birth of a baby is an event and needs to be made special. Today’s women are more forward, often economically independent, have more choices and can afford to spend lavishly on healthcare facilities. And the hospitals in India are waking up to this fact and have identified a section of people willing to splurge and have cashed in on this. What’s more, not only the upcoming hospitals and the existing ones have started adding designer ‘birthing suites’.
In a country where maternity is the second largest reason for hospitalizations, believe it or not according to a report (Healthcare in India, 2002), Indian hospitals get about 54.5 million would-be mothers a year. In this Rs 6,000-crore market, over Rs 2,500 crore comes from the affluent classes.
The market is expected to grow to Rs 11,000 crore, with the upper crust contributing over Rs 6,400 crore, by 2012. In a city like Bangalore, more than 400 babies are said to be born every day. Now that makes a perfect business sense. Birthing suites, also known as labour, delivery and recovery, post partum (LDRP) rooms, merge the concept of a luxury suite with a delivery room.
Doctors believe that birthing suites can reduce the stress associated with pregnancy. According to Dr Gupta, consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Lucknow, the benefits of a birthing suite are diverse, “Since there are no transfers, infection level is minimal. Also, these suites encourage natural childbirth as there are consultants monitoring every stage of delivery. These suites encourage the father to be an active participant in the birth of the child.”
TO PAMPER MOTHER
• The birthing suite at Bangalore-based Manipal Hospital, introduced in 2003, boasts of a baby warmer, cradle, television, telephone, a VCD player, apart from a non-stress test machine for foetal monitoring and an imported high-end delivery bed. In addition to the comforts and luxury of brightly-lit interiors, upholstered furniture, high-end television, paintings, fancy bathrooms with jacuzzi.The equipment and other instruments required for monitoring the patient lie concealed within the cupboards and the shelves. Once labour starts, the equipment comes out of the closet and the bed is converted to a proper delivery bed, converting the suite into a conventional delivery room.
• Luxury begins at home if you’re checking in at The Cradle — the birthing centre at Apollo, Bangalore, which has 24 suites. Enjoy the comfort of a Mercedes Benz that’ll pick you up to take you to the hospital according to the hospital sources. To add more, if a mother wants the Gayatri mantra to be played during the labour process the doctors ensure it’s done. Other facilities at The Cradle include specially-designed low wash basins in the bathroom to give the baby a bath, plasma TV, CD players, reclining beds and baby warmers. Besides, there are fitness consultants and aerobic classes before and after the delivery for the mother. Also there is medical counselling to deal with post-partum blues and sessions with the dieticians.
• The two birthing suites at Mumbai’s Hiranandani Hospital have the standard LDR suite amenities and also a whirlpool tub inside the bathroom for the mother to soak in warm water to ease the labour pain. The equipment and other medical instruments are concealed in built-in cupboards. In a birthing suite, not only does the patient deliver the baby in the suite itself, the baby is kept with the mother in the cradle and not in a separate nursery.
It is these comforts and services that draw people to birthing suites. "In a large hospital, I would have had to run across departments. Here, it was all happening in one place and I felt secure knowing our doctor was completely focused on my wife’s and child’s well-being," says Ashok, a father whose baby was delivered at The Cradle, Bangalore.
Facilities extend from antenatal classes to paediatric care for the child’s first five years. For instance a first-time mother Kiran, who did not have any family to help her,. “The dedicated nurse for my room helped me with everything, right from showing me how to bathe my baby to how to calm her down,” she says.
“It was not just comfortable, they made me feel very special,” recalls Aarti of Delhi, who delivered her baby at La Femme last year.
“Childbirth is probably the only time you go to a hospital feeling happy and come out celebrating,” says Sujata, who has decided against having her baby in a general hospital just to stay away from the typical ‘hospital smell’.
Novelty, of course, comes at a price. If neighbourhood maternity homes charge about Rs 20,000, birthing suites can cost anything between Rs 45,000 and Rs 2 lakh. On an average, hospitals spend over Rs 20 lakh on a birthing suite.
• In Fortis La Femme hospital, Gurgaon, there are four LDRs complete with all the luxurious facilities, including personal attendants, private seating area for the family and personalised diets, and they come at a price ranging from Rs 45,000 to Rs 2 lakhs depending on the amenities.
• The Nest has 13 LDR suites priced at Rs 60,000(3 days) in case of normal delivery and Rs 65,000(5 days) in case of C-section. Each suite has a theme based on the four seasons of the year. Along with that a nine-month TLC (tender loving care) package that comes for Rs 7,000 (gynaecological and paediatric consultations, routine lab tests, ultrasounds, Lamaze classes, antenatal counselling, neonatal screening, baby’s diapers and clothing, etc). A maternity bill at a corporate hospital can range between Rs 35,000 and Rs 1 lakh, depending on the services.
• The Cradle — the birthing centre at Apollo, Bangalore, which has 24 suites, the total package costs Rs 45,000 and an added 10 per cent in case of Caesarean section.
• The Columbia Asia, which opened its doors in July 2008 in Calcutta, has one LDR suite. The room comes with a remote-controlled bed, which converts into a reclining chair at the time of delivery, a baby warmer where the baby is kept soon after delivery, a kitchenette and a separate enclosure for the family. The cost of the birthing suite is Rs 50,000 for 3 nights, inclusive of hospital fee, room charges and doctors’ fees. You’d pay about Rs 7,500 less if you opt for a regular room in the hospital.
• Bangalore based Mallya Hospital is another hospital to have introduced birthing suites. Normal labour rooms charge around Rs 20,000 for a normal delivery and around Rs 50,000 for a caesarean. The birthing suites charges around Rs 30,000 for a normal delivery while for a caesarean it is around Rs 45,000.
This concept is inspired from hospitals in the West, mainly from the UK and the US. In the UK there is a service known as the ‘home from home service’ for low-risk patients. There the rooms are done up in a way to make the patient feel as if she is in a ‘home away from home’. Midwives (nurses) attend to the patient 24x7.
Well, the boom in information technology, along with the mushrooming of corporates, has given this concept a boost. An increase in income level, the standard of living and increased coverage of insurance also help.
Most birthing centres have tie-ups with corporates and insurance companies. Employees who are covered by a comprehensive insurance policy by their employers don't have to worry about settling their bills. But in these times of belt tightening, companies might just start frowning on these extravagant birthing suites and start taking a closer look at the maternity benefits offered to employees.
So, if money is no restraint, go ahead and pamper your child. Your unborn also deserves a luxurious treatment.