Being Pregnant at KAUST

By | April 15, 2013

UPDATE: Please read the updated version of this post, including information about the new on-campus service provider.

3-course meals for 2 at the IMC

Before we moved here, I remember scouring the internet to find info about having a baby in Saudi or at KAUST. I wanted to know if I would have options and if it was safe. I wanted to know if it would fit my philosophies and if I would look back and be happy that I had a kid here. I remember searching and finding pretty much nothing that would ease my fears or at least make me feel more informed. It wasn’t until I arrived here and started talking with new parents that I started to understand what it’s like. So, this blog post is for the former me… and for all the people out there that are searching like I was!

Being pregnant and having a baby at KAUST is like having a baby in the West. We have good, highly-trained medical professionals and safe facilities. My grandmother had a baby in India in the 1950s and before I moved here I wondered if there would be similarities. Let me be clear: my experience was nothing like hers.

Here are a few questions I had before we moved here, and some answers for you:

Is KAUST a good place to sart a family?
KAUST is a great place to start a family – and a lot of people are! There are currently 120-something women pregnant out of the approximately 5000 people who live at KAUST. Pregnant women are well supported – there is a clinic here on the compound where you can have most of your prenatal check-ups. There is a full-time OB (and she’s lovely!) and a 24-hour emergency room and ambulance.

How far is the nearest hospital? Is it any good?
As I said before, there is a clinic on the compound. This is good for check-ups, blood work, ultrasounds etc. Babys are not delivered here (except in the case of emergency) rather they are transferred by ambulance to the International Medical Center in Jeddah. The IMC is about 1.5 hours away (depending on traffic). This is a bit farther than I liked being from the hospital and I did worry about complications. The IMC is a very good hospital – it’s new, with good highly-trained doctors, and friendly, helpful nurses.

What is it like to deliver at the IMC?
I had mixed feelings. I always felt very safe, and in case of emergency, I’m sure they would have gotten me through just fine. They also had very good service – it was like staying in a 5-star hotel. I had my own room with a pull-out couch for my husband, and they brought us (both) extravagant 3-course meals. I had a normal delivery and it was standard to stay for two full days – I think you stay longer if there are complications/c-section. The nurses were helpful and everyone seemed to take excellent care of my baby. They didn’t give my baby a bottle, and took him away to the nursery for about 2-hours a day to get him checked by the pediatrician (I would have liked him to not be gone so long, though).

The downside for me was that, as crunchy granola kind of girl, I wanted to have a crunchy granola kind of birth. I would have liked to given birth in a tub with soft music and a doula by my side. There really aren’t options like this. I was only given the option to have a standard hospital birth – no tub, no doula, no soft music… heck, I didn’t even have a birthing ball (actually I brought my own, but the baby came so quickly I didn’t get a chance to use it!).

I did still have my heart set on a natural birth. I didn’t want an IV or drugs, or medical interventions. This was definitely a problem for the delivering doctor. She simply couldn’t understand why I didn’t want an epidural and seemed very concerned that I would want to put myself through “unnecessary pain”. I absolutely insisted on skipping the pain and induction meds, though I did give in and take some breaths of nitros oxide near the end. but the doctor did get her way and do some minor medical interventions which I told her I was really hoping not to have. In the end, she convinced me that they were “medically necessary” and I gave her permission… though I still have my doubts about how necessary they really were.

So, overall it was a good, safe experience. It just wasn’t the birth I’d gone for if I had been given more options.

What’s it like to be a new parent at KAUST?
There are tons of young families for a good reason – it’s a safe, easy place to raise kids. It’s hard to find organic foods and good quality baby products (the baby food is pure sugar and there aren’t really any options for green-diapering). There are a few mommy-groups which you can join, as well. Also, you can bring kids anywhere, which is a huge help.  KAUST is not well-equipped for feeding and diapering. Good luck finding a changing table in most buildings, and If you’re planning to breastfeed in public, I’d just be careful not to show too much (err.. any?) skin. I tend to bring a (pumped) bottle with me when I go out on compound or in Jeddah. That said, I understand that you can breastfeed in the women’s prayer rooms all over Jeddah.

On the subject of breastfeeding, Is there a La Leche League rep nearby?
Yes! La Leche League is an international nonprofit that helps support women who are breastfeeding. While there is not (yet!) a LLL group at KAUST, there is a rep and a group that meets in Jeddah. If you are struggling to breastfeed, you should really get in touch. For more info go to: http://www.llli.org/saudiarabia.html

 

…Well, with my mommy-brain those are the only questions I can think of for now. Do you have any questions about being/becoming a parent here? Post it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!

