Resources for pregnant women in Qatar

Pregnant in Qatar

If I ever pictured my pregnancy, I imagined myself surrounded by friends and family who diligently escorted me to ultrasounds and kept watch over my belly for 9 months.

In reality, no one from my family saw me pregnant, except via Skype. And that’s ok. Because although having a baby abroad can be a lonely experience, it can also give you space and time to focus on yourself and your partner in your last few months alone together.

However, being isolated means you have to be resourceful, so here’s a little listicle of some of the people, places and activities I used during my pregnancy in Qatar. To be honest, it was a blissful experience.

Barefoot beach walks

One of them more unattractive pregnancy ailments, swollen ankles or ‘cankles‘ are very common. I avoided this by barefoot walking every day, even in winter. If you live at The Pearl, Viva Bahriya or Qanat Quartier I suggest heading to the beach to walk on the sand. Yes, I was called a ‘radical hippie’ but that’s a small price to pay for lower limb circulation.

Aspire Active Pre Natal Classes

Think Swiss balls and stretching. The memory of these classes makes me actually wish I was pregnant again. My favourite was pilates with Agnes. I also liked yoga with Nisha. Being told to breathe deeply and relax while listening to calming music was the most heavenly way to spend an hour. I did classes after work and they would rid any muscle pains or headaches I’d picked up during the day. It’s a great way to meet other women and I used some of the exercises I learnt right up until my baby was born (like, literally in the hospital).

You can check out the Aspire Active schedule.

Feto Maternal Centre (FMC)

We were lucky enough to see the wonderful Professor Badreldeen at the Feto Maternal Centre, near Landmark Mall. He is a kind, smiley man who seems to love what he does. He is particularly specialized in multiple births and VBAC. His nurses are fantastic and visit you at home after the birth. If you decide to use this clinic, I suggest you get to know the names of the nurses and admin staff. You’ll see them once a month and, if you choose to use the peadiatrician after your baby is born, possibly for years to come

Doha Clinic

We used Doha Clinic for our delivery. A friend described it as “looking like it had been through a civil war 4 times”! No, it’s not as flashy as Al Ahli (where they have a VVIP ward!), but the care in the birthing ward was fantastic. They were very supportive of individual birth plans – they even have a Swiss ball you can use. That’s very progressive by Doha standards! All delivery rooms had their own bathroom.

Of course, there were downsides. There was no hot water in the ward room bathrooms, they don’t provide food or beds for husbands and parking is a nightmare. But we had a good experience nonetheless!

Natural childbirth education

Options for extensive childbirth education are quite slim in Qatar. In an attempt to inform ourselves of what was to come, we attended the Natural Childbirth Education Class hosted by Yama Yoga. One thing that was great about this course was that it really focused the role of the father in childbirth. So if your man’s a bit … daunted, this could be for you. It does, as the name suggests, promote birth with as little intervention as possible, so keep that in mind if you attend. Classes are held at Asas Towers in West Bay.

Doula

A doula is a woman who offers assistance during and after birth. She is not a midwife (in fact, midwives are not legal in Qatar). She is part teacher, part cheerleader, part confidante, part masseuse, complete lifesaver and entirely essential if you don’t have any family in Doha. The woman we used doesn’t practice anymore, but you can contact Denise and if she’s busy I’m sure she can recommend someone available. A doula is especially useful if you give birth in a hospital that doesn’t allow men in the delivery room, such as Hamad Hospital.

Maternity clothes

Like many things, good quality maternity clothes are hard to find in Doha. (This is when you really start to envy the girls who wear abeyas).

My go-to shop was H&M. They’re not always fully stocked but they have a nice range of dresses (great for work), t-shirts and nursing singlets. I found that the store in Villaggio had the best stash. Don’t forget to always check out the sales racks!

Any pregnant woman will tell you that with all their zips and buttons, pants are the enemy to a baby bump. Leggings are the way forward. I bought mine from Mothercare in City Center and wore them every weekend. Mothercare also have other maternity clothes but I thought they were too expensive – H&M have much more reasonable prices.

