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What women want

Sangeeta Singh | April 09, 2005

How does it feel to get a copy of the footprint of your baby as soon as it is born? Great, isn't it? Well, this is just one small joy you will be offered if you give birth to your child at Delhi-based birthing centre, Cradle (they hate to be called a maternity centre or a hospital).

What more? You can open a bottle of champagne and have a quiet candlelit dinner, all of which will be organised by Cradle's staff if you book a suite to deliver your little one. But watch out; all these come at a price. For a suite will cost over Rs 100,000 and a room will cost more than Rs 50,000 for delivery.

Ratan Jalan, CEO, Apollo Health & Lifestyle, the franchiser for Cradle, claims that 165 babies have already been born at Cradle since it opened six months back, which makes an average of 20 babies per month.

Yet, others like Max Healthcare have started maternity packages between Rs 32,000-45,000 (depending on whether it is a normal delivery or a caesarean).

For this, the patient needs to register at the twelfth week of pregnancy, and every diagnosis, test and routine check-up done after that is included in the package. The centre also gives antenatal classes, which are open also to the patient's spouse, mother or mother-in-law. These include exercises, diet and video shows of how a baby is born.

And if you want to enjoy the spillover effects of celebrity, you can go to Mumbai's Breach Candy hospital, where film stars have their babies. But you will have to check their facilities out on your own. "As a policy we don't discuss the facilities and rates at Breach Candy so openly," Dr Prafulla Chitale says.

Back to Cradle and Max -- the centres have taken care that patients get minimum stress and maximum enjoyment from motherhood. At Cradle, all equipment and machines used during delivery are hidden so that the mother-to-be does not get paranoid.

"Even for monitoring machines like ECGs, we have a central control room," says Jalan Anas Wajid, manager, marketing, Max Healthcare says: "We want to give our patients, particularly first-time mothers, the feeling that making babies is a joyful occasion that should be celebrated."

The trend is that hospitals are making every effort for their centres to look beautiful, but at the same time have a homely atmosphere. Some of them have also deliberately picked locations in residential areas.

Take Dr Rakesh Sinha's BEAMS for Women located near Khar Gymkhana in Mumbai. The rooms are not numbered but have soothing names like Tranquility. And there are no less than 1,000 pots with plants and crotons spread all over, a rarity in Mumbai.

A super-specialist in laproscopy, Sinha deals with patients who have a history of fibroids or infertility and he uses modern techniques like vacuum deliveries, which causes less trauma. And while the doctor does his job in the operation theatre, his father takes their relatives to a small temple at the terrace, which he has himself got made.

BEAMS also prepares its patients in advance through audio-visual classes and lectures on options available like epidural anesthesia for painless births.

Patients, however, want much more than antenatal classes and good facilities. "Being a first-time mother, I used to go to my doctor loaded with myths and his patience was what made me decide in favour of having my baby at Dr Sudhir Naik's Shree Guru Maternity and Children's Maternity Home in Goregaon, Mumbai," says Meena-kshi Pai, a former MNC executive.

"What gave me further confidence was that his wife was a paediatrician and they lived right next door," adds Pai. She paid only Rs 10,000 for a normal delivery, which happened last year.

This is also the reason Pushpa Chandra of Delhi's Mayfair Garden is so popular, even among those who can afford the best facilities.

"When I met her, I felt that I would be safe in her hands," says Priti Verma, a patient with Dr Chandra. Though Chandra is also a consultant with Cradle, her own clinic is a crowd puller.

"I have been practicing for 27 years and started from home. Later, I bought the next building and made it into a maternity home," says Chandra. She admits that with the kind of style Cradle and Rockland have, she feels her hospital is primitive.

"But as long as it is hygienic, has a good set of resident doctors and the patients feel at home, I am okay," says Chandra.

Better communication with the doctor is what attracts the maximum patients. And for this, most hospitals have antenatal classes. Dr Sunita Verma, senior consultant (gynaecology) of Max Healthcare says that patients are given 20-25 minutes to sort out their confusions each time they visit the centre.

"And not just them, their partners could also have their queries answered either at antenatal classes or on one-on-one session," says she.

So, do they also allow the fathers-to-be in the labour room? "Frankly, we don't stop them, but we don't encourage it, simply because sometimes they become too nervous. We have also had instances of people forcing us to hurry up for astrological reasons," says Wajid.

But Cradle has no such issues. In fact, its concept of an all-in-one labour-delivery-recovery rooms serves that purpose too. So have infrastructure and facilities at maternity centres become more important to patients?

"Well, obstetric as a texture is different from the treatment of diseases. So taking them away from a general hospital makes a lot of sense," says Anupam Verma, director, administration, Hinduja Hospital.

He also indicates that Hinduja may get into maternity care but it will be at a different location, and things like environment, beautification etc will be given weightage.

But whether you are going to Breach Candy, Lilavati, Apollo or Cradle, Delhi, you should be ready to shell out Rs 50,000-plus. Clearly, making babies is not that light on your pockets.

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