Travel, lifestyle, family.

Having a baby in a pandemic: WWRC, Qatar.

10 February, 2021
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Hello after a long break!

As some of you might already know, back in December I’ve had my 3rd (oh dear!) child. Baby Alex, aka our “Covid Baby”, is doing great!

Since I am quite active on the birth-related Facebook groups in Qatar, it is clear to me that many ladies are anxious and confused about the prospect of giving birth in the middle of a pandemic. The situation is evolving rapidly and rules keep on changing.

In an attempt to make this journey a little bit less stressful for you, below you will find my experience and observations I made while preparing for delivery in Qatar’s Women Wellness & Research Center.

I. The referral.

Similar to my previous pregnancy, this time also I chose to do my checkups in a private clinic: with the one and only Dr. Naima, in Premium Naseem Al Rabeeh. It’s not that I have anything against Health Centers in Qatar. It’s more that I trust this particular doctor and grew very comfortable with her. I was happy to spend money on the level of care I received.

Around the time when I was 30 weeks pregnant, it was time to refer me to a hospital of my choice. Dr. Naima asked where I would like to deliver, and I chose WWRC, for a number of reasons:

level of care (if, God forbid, there is any emergency during a delivery, all private hospitals will send the patient to Hamad by default),

proximity to my house (WWRC is literally a 5min drive away from where we are staying),

charges (since it’s a public hospital, charges for a resident mom are minimal),

facilities (WWRC is very new, compared to other public hospitals in Qatar.

It needs to be pointed out that, given a choice, I would have loved to deliver again in Cuban Hospital (you can read about my previous experience in Cuban HERE), but unfortunately it has been assigned to deal with Covid-19 patients, so this option was off the table.

I got my referral letter, which I was supposed to email to rbms@hamad.qa, attaching copies of my QID and Health Card, along with my mobile number. Dr. Naima pointed out that I should send my email ASAP, since the waiting time for an appointment during this time is unreasonably long. And damn, was she right! I got a call back from Hamad approximately a week after emailing them, scheduling my first consultation for a month later. Moreover, it was supposed to be a phone consultation. Not a great situation to be in, considering that I was due to have a c-section literally 2 weeks later!

I asked Dr. Naima about this and she advised me to go to WWRC in person, on the day of my appointment, instead of waiting for the doctor to call me. This is exactly what I did.

II. The hospital appointments.

Overall, I went to WWRC three times before my delivery day:

First appointment.

The very same one that was supposed to be a phone consultation. You wouldn’t believe how many things I actually managed to get done just by showing up there! So during my first visit to WWRC the following happened:

  1. I went to the reception and got registered in their system (REMEMBER to bring your QID and Health Card, as well as hard copies of: your passport, your hubby’s passport and your hubby’s QID. I was initially refused registration because hubby’s passport copy was missing!).
  2. I renewed my Health Card (imagine how embarrassed I was upon being told that it’s expired! That was literally the first thing I should have checked before arriving! Luckily, there is a dedicated counter at the hospital for HC renewals. It costs QAR 100 and takes less than 5min).
  3. I went through triage (conveniently located right next to reception – weight, height, BP, etc etc).
  4. I had an actual appointment with the doctor (only 15min late compared to my scheduled phone appointment, I was quite happy with that!).
  5. I made an appointment with anesthesiologist. This appointment needs to take place 1 day before your scheduled delivery.
  6. I went to the lab to give blood samples.
  7. I went to admissions dept. to get admission confirmation.

Second appointment.

This was a follow up consultation with the doctor, one week before delivery date. Reception -> triage -> appointment. Simple and efficient ๐Ÿ™‚ No delay at all!

Third appointment.

Done the day before my scheduled c-section. At 8am I had a Covid test, followed by the anesthesia appointment 2 hours later. At 5pm the same day I arrived equipped with my bag, to be admitted before the surgery which was due next morning. Note: the room where you’ll stay overnight will most probably NOT be the same room where they’ll put you after delivery. For this reason I was specifically asked not to bring the baby bag yet – hubby was supposed to bring it the next day.

Hubby came with me for the admission, to have his visitors pass issued and help me settle in. Unfortunately, due to Covid, visiting rules are changed. There’s only 1 visitor allowed per person (children are strictly forbidden), and visiting hours are from 12pm until 8pm. This was the situation in the 1st week of December.

III. The delivery.

Preparation.

On the day of my delivery, I was ruthlessly woken up at 4:30am to prepare myself. I knew the drill from my previous delivery in Cuban: shower with an antiseptic, putting on a hospital gown, compressing stockings and having the IV attached to my hand (was not looking forward to that one!). If you’re new to the whole process, you need to remember that nobody will tell you exactly at what time your delivery will take place. The order of elective c-sections depends on how busy the OT is, whether any of the ladies go into spontaneous labor etc.