 

 

 

 

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  • Kristin Foulds

    Hi Claire,

    I’ll add a couple thoughts… I chose to see a Dr. in Jeddah at the IMC and went there for my routine checks from about 24 weeks on. I wanted to make sure that I had the Dr. I saw throughout my pregnancy deliver the baby. It is possible to do that, but there is a fee that you pay. For me it was totally worth it, my Dr. was absolutely wonderful he supported me fully on my choice to have no epidural or pain relief drugs and was very encouraging throughout my labor. My labor and delivery was exactly what I wanted. My Dr. also made sure that the baby stayed with me to nurse right away like I wanted and that my husband be allowed to go with the baby to the nursery, also like we wanted. He even brought us flowers the next day!

    My biggest complaint (like you said) is the need they seem to have in wanting to take the baby to the nursery. I wanted my baby to stay with me, or my husband the whole time. The nurses in the nursery are very sweet and wonderful with the babies though.

    On the whole though I flet like we were taken care of very well, and I am happy with how things went.

  • e11ie5

    in Cambridge you were only allowed one cold meals after giving birth … generally sandwiches … hot meals only for pregnant women … all sounds much better over there : ) hurry up and come over for a visit xx

  • Roxana

    Great post! I also had a baby here. You could add that they will send you to the hospital in an ambulance, and the ambulance takes less than 40 min to arrive to the hospital. Great delivery. Great service.

  • Agi

    Hi Claire,

    We are preparing our Hospital Bags and do not have much idea about what not to bring to the hospital. Would you kindly comment on the things they provide at IMC such as clothing for babies and mother. We asked about it at KMC but we have been told not to count on anything at IMC. Thank you

  • Hi Agi – The KMC seemed well stocked, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own comfort items. The KMC had plenty of hospital gowns, slippers, disposable undies etc for mom. The bathroom was also stocked with soaps, shampoos, toothbrush & toothpaste etc that you’d find at a hotel or on a plane. For baby, they had blankets for swaddling, and we supplied all his clothes, hats, mittens, etc. I found tons of hospital packing lists on the internet which helped me decide what to bring. I felt more comfortable in my own clothes than the gown, for instance.

    good luck on your delivery!

  • Great point! Our journey took 50 minutes in the Ambulance on a Friday afternoon. Presumably a Wednesday or Thursday evening could take much longer because of traffic though.

    I’m glad you had a good experience as well. Thanks for sharing here.

  • I remember reading that on your blog and feeling really sorry for the delivering moms who had just done some of the hardest work of their lives and had to settle for a cold sandwich afterwards! I’m pretty sure those hot meals were the last I’ve had, as Jordan has a knack for crying juuust as I sit down to eat my meals :-)

  • Oh, and we’ve just booked a trip back for the second half of May and would love to see you. I’m mildly terrified of traveling with a 4 month old… any and all advice welcome!

  • Hey Kristin — that’s a great point. I’ve heard of people doing this and being happy with that decision. We have a history of quite quick labors in my family so I skipped that option as I figured we’d be lucky if the doctor made to the hospital in time! In the end, we left here at 2pm and the baby was here by 6:30pm, so it was probably for the best :-)

    They would not allow my husband in the nursery and insisted on taking Jordan to the nursery for those long stretches of time, which I really hated. I’d peek through the glass of the nursery and keep an eye on him. (sidestory: my wandering the halls surprised the doctors and nurses to no end! I enjoyed this so much because the doctor had spent a good amount of effort trying to convince me how awful it would be without medicine, so I was quick to prove to her how well I was recovering just after giving birth!)

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience here. I hope it will be helpful to other women giving birth at the IMC. I can’t wait to meet little A!

  • Chebu

    Thanks for your info. I have just some questions though: my second child was literally born in 45 minutes. When a third child comes, how can I be on time in the Jeddah hospital? Can you buy Formula milk in Tamimi? When labour starts, where do you bring your other children?

  • Claire Sale

    Hi Chebu — I’m afraid I may not be of much help to you! Let me try to answer your questions one by one though:

    1. The hospital is 1.5 hours by normal car and at least 40 minutes (but this can vary *greatly* depending on time of day due to traffic) by ambulance from KAUST. You will need to talk with the OB about this to find a solution. I was also worried about a fast labor, as I have a family history of it. One option we considered (though did not do it) was to stay at a hotel near the hospital the week the baby was due. I do know that there are plans in place at the KMC if they think you may have the baby in the ambulance – they send extra doctors with you etc. Also, in case of a real emergency, there are facilities to give birth here at the KMC.

