Two of my little ones just turned another year older. We don’t celebrate birthdays in our home but it does make you think.. where did that whole year go? I was reminiscing about my experiences at this time 5 and 3 years ago and I decided to do a birth story post! You aren’t a ‘mom blogger’ until you have one. Women just love hearing their birth stories. I had long conversations with my mom, aunts and even my grandmother when my first one was born talking about the excitement, the nervousness, and how it all happened. I loved writing a journal during my pregnancies and I love reading a birth story too but it can get long – like really long and also it’s quite personal. So I thought I could do a brief one with my three stories rolled into one, a quick recap my experience in the maternity hospital at Al Khor. Many people ask me about it as I had all my babies there , incidentally even in the very same delivery suite each of those times.
So here goes my experience in the delivery suite 1 of Al Khor Maternity.
Al Khor Hospital is part of the Hamad Medical Corporation network, the state-funded and state-of-the-art healthcare system of Qatar. It has excellent facilities and great credentials but it can be really overworked at times. The main maternity hospital of Qatar is The Women’s Hospital in Al Sadd however the other hospitals under HMC have their own maternity wings.
Why that far?
First thing people ask me is, living in Doha how did I end up there? Well, it all starts with the Primary Health Care Corporation. The PHCC has multiple health centers throughout Qatar who will take care of all your primary healthcare needs which includes pregnancy checkups well into the last trimester of most low risk pregnancies. Alhamdulillah, all of my three pregnancies were relatively clean cases and that’s were I had my visits and my center was in the Al-Daayen complex at Simaisma (a small town about 30km outside Doha, a short 20 minutes ride once you leave Doha through the expressway). And from here all referrals after 34 weeks of pregnancy go to Al-Khor hospital, that means your fortnightly appointments from 34 weeks and then the weekly ones after will be a drive of 60 km to the North of Doha.
The first time:
In my first pregnancy, it was a bit difficult making the long drive early in the morning so frequently, but we were used to that road as we had family living there so it was fine. My real concern as a first time mom was making the long drive when in labor. As a first timer I had all my theory in place but the practical matter of how labor feels was the problem. The assurance is this: It isn’t always a dramatic fast birth. Something intuitive and someone been-there-done-that can always help you figure it out well in time. More importantly, although you will follow up all the appointments in your assigned hospital you can walk in to any of them in case of real emergency. The reality was: I didn’t have to make the panicked drive trying to figure out what labor is for the first time. It ended up me going to my usual appointment at 41 weeks and having to be induced because of fetal distress!
Giving birth here in Qatar is quite unlike what I read about like in the articles off BabyCenter or the other parenting and birthing sites. Firstly there are not many options (if any) for midwives, water births and other non-conventional methods. If you are under the care of the HMC, you won’t even have the same doctor two times of all your visits and appointments. and lastly there are no written birth plans, at least when I delivered. I was never asked about how I would like my delivery to be if everything went well or not, in advance. But during the process, they do inform, weigh in the options for you and respect your choices. Nonetheless, I tried to convey my preferences well before, catching my breath in between contractions as I was getting admitted. The midwives and nurses always ask me if I am a medical professional when I am specifying. Once I tell them I am not, they just brush off my concerns asking me not to worry. But they are really really very cooperative. I was lucky that none of the days I was admitted it was super busy. So I had all the staff in a pretty relaxed and good mood.
The triage nurses and nurse midwives are the ones who see you first. A doctor checks you up and decides if you need to get admitted or not. Since I was at my weekly appointment and already a little overdue, (like my husband never fails to remind me ‘late for everything!’) a non-reassuring CTG later, the doctor decided to get the baby out. Thankfully, it seemed like I was already primed for labor so I responded well to the induction and it progressed fast (no fun with the induced contractions). One thing I managed to make it clear is that I don’t want an epidural. The nurses were offering me the option in the beginning. Towards the end, I was screaming for it but it was too late by then (thank god!) I had the noisy useless gas and air mask. Trust me, it doesn’t help with the pain but breathing through the noisy mask can work as a distraction, help you focus on your breathing and just be something to do! The hours passed in pain and close monitoring of the fetal heart rate. There was a point when the heart rate was dipping too fast, the whole staff was tensed and in a flurry, I was super confused and just wanted the baby to come out fine and the pain to end. An emergency cesarean was being discussed. A fetal scalp pH was attempted to make sure the baby has enough oxygen. It didn’t help that my little lady on the way was sporting a full head of hair! so they had to give up on that. MashaAllah, she braved on, the heart rate stabilized and a short time later I felt the warm bundle on my deflated belly and the precious first moments of skin-to-skin. It was priceless!
Take #2 and #3:
When I had my boys in subsequent deliveries, I was armed with the knowledge and experience of labor contractions, a reassurance that I am a relatively fast birther and an older baby (or babies) to keep me busy when labor started. I was 40+ again and tried my best to spend as much time as I could at home, trying to ignore the contractions until I could, potter around the house, finish up all the household tasks and generally stay more active than I had been in the weeks before. This is what my doctor had recommended and I totally agree with her. Unless there is some complication, you don’t need to rush. Staying home and staying active can help things get moving, not make you feel that you have been in labor for days and also to avoid the tempting epidural candy. Both the times my husband had to almost drag me out as he was freaked out with all the car birth stories he had heard. I wasn’t close to anything like that but he wouldn’t agree for delaying more. I ended up going at a very reasonable time on both the occasions and spent a good few hours in labor at the hospital. A male doctor was on the assigned duty that day and I had to request for a female doctor and they accommodated my request although that meant a little waiting (yes I was the ‘male-refusing’ patient which overworked lady obstetricians hope not to meet, but they are very cooperative and cater to this request whenever possible) Unlike my drama queen, the boys came out much calmly. One lesson learnt from these deliveries were. With #2 never push with a full bladder! and with #3 expect afterpains which may feel like labor all over again!
Post delivery Care:
Just like all the inpatient services at HMC hospitals, Al Khor hospital has an excellent post-partum ward. The shared wards are with 2 beds, well segregated and with all amenities. The food is not like all the typical hospital food people hate. As a foodie, I absolutely loved it. The nursing staff is excellent, kind and cooperative. No problems during the stay.
In addition, They have a team of lactation consultants who visit every patient and help out with the breastfeeding issues. You are briefed up about getting back in shape and advised to join the post partum classes by another consultant. All the newborns undergo the neonatal screening after 36 hours. You have the option to get the boys circumcised the next day. You can request for any special items you need for post delivery care like a sitz bath (highly recommended if you have those horrible episiotomy stitches), book your postpartum appointments, newborn appointments and likely leave within the next two days, or sometimes earlier if they are having a busy time.
Feel blessed to be in this country which provides such excellent care for all expats at a nominal fee. Good luck to all the moms nearing D-Day who are reading this!