Although a vast majority of Egyptian women give birth in hospitals, with many of them opting to have C-sections for non-medical reasons, there is currently a growing movement of women returning to the age-old tradition of giving birth at home. We spoke to Doula, Sumaya Holdijk, about what a home birth actually entails in Egypt to help you decide whether it is an option for you.
Is this your first pregnancy?
“I wouldn’t recommend homebirth for first time moms unless they are 100% sure, because if there is any stress or doubt then there is a higher chance of problems. Usually there is a higher risk for first-time pregnancies, with a 40% risk of something going wrong. But if a home birth is exactly what you want for your first pregnancy, then we will of course support you through that decision.”
Are you afraid of the pain of natural birth?
“A lot of women are going into hospitals and getting epidurals, and if there is this fear of the pain then for sure go for a hospital birth. But in Egypt many women are told by their families and the people around them, ‘oh you won’t be able to do it without the epidural, or a doctor, or medication. You are too weak to deal with the pain by yourself.’ Women have been giving birth naturally since the beginning of time, it is what our bodies are designed to do, so feel empowered knowing that you can do it, regardless of what people around you are saying. In countries like Norway the mother and baby death rate is much lower and they have far higher rates of home births.”
Are there likely to be complications?
“Doctors are amazing and completely necessary in emergencies. And c-sections have saved so many lives, so if complications are likely then definitely a hospital birth is the best choice. But if this isn’t the case, then hospitals might not be a good option for you as the worst thing for a pregnant women is distraction; noise, lighting, stress.
“For a home birth, the mid-wife has all of the basic tools to suture in case there is a tear. She is also able to give oxygen if there is anything wrong with the mom or the baby. We also set up a Plan B in case of emergency, ensuring that we are a maximum of 15 minutes away from the hospital.”
Will a home birth give you all the procedures you need?
“As soon as you arrive to the hospital a whole range of procedures start happening, such as regular vaginal checks and if your water breaks they will give you antibiotics and they may induce you.
“Many of these procedures are unnecessary and invasive and can create more problems. For example, your water breaking in hospital has the risk of infection due to all of the vaginal procedures that are undertaken, which then leads to you need the antibiotics.
“A home birth here in Egypt is far less medicalised. There is much less interference, the woman is pretty much left alone, and then we check up on her every once and a while with a stethoscope or a Doppler depending on the midwife, other than that we just have a clamp to clamp the umbilical cord.”
Do you have everything you need in your home?
“It is very simple, you don’t really need much. We bring everything, other than the birthing pool (if desired) and the oxygen tank, so very little preparation is needed.”
Do you feel empowered enough to decide on having a home birth?
“Many women feel the pressure to rely on a doctor, because we are taught to believe they are the authority, this takes away a lot of the power from the woman. Whereas in home births there is an agreement between the doulas and the midwives that unless anything goes wrong, the woman is in charge.
“Whether or not a woman decides on a home or hospital birth, as a Doula, I help to educate the women in my first few meetings with them; informing them so that they feel empowered enough to make their own decisions. And during the actual birth we act as their advocates, supporting them in whatever they need, making sure that they feel that they are in control. I also recommend birth preparation classes. They are full of information and practical skills which empower the women.”
You can find birth preparation classes in Cairo at the Osana Family Wellness Center, whether or not you are wanting to have a home birth or not. And for classes in Alexandria check out Mum’s Haven. The global AMANI organization also trains teachers in both Cairo and Alexandria to provide birthing classes specifically tailored for those wanting to give Natural Births.
If you are considering a home birth here in Egypt, the first step is to find a doula to advise you on the next steps.
Both Osana and Mum’s Haven offer high standard Doula services, so as soon as you and your partner feel comfortable you can contact these organizations, or contact one of the AMANI trained individuals and find a doula that fits your needs!