    2. My baby is exclusively breastfed so I don’t know anything about formula. I do see some in the aisle at Tamimi, but have no idea if it’s any good or not.

    3. I don’t know where you can take your other children when you go into labor. Perhaps you can ask a friend? As far as I know, the Saudi Oger nanny service does not take last minute bookings.

  • Chebu

    Thanks for your answers. My husband just returned from Jeddah today and it looks as if we are going to move to KAUST. He told me that last year around 550 babies were born at KAUST. That is how busy you are guys LOL. My boys are 4 years and 2 years old so it will be quite exciting for all of us.

  • oh! I don’t know if there were 550, that sounds high to me! There are only around 5000 people here :-)

    Congrats on the offer. I hope you have a great move and like it here as much as we do.

  • Chebu

    Hi Claire, me again..How is the general care for children? My oldest has some allergy issues. Should we just introduce to the family doctor? How many doctors are there? is it busy? what do you do when a child gets sick at night and you need to see the doctor? is there a night shift? Do they need any medical information from our doctor back home? Thanks in advance!

  • Hi again!

    There is a new medical provider coming to KAUST in October so I’m not sure I can answer all these questions too accurately without knowing too much about the plans. Let me try though:
    1. There is a clinic at KAUST with basic medical care… things like broken bones or surgeries get sent to Jeddah, and the minor stuff is handled here. There is both an emergency room service that operates 24 hours a day as well as a regular doctor service during working hours.
    2. Yes, the family doctor or pediatrician should be able to handle your allergy issues. Or they can refer you to a specialist in Jeddah.
    3. There are currently about 4 family doctors, 2 pediatricians, 1 ob (with extra after hours support), a dentist as well as numerous nurses and other visiting doctors like nutritionist, ophthalmologist etc that come every now and then.
    4. It’s not too busy. You can usually get an appointment for the next day.
    5. Bring your records from home — it can’t hurt!

    I think that something similar will be true for the new service provider, but I as I say, I don’t know too much about that.

  • Eva

    Hi Clare, do you know if there is a course for parents who expecting new baby at KMC or IMC? Thanks!

  • Hi Eva, there is not a full course like you can find elsewhere. There are sometimes sessions at the KMC that covers a topic like breastfeeding or labor in a one hour timeslot. They are very helpful, but I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that it’s all you need. I personally did a lot of research on the internet for this type of information, and can recommend the free course from baby center as a good starting point http://www.babycenter.com/childbirth-class.

    I am unaware of any course like this in Jeddah either. If you find one though, I’d love to hear about it!

    I’m currently training as a doula and am hopeful that one day I can also become a childbirth educator. I think this is a very important role. So, please keep me up to date of what you find out!

  • Gladys

    I gave birth in Germany and I had no food after myemergency CS. Maybe because it was CS and I just slept after the operation?

  • Craig LancasterMarr

    Hi,
    I arrived at KAUST a few weeks ago and my wife and baby son will join me soon. We have been rather surprised to discover that my wife is expecting our second child, due April 2014! It is highly likely that the delivery will be cesarian section as was the case with our son. Has anyone got any experience of this procedure whilst at KAUST? Any info would be of great help and comfort as my wife is understandably very concerned about giving birth outside of her home country.

  • Hi Craig,

    Congrats on your news! That’s very exciting, and please let me reassure you that you will be fine :-)

    First, I want to say that I have a lot of friends who have had babies here all with positive outcomes, and second I want to say that I am training to be a birth doula and have been making a lot of connections regarding birth at KAUST. So, I’m probably a pretty good person to ask.

    I don’t know your specific situation, but I would encourage you to read up about VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian). Just because you’ve had one c-section, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have another if you have a normal pregnancy. There are doctors here that do VBACs — this is of course your CHOICE

    If a c-section is necessary though, I think you should feel comfortable that you’re in a good place for such a procedure. It’s actually a lot more complicated to have a natural birth here! The doctors are very accustomed to lots of interventions, including c-sections.

    You will be able to choose which hospital you want to go to and the KAUST ambulance will take you to the hospital of your choice. I think by the time of your delivery most KAUST parents will be choosing to go to either Dr. Solimon Fakeeh Hospital or the International Medical Center. DSFH is the new provider here at KAUST.

    Hope this helps!

  • Zahrah

    Hi Claire
    I’m moving to kaust on Sunday to the Gardens! I’m sure I’ll bumble into u :)

    I just wanted to ask if u know of any agencies that can provide a nanny.
    The daycare seems unavailable till end of Oct. and Saudi Oger’s nannies are all booked as we’ll!

