Dh8,000 for 8 sessions: Why UAE mums hire doulas for childbirth despite high costs

As expats without extended family here, one-to-one support really helps in achieving natural birth, a doctor says

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Founders of the Doulas of Dubai Organisation. Photo: Supplied
Founders of the Doulas of Dubai Organisation. Photo: Supplied

Published: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 3:29 PM

After assisting one of her patients who was in labour for over 20 hours, doula Marie Diab got a heartfelt message from the patient’s husband who thanked her for her support and help throughout the process.

“Those are moments that make being a doula completely worth it,” she said. “When you take on a client, you are making a commitment. This lady was able to manage more than 20 hours without any pain medication and go completely natural as she wanted it to be. It felt incredibly rewarding to be part of that journey.”


The German expat is one of the increasing number of doulas in the UAE, who are hired by expectant mothers to coach and help them through the process of childbirth. For Marie, it was her own pregnancy journey that spurred her towards switching her career to becoming a doula. “In Germany, we have midwives who check on pregnant women after childbirth,” she said. “But here in the UAE, such kind of support is very limited and women go into childbirth in a very naïve manner. I wanted to be the support that I wished I had when I was pregnant.”

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Investment

The increasing demand for doulas has spurred many hospitals to allow them into birthing suites. Recently, Fakeeh University Hospital (FUH) became the first doula-friendly hospital in the country. Obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital, Dr. Jayacy Jayankar said she often encouraged women to invest in a doula.

“Childbirth is a once in a lifetime incident and sometimes, as expats without extended family here, you need that support,” she said. “Also, one to one support really helps in achieving natural birth.”

According to Dr. Jayacy, natural birth takes time and this can often be taxing for a young couple. Having a doula around can make a real difference. “It sometimes takes hours for birth to progress naturally and husbands especially don’t have the capacity to go through it,” she said. “The doulas mentally prepare both the mother and father about what to expect and how to go about the birthing process.”

Caridad Saenz is one of the founders of the Doulas of Dubai Organisation (DODO), which was set up by four women to regulate and give structure to doula service in the country. “We have seen a lot of interest in what doulas do — not just from birthing mothers but also from the medical healthcare providers,” she said. “As a matter of fact, doctors are recommending doulas to their patients.”

Cost and regulations

Marie revealed that doulas are an expensive affair. “Costs can range from Dh5,000 to Dh8,000 for anywhere between six to eight session,” she said. “In my case, I have three or four sessions before birth, each of three hours long where I teach the women about breathing techniques and different positions to make them more comfortable. I am also with them throughout the birth process and then have a follow up session where I help them with several issues such as breastfeeding, belly binding and baby wearing.”

Marie Diab. Photo: Supplied
Marie Diab. Photo: Supplied

Caridad worked with fellow doulas Britni, Shereen and Lala for over two years to bring the DODO together. “We wanted to establish a unified platform for doulas, with a shared set of standards and ethics,” she said. “We started taking membership applications in 2023 and we require our doulas to accept working with a code of ethics and conduct as well as adhere to some guidelines.”

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