to the FMU at Hamad. While the services offered at the private hospitals and clinics is quite extensive, any specialist care required in Qatar is usually only covered at the HMC hospitals. The FMU at Hamad, for example, is the only hospital that can perform CVS or amniocentesis tests for a high risk pregnancy. The Women’s Hospital at Hamad also has an NICU for premature babies and babies that require special care. So with our angel baby we had no choice but to go to Hamad. If you do not have medical insurance coverage than Hamad is fine and in the case of an emergency you would be taken there anyway.
In February this year we were delighted to discover that we were indeed pregnant with our Rainbow baby! Again we decided to go to Doha Clinic. My doctor was just as delighted as we were with the news and explained that of course this time they would continue to monitor me very carefully. At DC I had been seeing Dr Natalia. She was excellent and very friendly. Many expats are often referred to her however she is not as busy as some of the other Arabic doctors, which is perfect for me because it means that I very rarely have to spend much more than 30 minutes waiting to be seen. Dr Natalia knew my history from my surgery and previous pregnancy and I felt like she knew my worries and concerns and therefore I was in safe hands.
Before I’d even had my six week scan, blood tests were taken to monitor my HCG levels. I was told that this would be a good indicator as to the viability of the pregnancy. First round and everything was fine! I then went on to have my six week scan. ‘Yes there is a heartbeat.’ Phew! it was a total relief. Every appointment so far my anxiety had been through the roof to the point where I was driving myself crazy (my other half has the patience of a saint) and to see that little tiny blip on the screen and the pulsating tiny spec that was the heart made everything seem so much better. Dr Natalia then said to come back at 12 weeks.
That was six weeks away….
It felt like a life time. I knew that my anxiety would not wait that long. What if the baby stopped growing and I didn’t know? What if I had a missed miscarriage? How will I know that it’s okay? These were the very real, very frightening thoughts that were constantly buzzing around in my head. To others I’m sure they don’t seem logical, but I’d wandered so carefree into my first pregnancy and came out so damaged on the other side I was really truly petrified this time round.
I decided I would pay for an ultrasound at another clinic as I knew my insurance would only cover necessary appointments and for them easing my own anxiety was not exactly a necessity. After googling different clinics online I came across the Feto Maternal Medical Centre. It is advertised as specialising in high risk pregnancies so of course I thought this would be perfect for me. They do handle straightforward pregnancies and also offer pediatric services in addition to fertility services, so I would really recommend them to anyone. I called and booked an appointment with Dr Naseem. I had no idea what to expect and at the time I wasn’t really fussed, I just wanted to check that our little rainbow was still glowing.
At my first appointment I was taken through to Dr Naseem. She is a pleasant lady and was very thorough in her questioning. She asked for a full breakdown of my background and health and the previous pregnancy and reassured us that the clinic is able to support women through high risk pregnancies such as those where the baby has been diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome like our previous pregnancy. She then performed an ultrasound and confirmed my dates (I was 8 or 9 weeks at this point I believe) and showed us that our tiny blip on the screen had grown into a little bean. It was incredible!
I hadn’t gone with the intention of moving over to another clinic, I just wanted an additional scan. However I was impressed by four things:
- Dr Naseem was very thorough in her questioning and explained a range of options that would be available to us if there were any complications with this pregnancy. I would not necessarily need to be referred to Hamad. I was unaware of this in the last pregnancy.
- Dr Naseem performed the ultrasound. She was the OBGYN and the person performing the ultrasound. There was no need for her to try and interpret the image etc which is what happens at Doha Clinic.
- The clinic offer antenatal classes. With many hospitals you have to go elsewhere for these. I like that everything is under one roof.
- The clinic was very well organised. staff call a day or so prior to your appointment as a reminder; you are given a small folder to keep all of your medical notes, appointment cards, test results etc together and you can call the reception if you have any queries and the nurses will often give you a call back.
From then on I continued all of my antenatal care at the Feto Maternal Centre with Dr Naseem. Both clinics are excellent but I just feel that for my needs and concerns FMC is a better choice. I will still deliver the baby at Doha Clinic (providing I make it there on time and there are no serious complications) but Dr Naseem will be my Doctor. As I continue with my pregnancy I will be sure to provide updates about my appointments at the clinic. I have met other mums-to-be who would highly recommend doctors from both clinics. At Doha Clinic, Dr Natalia and Dr Maha have excellent reviews (I know that Dr Maha has an incredibly busy schedule) and at Feto Maternal Centre Dr Naseem, Dr Badreldeen and Dr Zainab all have highly favourable recommendations. I was assigned to Dr Naseem by chance and I couldn’t be more satisfied with her care so would absolutely recommend her and hope to visit her again for future pregnancies.
There are lots of different clinics and doctors available and I would really recommend asking around first or even visiting a clinic before choosing one. If you go to one and you’re not happy, don’t be afraid to move somewhere else. There are various groups on Facebook where people share their experiences with different doctors, good and bad, and this will definitely help you to make a decision. One group that I am part of is the Positive Birth Group Doha, it is a closed group so you do have to send a request to join but you will find plenty of hospital and doctor recommendations on there. Doha Family has a useful page that you can access here with information about giving birth in Qatar.
Desert Mama xxx