    I appreciate ur help!

    Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Zahrah, Welcome to KAUST! It’s a shame that the daycare and nanny service cannot help you. I recommend that you make a complaint with 959 about the nanny service, as I’ve heard others complaining about this recently as well!

    In the meantime, I suggest you post on the KAUST For Sale facebook group or the KAUST community facebook group and see if someone has a private maid that they can spare for a few hours a week. The links to these spaces can be found at http://kcomm.wikispaces.com/Online+Community+Groups.

    I don’t know info of any agencies that provide nannies. The ones that do will be hiring one from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Kenya (or somehwere else) and moving her here for full time work. You can find info about these agencies and get help moving a maid here by visiting gasc. Keep in mind though that this process will take between about 4 months and one year.

    Good luck and sorry to hear about this problem.

  • Chebu

    Hello Claire, me again. We are expecting our 3rd child in spring 2014. My husband is already at KAUST but I am waiting for a visum. Could you inform me about prenatal tests? Which tests are done at Kaust? Is there any testing for Down syndrom for example? (NIPT- testing) Thank you for your answer. We will arrive at Kaust probably in November.

  • There is a new hospital (Dr. Solimon Fakeeh Hospital) that just started providing services at KAUST and I am not totally sure the answer to these questions. For the old hospital (international medical center), all of your visits were done here at KAUST except for one 20-week scan for major abnormalities – this was done in Jeddah at the IMC. There is a scan machine here at kaust as well (though not as good as the one in jeddah). We opted not to get the down syndrome test but it was offered. I assume you’ll be able to get that through DSFH as well.

    Congrats on your baby :-)

  • And… feel free to email DSFH directly with questions! Patient-relation[at]kaust.edu.sa

  • Craig LancasterMarr

    Hi Claire and fellow Kaustanauts!

    As mentioned previously, I am British and my wife is Filipina. Our second baby is due in April. Can anyone advise on registering the birth, getting the documents translated from Arabic to English for applying for the baby pasport? Info pertinent to British citizens would be especially helpful! Looking at the birth date and the time these paperworks can take it looks like we might be spending the summer at KAUST!

  • Hi Craig,

    You need to get a “certificate of live birth” from the hospital (this is not a “birth certificate”). Then you take that to the KAUST government affairs office (GASC) and they send it to the government who issues you a birth certificate. Then they help you get that translated and to get the translation certified. From there, go to the British government website to find the docs you need to take to the consulate here in Jeddah. Budget 4 months for the whole process.

    It is VERY important to spellecheck EVERYTHING with your docs at every step of the way — even the stuff in arabic (so make friends with someone who speaks arabic, if you haven’t already!!) We know from experience that typos are a big mushkala and can cause major delays.

    I also shared your question with some folks on our private pregnant and new parents at KAUST facebook group the photo below has their responses.

    Hope this helps!

    Good luck and congrats on your bundle of joy. I’m training to be a doula now and am quite involved in the birth community here. Let me know if you have any other questions that you think I can help with!

    Claire

  • Kim

    Thanks for this info Claire! I’m very much the person you describe, coming to Jeddah looking for maternity info. Your other posts are great, too.

  • Thanks for your kind feedback Kim! I’m glad my posts have been helpful. Are you coming to KAUST or Jeddah? If Jeddah, check out https://www.facebook.com/Jeddahbirthservices too!

  • Tropical94

    Hi Claire:
    I am fairly new in KAUST and am three months pregnant. I deliver by C/sections and was looking for recommendations for good obstetricians ,preferably US trained and females. I am open to a male doctor if they are good and have the training.
    Thanks,

  • Hi Tropical94 –

    I have shared your question with the pregnant at kaust facebook group and will let you know what I hear back. I don’t have any experience with C-sections here, so am hoping to get some feedback from other moms that have had C-sections here in Jeddah.

    If you’d like, you can join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PregnantAtKaust/ (be sure to check your “others” folder in a few days as your request will be moderated by an admin).

    I’ll let you know here what I hear back!

  • Tropical94

    Thanks much, I will wait to hear from you what comes out.

  • Manola Moretti

    Hi Claire, again,
    the situation with daycare and nannies is really a shame as you said.
    I had to list my baby in the waiting list for daycare in KAUST, but if I don’t find a solution for my son, I really don’t know how to do…
    Do you know about any initiative inside KAUST campus such as tagesmutter (a mother staying at her home taking care of other’s babies)?
    Do you know if I can bring a person from my country of origin to take care of the baby (other than relatives) and eventually who to as to?

