As a first-time mother, it's easy to think only as far as the birth. In fact, the really terrifying part starts when you leave hospital. There's breast-feeding to grapple with and the dreaded first bath. With no nurses to turn to and ask, yet again, how to change the nappy, it can be overwhelming.
Until recently, there has been little in the way of post-natal care in the UAE. Parents have had to rely mainly on the advice of friends and family to learn the ropes. And, once you are discharged from hospital, there are no routine checks of newborn babies or mothers carried out in the first days and weeks after birth (apart from the standard six-week check-up), unless you decide to go and see a doctor. All of that is changing, though. Not only is there a growing band of doulas on hand to offer support in the comfort of your own home, but community midwife services are also springing up in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, offering both clinic-based and at-home advice and education on everything from breast-feeding to infant health.
We look at the post-natal options for new parents. Help is now just a phone call away.
* La Leche League
This international support group, which is now in 65 countries, has been advising and educating women on the benefits of breast-feeding since the 1950s. The Abu Dhabi arm meets on the third Sunday of every month and covers everything from overcoming feeding difficulties to weaning.
* Corniche Hospital
This large maternity hospital has a well-staffed and friendly lactation centre, where breast-feeding mothers can come for help and advice. The clinic operates from 7.30am to 5pm Sunday to Thursday and from 7.30am to 2pm on Saturday. It also runs a drop-in service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm.
Call 02 672 4900 to make an appointment. Visit www.cornichehospital.ae for more information.
Though not medical professionals, doulas can provide vital post-natal support to new parents. As well as offering advice on breast-feeding, immunisations and paediatricians, they can also help out on a practical level. "The post-natal service is also about going to their homes and maybe making them some food," says Natalie Wells, a doula based in Abu Dhabi, "or taking the baby while they have a shower or get an hour's rest. We can also talk about any issues they have; just looking after them while they look after the baby, to give the mums and babies a really good start."
Call Natalie Wells on 050 580 8134 or go to www.doulababyabudhabi.com for more information.
Arab Euro Home Nursing is currently starting up the first community midwife service in the capital. Janice Al Najjar, a UK-trained midwife, is training up a team of midwives who will conduct home visits to new mothers, and do everything from weighing the baby and helping with breast-feeding to checking the physical and emotional well-being of the mother.
Call Jan on 050 993 6556 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
* Breast-feeding Q&A
This active support group includes a lactation consultant, a midwife, a doula, a breast-feeding counsellor and plenty of breast-feeding mums. Most of its activity is online, where the latest research on breast-feeding is shared through its Facebook page. It also organises regular discussion groups and can, on request, carry out antenatal breast-feeding workshops. It can also offer free advice by phone (050 470 5577) from 5.30pm to 9pm.
Find the group on Facebook (Breastfeeding Q&A UAE) or email email@example.com.
General post-natal care
* Health Bay Clinic
This well-established clinic on Al Wasl Road has an excellent post-natal service, including six UK-trained midwives who provide on-site care for new mothers and babies, and also conduct home visits. There is a well-baby clinic with two paediatricians that see babies from birth up to 18 months, and a baby massage service for babies age six weeks and up.
Call 04 348 7140 or go to www.healthbayclinic.com.
* Cooper Health Clinic
A smaller version of Health Bay, Cooper Health Clinic also offers a wide-ranging post-natal service, including a well-baby clinic, lactation consultant and baby massage service. There is also the buzzing Baby Café, which takes place on the first and third Sunday of each month, where pregnant women and mothers can drop in for free advice from midwives on breast-feeding and other topics.
Call 04 348 6344 or go to www.cooperhealthclinic.com for details.
* Deb Williams
The UK-trained midwife Williams works closely with Cooper Health Clinic, but also does home visits, where she can offer advice and education to new mothers on breast-feeding and infant care, as well as checking the well-being of the baby.
Call 055 925 8036 between 8am and 8pm.
* Cecile de Scally
De Scally, a midwife educator, does home and office visits where she helps to teach mothers about caring for their baby and about breastfeeding. Her main focus, though, is on sleep - and how to get it. "I believe in teaching them good habits," she says, "which teaches us about the baby's rhythm and routine, and then guiding them to sleep."
Call 055 588 6298.
As well as offering pre and post-natal advice and support to mothers, the trained doula Silvia Winkler-Hebnes is one of only three people in the UAE who offer a placenta encapsulation service. This involves drying and grinding the placenta and, using a traditional Chinese method, encapsulating it so that it can be taken as tablets and in ointments. Benefits include increased milk supply, reduced bleeding and pain and prevention of post-natal depression.
Go to www.my-doula.com.
To contact other doulas in Dubai go to www.doulasofdubai.com