What was different in WWRC comparing to Cuban, is that in Cuban there were only 3 elective c-sections scheduled per day, while in WWRC the number was around 10 (!!). Also, in Cuban I was lucky to be the 1st patient for delivery on that particular day. In WWRC I turned out to be one of the last! So I waited in my room from 4:30am until 1:30pm, when nurses came and told me itโ€™s my turn now.

They rolled my bed to the 3rd floor, where the OTs are. There, I was left alone, behind a curtain, to wait for an undefined period of time, because the theater was not yet ready. This was, by far, the worst part of my experience there. Not only was I terribly anxious about what was about to happen, but also I felt SO uncomfortable lying on my back the whole time. I had no way to know how much time passed, but after what felt like an hour, when I started to think they have forgotten about me, someone finally came and rolled me into the theater.

Delivery.

I will save you all the gory details and make it short and sweet ๐Ÿ™‚ I was given spinal anesthesia, doctors and nurses introduced themselves, and within the next hour I met little Alex (who was incredibly upset to be removed from his peaceful surrounding, and came out sounding a bit like an angry cat :D).

After everything was done, they rolled me into an observation room, where I stayed for the next 2 hours, while baby Alex was close to me, under a watchful eye of a nurse. I was actually quite happy because nothing hurt (yet!) and I got to sleep undisturbed. This means a lot for a working mom with 2 small kids at home! ๐Ÿ˜‰

After the observation room I was moved to MICU (maternity intensive care unit) for further observation, because of some hiccups we faced during delivery. There, finally, my husband was allowed to visit and see the baby. By that time the anesthesia started to wear off and the nurses came running, offering me all kind of fun-sounding pain relief options. I chose morphine, not because the pain was unbearable (it was quite manageable actually), but because they told me it will make me feel sleepy and relaxed. And I’m all for sleeping & relaxing, obviously. ๐Ÿ˜‰

At around 11pm they finally discharged me from MICU and transferred to my actual room. It was a single room located on the 10th floor, with a panoramic view over West Bay, and made me feel like I was in a fancy-ass hotel. I asked a nurse later if all rooms are single. She said that they have some shared rooms, but they try not to book patients together, especially during the pandemic.

The stay.

Because of covid, c-section patients whose recovery is on track now get discharged after 48h (it used to be 72h before).

During my entire stay, nurses were available 24/7 – they were all super nice, and helped with all my requests (I did try to stop myself from calling them for every small thing). Most of the time I stayed there by myself (hubby dropped in for 2-3h a day) and managed just fine, thanks to the nurses. Doctors visited twice a day (if the doctor is male, they will warn you beforehand and give you time to cover yourself). Pediatricians passed by a couple of times to check on Alex, and he was rolled out for more specific tests once or twice.

I was also visited by a lactation consultant who checked if I needed any help with breastfeeding and gave me a whole bag of relevant reading material. It’s worth mentioning here that WWRC is VERY pro-breastfeeding. That means you will get lots of support, but also that using formula is being discouraged. To the point that they will refuse to provide it to you unless there is a medical issue involved (if you choose to feed your baby formula, you will need to bring your own supply).

After approx. 12h from the delivery, I was told to walk. Nurse was there to help me during my first casual painful stroll, after that I managed myself. I was advised to walk for 5-10min around the room, every hour.

Unlike in Cuban hospital, there is no specific time of discharge. I got out in the evening, after one final check from the doctor and establishing that all is fine with both me and the baby. They gave me my discharge papers to sign, baby book, and some more educational material. Hubby went to the pharmacy to get my prescribed meds and then to the cashier, to settle the bill. To our surprise, not only we weren’t asked to pay anything extra, but also they refunded QAR 300 from the deposit we paid during admission!

Then we collected our stuff, took the baby and left ๐Ÿ™‚

IV. Useful information.

Below are some tips & tricks I put together after analyzing my experience, in no particular order!

— Covid test is at 8am, but it doesn’t mean that the testing starts at that time. You can come a bit earlier and avoid the queues! I arrived at 7:40am and they took me right in.

— If you have a choice, go to lab early in the morning (before 9am is best) – you will usually find it empty.

— Parking situation in WWRC is a pain! Drive to where the rehabilitation center is – you will usually find some empty spots there.

— Ladies at the reception are the weak point of the WWRC system. If you have any question during your appointments – find a nurse and ask her. They are much more helpful, and much nicer too!

— Visiting hours start at noon, but we found that they are not that strict with the timing – hubby was able to enter as early as 11am.

— The place where your anesthesia appointment will happen (behind the lab) is pretty messy, arrive early to make sure you find your way around and won’t be late to your appointment.

— Don’t be surprised that they won’t offer to bath your baby (except right after birth) – it’s part of their covid protocol.

— Nappies will be provided, but better take your own because you will have to call a nurse every time your baby needs to be changed, and wait if all nurses are busy.

— If you value your sleep, you might want to bring in some earplugs for pre-delivery. When I was there, noisy construction works were happening in the building (including some serious drilling!).

***

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