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Healthcare in the UAE
From Cancer Screenings to Family Planning: Women’s Health in the UAE
For many women, gynecological care and related topics, such as contraception, pregnancy, sterilization, or even abortion, are very intimate issues. As such, it is all the more important to get informed about your options when living in the UAE — from available contraceptives to the legality of sex.
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- Personal recommendations are often a big help when it comes to finding the right gynecologist.
- Contraceptives are overall easily available, however, not all brands or types might be sold in the UAE.
- As a pregnancy serves as the ultimate proof of sexual relations, unmarried women can get into a lot of trouble if with child.
- Sterilization and abortions are illegal in the UAE; however, some exceptions do apply.
Gynecologists and Cancer Screenings: Better Safe than Sorry
When living abroad, you should not neglect your regular medical checks-ups, even if it can be a hassle to find a new doctor you trust and feel comfortable with when it comes to your gynecological care. There are a number of gynecologists across the Emirates, including many who speak English or other additional languages. As such, it is always a good idea to ask around for recommendations from colleagues and friends. You are also not limited by gender when it comes to your choice of doctor: there are no constraints in Islam prohibiting women from seeing a male gynecologist.
When getting to know your new doctor, you will surely also talk about regular check-ups and the options for cancer screenings. While there is no national cancer screening program for women in the UAE, those aged 40 or older, as well as women who are especially at risk (e.g. according to their family history), often opt for regular mammograms and ultrasounds in addition to the physical breast exam and Pap smear.
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Family Planning and Reproductive Health: From Contraception to Pregnancies
Can I Get the Pill or Other Contraceptives in the UAE?
Expat women, especially unmarried ones, may be tempted to stock up on contraceptives prior to moving to the UAE, out of a fear that they would not be able to get them once in the country. There’s no need to worry, though. While it is important not to forget that sexual relations out of wedlock are considered a crime in the UAE, you should not have any problems getting condoms, a coil (IUD), or the pill. After all, the latter is often also used to simply regulate the menstrual cycle.
In some of the emirates (e.g. Dubai), you do not even need a prescription and can buy your birth control over the counter. However, consulting your ob-gyn is still very much recommended, especially if you are switching medication. The latter might become necessary, as not all brands and types of contraceptives are necessarily available in the UAE. This is, for instance, the case for the NuvaRing.
Lastly, note that the so-called morning-after pill is banned in the Emirates, and the costs for contraceptives are typically not covered by basic insurance plans in the UAE.
Not for Everyone: Pregnancy in the UAE
Please be aware that you can get into trouble if you are pregnant in the UAE without being married, as extra-marital sex is illegal and a pregnancy the ultimate evidence. As such, you will be asked to show your marriage certificate at prenatal check-ups and especially when giving birth as well as sorting out your baby’s paperwork. So if you are planning on having a child but are not married, think twice about doing so in the UAE! In case of an accident, be prepared to plan your wedding quickly or leave the country altogether.
The Very Final Step: Sterilization and Abortion
This is also true if you are planning on getting sterilized or want to have an abortion. In the UAE, both are only permitted and legal under specific circumstances. While male sterilization is banned in general, tubal ligation or hysterectomies are possible in cases where a future pregnancy would seriously endanger the health of a woman. This may, for example, be due to a chronic disease or the danger a further C-section could pose to women who have already had three or more such operations and/or sever complications at previous births.
Similarly, abortions are also only permitted when considered medically necessary. Cases where the baby is evidently and without a doubt not going to be able to survive fall under this category, as do pregnancies where the mother’s life is seriously endangered. Emirati law states that a pregnancy termination due to a fetus’ non-chance of survival must take place within the first 120 days of the pregnancy, though.