Bump belt car accessory

I knew a woman whose car was hit on Al Waab Street by someone who drove through a red light. She was pregnant at the time. The paramedics who attended the accident said that her unborn baby was only alive because she was wearing a ‘bump belt’. This is a harness that fastens to your car seat. It aims to remove some of the pressure that your seatbelt would put on your stomach in the event of a car accident.

I was gifted mine but I believe you can buy them from Mothercare. If they’re out of stock, try to order one online, or get a friend or family member to post one to you.

YouTube Yoga

For the days when I couldn’t leave the house to exercise, or whenever I was feeling low in energy (umm … every day?), I did prenatal yoga via Youtube. I followed the practices of Lauren Falconer, Director at The Lifepod in Sydney, Australia. Her voice is totally zen and her practice is so short and basic, a beginner carrying 15 extra kilos can do it!

Here are a few routines:

Enjoy your pregnancy and make the most of what Qatra has to offer: the culture respects mothers, the perpetual sun can give you plenty of vitamin D and you have access to possibly the world’s largest array of ‘mocktails’!

Image via Frank De Kliene

Driving in Qatar: Staying Sane

Staying sane

I’ve given my advice on how to get comfortable on the roads in Qatar (hint: practice!) in a previous blog post, but what should you do once you’re safely (ha!) in the saddle? How can you make it through the daily dash to work, the crawl to Carrefour or the Friday night fury?

Here are some of the ways I kept my sanity.

Stay home

Or at least stay home at night. A study led by Qatar University showed that most accidents happen between 6 and 9 pm. So while it sounds boring, do give a thought to the times you choose to be on the road.

Buy a Tomtom

I’ve waxed lyrical about my love of my Tomtom before. Please read and then buy one. Use it. Love it. Extol it. Do not drive without it.

Live close to work

I give this advice to everyone who asks me about where to live. I think it’s so essential. And I’m a walking (driving?) case study. When I first moved to Doha I lived about 10 minutes from work. I later moved to be about 45 minutes from work. My level of contentment with my life in Qatar dropped and my stress levels increased dramatically after the move. Living somewhere like The Pearl can be luxurious, but if it means driving a longer distance to work, I personally don’t think it’s worth the fear and fatigue.

Leave 30 minutes for every trip

Once you do venture out, even if it’s a short trip, allow yourself at least 30 minutes to get from A to B. You do not want to be in a rush on Doha’s roads. The minute you start to rush is the minute you get stuck behind a utility vehicle with a camel strapped to it. Slow down and give yourself plenty of time.

Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are my ultimate driving hack. Once I started loading them onto my iPod, my daily commute became so much more bearable. Some days it was even enjoyable and I’d find myself disappointed that it was over because my podcast episode hadn’t finished yet!

In the mornings I liked listening to something that got my mind ticking, almost like a warm-up for work. I’d listen to podcasts that covered current events or industry topics.

On the way home I went for humour. I found approaching Slope Roundabout with a big grin on my face made the dance with near-death so much easier.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Current events: Hack by Triple J

From war to weather, drugs and dating, there is no topic that Hack doesn’t cover. This show will make you ponder, blush and giggle all in the same episode. As an Australian I found it a great way to stay in touch with life back home and global current events (which is difficult to do in Qatar).

This is my favourite podcast. Ever. Valerie and Alison are both mentors of mine (unknowing, of course) and hearing them chat to each other is better than music to my ears. If you want to hear two intelligent, funny people spill the deets on their many years in the writing and publishing industries then listen into this. You will not be disappointed.

The intro is very tacky, even offensive, and hyperbole abounds (“Facebook has been around forever”; “The whole world has read this guy’s blog”) but Michael has some great guests who deliver truly accessible and valuable advice on not just social media but business and working life in general.

Smarter than they lead on, Hamish and Andy will have you cracking up, even while you’re being tail-gaited.

Take a Coffee

In a bid to feel ‘at home’ in the car, I found that taking a hot drink along for the ride to work (even in summer) upped my relaxation levels. I invested in a good-quality thermos and factored the prep time into my morning routine. What, with that podcast playing and coffee in hand, you might as well be in a cafe! Just make sure you keep 2 hands on the wheel when you’re driving.

