Oasis Magazine Articles

Babies in Cairo

By Sarah Blakemore

November 25, 2012
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Lots of people ask me about Olivia Page’s birth and being a mother in Cairo. Friends and family from home wonder about the quality of medical care available here for both mother and baby. The chaos of Cairo has many expats assuming that childbirth would be equally as disorganized, even unsanitary.

“Did you have her here?”  Expat woman asks me as I cuddle my three month old baby girl.

“Yes, at El Nada,” I say.

Expat woman looks horrified.

I smile politely and change the subject. My partner and I had made these same assumptions. We tried multiple ways to engineer a way for the birth of our daughter to take place in London or New York – our respective home towns. Despite careful planning and out-right scheming it became clear that the choice would be: have the baby in Cairo or be apart for her birth. As the second option was unthinkable, we decided to look in to having our baby in Cairo.

As it turned out I delivered a beautiful, healthy, amazing baby girl on August 12, 2012. The birth was smooth, the hospital was clean, and the doctors were great. All of our worries had been for nothing.

What are the facilities like?

I gave birth at El Nada Hospital. http://www.elnadahospital.com By Western standards, it is more of a birthing center with a NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] than a hospital. The entire hospital is dedicated to childbirth and childcare, rather than offering a wide range of services.

The hospital rooms are clean and range in size and extravagance from standard to executive suite. The standard rooms are clean, quiet and basic – a television and a small bathroom are the only amenities, besides a reasonably comfortable bed. The Executive suites have a bedroom, a sitting room and small kitchenettes. The other rooms fall in between these two, but all are clean and comfortable.

Insider tip: The food is edible and sanitary but, like hospital food all around the world, not very good. I recommend having your partner or friend bring you food. There is a small but modern looking supermarket across the street and a McDonalds next to the facility.

The hospital offers tours of the facilities, which I highly recommend.

Do the doctors and nurses speak English?

The doctors yes, the nurses very little.

Insider tip: If you do not speak some Arabic, bring a phrase book with you.

Are there emergency facilities?

What if something goes wrong? There is a modern, well equipped NICU at El Nada. There are doctors on call at all times.

Insider tip: If your baby goes in to the NICU, only the mother will be allowed to visit in order to keep the germ exposure to a minimum.

Will the doctors and nurses know how to care for my baby?

Yes. The doctors and the nurses are capable and friendly. The nurses are very good at the basic requirements of changing and bathing the babies. The care Olivia received was excellent.

Insider tip:  You will need to bring your own baby clothes as none will be provided for you. If you need something, there are baby stores and a pharmacy on the ground floor that have all of the necessities, including name brand items like Medela breast pumps, Chicco bottles and a small selection of clothes and toys.

Will I be able to hold my baby before they take her away to be cleaned and dressed?

Yes. You will need your doctor to direct the nurses not to take the baby immediately but it is not a problem. My baby was with me for half an hour before they took her to be bathed.

Will my baby be able to stay in my room?

Yes, unless there is a medical reason to leave him or her in the nursery. Also, you can have the baby with you some of the time and then send the baby to the nursery when you want to sleep, take a shower or just have some quiet time.

If your baby stays in your room the nurses will come and change his or her diaper every three hours. They will bathe your baby every day unless you instruct them otherwise.

Will someone be able to help me with nursing and the basics of newborn care?

Yes. You will be visited by a pediatrician every day or more at your request to monitor the health of your baby.

If you do not want your baby to have formula you will need to make sure that the nurses are aware of this. Your doctor can instruct them regarding this practice.

Will they make me have a C-section?

There are rumors that doctors will try to get you to have a C-section because it is more expensive. I cannot say enough to discourage this rumor. As with any medical procedure, you should discuss this possibility with your doctor long before the birth of your baby. I was adamantly against a C-section and my doctor respected my wishes. That being said, I ended up having a C-section due to complications. I was never pressured in any way. We got a second and third opinion before we made our choice, and it was always clear that it was our choice.

The surgery was handled professionally and I was very comfortable with the care I received.

What does it cost?

My entire hospital stay cost 14,000 LE - most of which was covered by my health insurance. I stayed in a junior suite and had a C-section. I also stayed three nights instead of two, despite my doctor medically discharging me after the second day. Your visit could be significantly less if you have a natural birth, stay in a standard room and leave after one or two days.

Insider tip: The accounting department is on the 4th floor.  If you call accounting someone will bring the bill to your room. Ask the staff for the number.

What should I bring to the hospital?

  • 2-3 baby outfits
  • Breast Pump (this will not be provided)
  • Bottles - if you want to start bottle feeding right away
  • Nightgown(s)
  • Towel(s) for bathing
  • Toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hairbrush and anything else you need to keep clean
  • Slippers
  • Reading material – especially any baby books that you might want to refer to.
  • Phone & charger
  • Clean clothes to wear home
  • Car seat for the new arrival

Insider tip: Bring your own post-partum sanitary pads. The hospital ones are really uncomfortable and unnecessarily large.

What about paperwork?

You will get a confirmation of birth from the hospital but not a birth certificate. You will need to go to a separate office to get a birth certificate. This MUST be done within 15 days of the birth or it can delay the process of getting your baby’s birth certificate – which you will need to get a passport.

Insider tip: Egyptians name their babies in the following manner; First name chosen by the parents, father’s name, grand father’s name, great grandfather’s name.  This means if you name your baby Jane and her father’s name is John, her grandfather’s name is Jack and great grandfather’s name is Gerald, your baby’s name on the birth certificate will be Jane John Jack Gerald.  When you go to the birth certificate office, take some small bills (20s) and someone who speaks Arabic fluently, preferably an Egyptian. This will help you get the correct name on the birth certificate.

A Cultural Note

Ear piercing for girls and circumcision for boys is performed as a matter of fact. If you do not want either of these services, make sure to tell your doctor. He or she will instruct the nurses.

A Final Word

Having a baby in Egypt was a wonderful experience. It was clean, well-organized and the although some things seem strange – like having to bring your own baby clothes – it is a much less fussy experience than in the United States or other Western countries.  Being left to my own devices, rather than constantly monitored or having to share a room with someone else, made the experience very pleasant. I would recommend having a baby in Cairo to anyone having a normal, non-high risk pregnancy.

There are 1 Comments

  1. Posted by Tosin Anifowoshe Nov 28, 2016

    Hello Sarah:
    Thanks for the wonderful post and details.Please, Who was your Doctor?

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