    Thank You a lot Claire!

    Manola

  • I got one reply. It was: “Hello Claire. Dr. Ihab Khalil from IMC is good. He delivered my baby when I had a C-section. He is UK trained. His clinic is very busy though. Note that IMC has a system whereby in order for you to have a specific doctor deliver you, then extra fees apply! For a consultant, it is 4000 SAR that are not covered by insurance.”

  • Hi Manola –

    If you want to bring in a nanny from a foreign country, you can probably do that. You need to talk to Government Affairs (GASC) and they can help you with that process.

    As for at-home daycare, all of these have been shut down as far as I know due to “health and safety concerns”.

    But, probably most importantly for you, the daycare situation has now been fixed as far as I know. They should now have space for all KAUST children in daycare. I suggest you try to call them again and ask for a space!

  • Manola Moretti

    Thank You Claire!

    By now they still have a huge waiting list for the daycare as far as I know…
    btw hope for you and your little dude everything is fine !!!!???

    Bests

    Manola

  • Are you sure? I am on the Community Advisory Committee and we were told recently that every child would have a space. I also got a call just a few days ago proactively inviting my son into daycare. So, I’m pretty sure this issue has been resolved. Have you tried to call and double check?

    If it’s not resolved, I will bring it up in our next committee meeting, so please let me know.

  • Tropical94

    Thanks for the info Claire, that’s quite a charge but if he is good, it maybe worth it.

  • You’re very welcome!

  • Amal

    Glad your experience went well!! Can you share the name of the doctor please?

  • Fadlun Nisa Agil Alatas

    Hi claire.do you know the hospital that recomend that husband or family can be at delivery room during the baby birth ???because i’m afraid to be alone without my husband or family while at delivery room?thanks alot

  • Yikes! I have never heard of a hospital that would not allow a husband or other family member to be by your side during birth! If your hospital will not allow it, I would seriously consider finding another provider, as having continuous support during labor is one of the best ways to have a positive birth experience.

    Both the IMC and DSFH allow one person to stay with you. If you want more than one person, they have to trade off (one at a time in the room). I think this is not really good enough (I believe you should be able to have all the support you need!) but at least it’s something.

    Hope this helps!

    Mashallah and good luck to you.

  • Fadlun Nisa Agil Alatas

    Thank you very much claire for your information

  • Sufiya

    Hi Claire,
    We are hoping on moving to KAUST in April and having a baby in May if everything goes according to plan. Am planning on a C section and wondering if I can get an appointment at such short notice with a reputed and experienced doctor at the IMC? Does KAUST cover the cost and also does KAUST have a paternity policy in place? Appreciate your input and your blog is of great help. Thank you.

  • Hi Sufiya – If you or your spouse are a KAUST employee you will have insurance which will pay for your delivery if a C-section is necessary. There are good doctors at both the IMC and DSFH which I recommend you interview ahead of your delivery. I think you’ll have better luck with DSFH at short notice and should ask to speak with the patient relations woman at the Kaust Medical Center as soon as you get here to arrange a conversation. Or you can email them ahead of your arrival at patient-relation[at]kaust[dot]edu[dot]sa

    As far as I know there is no paternity leave.

    Thanks for your kind words about my blog. I’m glad it’s helped you! Congrats on your baby and the big move!

  • Anna Shoko

    Hi! this is super dooper helpful, thank you so much! Just wondering, was your husband allowed in the room during the birth? I though i read in your blog earlier he wasnt but now i can’t find it!! :-) also, what were the “medical interventions” which you still thought were unnecessary?? I am a midwife, but also pregnant, (first baby) moving to KAUST in oct (due jan)…any advice about KAUST and birth and being a mum in saudi more than welcome!!! (a.n.n.a_s@hotmail.com)

  • Enas Mohammad Zuaiter

    Congratulations. Can we know the name of ur dr.

  • Chandri

    Hi! Your blog is very much worth reading. I just want to know if I can take my 5 year old kid with me while going to the hospital for delivery. As l am not able to bring my parents to take care of my kid when I am at hospital, it would helpful for me if you can suggest any other options available.

  • Hi Chandri – Please contact your OB or the KAUST Health Patient Relations team email address at patient-relations@kaust.edu.sa for a full explanation of hospital policy. Perhaps you have a friend who your child can stay with during that time? Or maybe you can hire a babysitter for this purpose? You can contact the Saudi Oger nanny service by calling 959.