And with that, I’ll leave you with 2 pieces of advice that some friends gave me when I first moved to Doha:

  1. Buy the biggest, safest car you can afford.
  2. There is never, ever a need to be in the fast lane.

I also found this handout from Texas A & M University to be really helpful.

 

If you want to read more about driving in Qatar check out my thoughts on drink driving (just don’t), and how to get comfortable when you first start driving.

Image via Kate Gardiner.

Reader Qn: Apartments

West Bay, Doha

Hi,

I have been approached regarding an opportunity to work on the upcoming metro tunnel that is going to be built in Doha for the World Cup.

I’ll be moving there alone, so could you please tell me about accommodation type, price and availability? Are there 1 or 2 year contracts?

Regards,

Reader

 

Hi Reader,

Accommodation options are varied. I would recommend living as close to your work as possible as traffic is a huge problem.

Apartments for 1 person are few and far between. Most are located in West Bay or the Pearl. The quality of these is great and most come with a nice view. Last I looked, apartments cost between QR6,000 and 11,000  per month, but prices are rising faster than a Land Cruiser up a road shoulder. A villa in a compound with small garden would cost 11,000 to 15,000. Ideally your company should be offering a generous accommodation allowance. If they’re not, I suggest you push for that.

Contracts are usually for a year, but sometimes landlords ask for a 2 year contract. Or you could ask for a 2-year contract, if you think the price is likely to go up after a year. Once you’ve settled on the contract time, you have to write out and hand over the amount of cheques for each month of your contract and give them to your real estate agent in advance. So, if your contract is for a year, you have to write out 12 cheques and hand them over.

Scary, huh? And tiresome. Make sure that when you’re signing your cheques you don’t get sore and lazy like I did so that your signature starts to drag. The cheque will bounce and you’ll have to go to your real estate agent’s head office to prove your identity. And you know it’s going to be hard to find, when you get there you won’t be able to find a park and then the agent will be out of the office. So take a writing break at around cheque 6, ok?

I hope this helps.

 

Image via Ignacia Gallego (modified for Pinterest).

Are you prepared for an accident in Qatar?

Medic Image

Ok, a disclaimer: The following blog is based on a medical emergency I witnessed. I will give my account of events but I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am not qualified to give medical advice.

On then…

There was an accident in the apartment building where I live. A man fell very badly and hit his head. There was blood; he went into shock. What happened next made me realise that most of us are very unprepared for an accident, and that’s not really good enough. I think in our home countries we would have faith in the system and just leave a medical emergency up to the ‘professionals’. But we’re not in our home countries, are we?

Luckily, this man (we’ll call him Hani), fell right in front of another guy, my mate Ben, who happened to be first-aid trained with current valid certification. Ben went straight over to Hani, slowed the blood, asked all the questions, calmed him down and directed the people around to get help.

Here were some of the problems encountered.

  • No one nearby had a phone to call an ambulance
  • The closest phone was at building reception, a few minutes’ walk away
  • People around weren’t really willing to help
  • Building security staff panicked somewhat, rushed to the scene but were obviously not trained for medical emergencies
  • No one knew where the building’s first aid bag was kept. Hani sat for nearly an hour with nothing but Ben’s t-shirt to plug the bleeding. No bandages. No ice. No gloves for Ben. Nothing.
  • Building staff were more concerned with taking names and photographs for an incident report than helping the patient. They seemed afraid (of the ramifications of the situation I assume, not of the blood).
  • Everyone who came in contact with Hani was generally stressed out, completely ignoring the fact that he was extremely afraid and needed to be kept calm
  • The ambulance took nearly an hour to arrive. On a Friday morning.
  • Hani was alone in Doha. He had arrived just 1 week before and knew no one. He was completely dependent on Ben to calm him down and tell him what was going on.
  • Hani spoke OK English but was much more comfortable speaking Arabic. No one around spoke Arabic.
  • Other than Ben (who, remember, was just a bystander), no one took charge of the situation. Communication was poor, actions lacked purpose. It was quite frightening.

