ABU DHABI // Doctors at The City Hospital in Dubai usually deliver about four babies a day by caesarean section. Tomorrow they have at least seven booked. Why? Take a look at the calendar.
Tomorrow is the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year, the last time for almost a century when the day, month and year are identical.
Private hospitals say more mothers are opting to have C-sections or have birth induced on dates with significance and today is no exception, said Dr Elsa de Menezes, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the hospital.
"Oh, yes, at City we've definitely seen that, special days and special times. Depending on the people and where they come from, patients want to be induced on particular days," she said.
With about 250 deliveries a month at the hospital, between seven and 10 a day, Dr de Menezes started getting requests for December 12 births weeks in advance.
"This year, we already had bookings for inductions and caesareans. I'm just thankful there are not 13 months in a year."
Of the total number of deliveries at the hospital, almost 40 per cent are by C-section, many of which are planned, meaning there is a medical necessity.
Roel Amora's daughter Simone Therese was born on National Day this month, weighing in at 4.3kg.
"Having our baby on National Day was a special day for us," said Mr Amora, 36, a Filipino site engineer in Abu Dhabi. "And we have been talking about that [having a child tomorrow] with my sister because she is pregnant."
His sister, who lives in the Philippines, was considering the idea of choosing to give birth tomorrow but is scheduled to give birth on Sunday, he said.
In general, even if patients aim to give birth on certain dates, they will always act sensibly, said Dr Janaki Gopalan, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Welcare Hospital.
"Yes, we've had a couple of requests. But I think people are fairly sensible about it. Nobody tends to take any compromise regarding the safety of the baby. If the baby's safety is guaranteed, meaning, yes, a couple of days here or there makes no difference, then definitely, I've had a few requests asking me, 'could we schedule things down for the 12th'."
Despite the trend at private hospitals for elective C-sections, or requesting to have babies on certain days, it doesn't occur often at the foremost public maternity hospitals.
"We don't notice that at all," said Dr Paul Bosio, chief of service for the obstetrics and gynaecology department at Corniche Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
"Part of the reason is that we don't plan C-sections on holidays or weekends.
"So, if anyone was to ask for a C-section on a day of significance, most will be public holidays."
During these periods, the hospital operates with a skeleton staff, meaning only emergency cases and natural births are catered for.
C-sections are conducted in various circumstances, such as if the baby is arriving prematurely or is in the breech position, or if there is an infection or severe pre-eclampsia. The need for a C-section also increases depending on the number of children a woman is carrying.
Women who elect to have a C-section despite having a normal pregnancy should always be counselled to determine the reasoning behind their decision, doctors say.
For Christa McManemin, an American expatriate who has lived in the UAE for two years, the choice to induce her third and most recent child was to avoid a certain date.
After finding out her youngest daughter, Julia, was due to be induced on September 11, Mrs McManemin and her husband opted to bring the delivery forward.
"We did it to avoid a bad memory," she said.
Although more in favour of choosing a date after the 11th, the couple eventually settled on September 9.
Mrs McManemin said the private hospital was very accommodating to her request of delivering a healthy child at just under 39 weeks.
"My doctor said that as long as my body was showing signs of being ready [then it was fine]."
Choosing a date also eased pressure on the family, allowing them to prepare well in advance, she said.