So, for me, this accident begs the question of everyone living in Doha: do you know the emergency procedures for the tower/compound/building where you live?

  • Is anyone on staff trained in first aid?
  • Do you know if there is a first aid kit on site and where it is kept?
  • Do they have a defibrillator or similar in case of cardiac arrest?
  • If there is one, does anyone know how to use it?
  • Where is the first response team i.e. are you relying completely on an ambulance from Hamad Hospital or Red Crescent to come in case of an emergency?
  • Do you, your family and friends know the emergency phone number in Qatar? (It’s 999)

If your answer to these questions is “I don’t know”, it might be a good idea to find out and wouldn’t really require much effort on your part.

Should you help in a medical emergency?

This is something to definitely think about. If Hani had been a Muslim woman, there could have been a real problem. Ben would not have been able to help ‘her’. He could not have touched her. He might not even have been able to talk to her.

So if there’s an emergency, I’m screwed?

No, there are options. If you want to get qualified in first aid, Hamad International Training Center hold courses. The College of North Atlantic offers classes accredited by the American Heart Association. Dr Ahmed at Al Ahli holds small group infant first aid classes that cover CPR (ph: 66 87 3539). You could also ask your place of work to send in a trained professional to accredit interested staff.

I think everyone who lives in and visits Qatar should know that stepping in and helping someone in an emergency here comes with risks. Whether you choose to do so is not something I can advise about, but it’s something to think and maybe ask questions about so that you’re ready if you’re ever faced with the dilemma.

I don’t want to scare anyone, and I definitely don’t want to scare anyone away, but I think we should all take responsibility for our own health and safety and do our best to become as educated as possible.

 Image from here.

Newbie Tuesdays: Learning to drive in Qatar

Trucks in Doha

The driving conditions in Qatar are infamous, and rightly so. In fact, you are more likely to die in a vehicle accident in Qatar than from a stroke, according to a study published in 2014, which is the highest ratio in the world.

So, that’s scary. And made more so by the fact that many expats are used to driving on the left hand side of the road in compact cars. In Qatar, you drive on the right hand side, ideally in the biggest, safest car you can afford. Getting used to the new driving conditions and feeling confident took me about 3 months. I practiced a lot before I felt comfortable enough to share the road with all the texting, one-hand-driving speed addicts.

It’s daunting, and I’ve had many conversations with Doha newbies, especially women, asking for tips on how to just get started. So here’s the advice that I usually give.

BYO license

If you come from a country that has a reciprocal licence agreement with Qatar (e.g. United Kingdom, Australia), make sure you have a valid driver’s license BEFORE you move to Qatar. Even if you don’t drive in your home country, it’s highly likely you’ll want to drive in Doha. If you don’t have a valid driver’s license you’ll have to go through Qatar’s licensing process, which includes up to 15 hours of theory classes and 35 hours of driving lessons. And often driving lessons take place at about 5.30 am.

Yep. That’s a lot of early mornings.

Fridays are your friend

The best time to practice driving is early on a Friday morning. Many people are at the mosque and the roads are nearly deserted. Perfect.

Nail your routes

When you first start driving, practice the commute from your home to your workplace until you feel comfortable. This is your essential destination so you need to be able to get there without any drama. And back!

Shop around

The second destination you need to nail is your closest mall or supermarket. When I started driving, my closest mall was Villaggio. I must have driven that route on a dozen Friday mornings before I could take on a Saturday. 

Parking practice makes perfect

Practice parking! There’s nothing worse than being under pressure with a line of cars waiting for you to reverse into a parking spot, only for you to mess it up. Find an empty car park and practice parking from every angle. Lots.

When I moved to Doha I swapped my Australian Toyota Starlet for a Mitsubishi Pajero. There’s a big difference (pun intended) between the size of those cars so I found parking really difficult. So, I’d drive to work on a Friday and just practice parking all over the staff car park. Forwards, backwards, spots with sun shades, spots without. I wouldn’t say I ever got perfect at it but that’s the great thing about driving in Doha – close enough is good enough!

 

Image from here.

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