$19,000: How much it costs to give birth in style in Singapore

SINGAPORE - $19,000.

That's how much it can cost to give birth in style in Singapore.

Forget your ordinary hospital treatment, this three-day package includes perks like private nurse service, an in-room mini bar, herbal chicken soup for the mother, a celebratory intimate dinner for the parents, a complimentary head massage and even a limousine service to chauffeur the family home.

Think that sounds luxurious?

The Tanglin Suite package at Gleneagles Hospital also includes a celebratory cocktail party for 10.

The New Paper on Sunday checked out birthing options here after news broke that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, will deliver her child at St Mary's Hospital in London - famously swish and also, as it happens, the hospital where the Duchess' husband Prince William was born.

The private maternity wing of this hospital requires a deposit of £6,800 or about S$13,000, just to book.

According to ABC News, the brochure from St Mary's stated that the suite comes with a comprehensive wine list.

But you don't have to be royalty to receive such royal treatment.

Gleneagles' Tanglin Suite package keeps the pampering going even after mothers leave the hospital.

Personalised attention will be paid to your every parenting need, including how to manage breastfeeding, exercises to get your lower body back into shape and even classes on how to care for your baby.

This package costs between $15,000 and $19,700, depending on whether the mother has a caesarean section or not. Gynaecologists say there is plenty of demand for luxury births.

Dr Ann Tan, a gynaecologist at Women and Fetal Centre at Paragon, explains that people are more willing to pay for personalised service and increased comfort  - especially for a special occasion like having a baby.

More Singaporeans asking for "alternative" birthing methods

Says Dr Tan: "For example, my patients who use suites in Mount Elizabeth like the extra space they can have there, as well as the 24-hour nurse who can attend to the mother."

Mount Elizabeth Hospital also offers its VIP Daffodil Suite guests some serious pampering that includes head and shoulder massages, cable television, a DVD player, lessons on taking care of the child and a dedicated midwife. It costs about $9,000 for a normal delivery and a three-day stay.

The National University Hospital (NUH) also has a very exclusive option.

Patients in its deluxe suite get to enjoy hairdressing services, complimentary shoe polishing, packing and unpacking services and even a romantic candlelit dinner for the parents to celebrate the birth of their child.

More Singaporeans asking for "alternative" birthing methods

Like the Duchess of Cambridge, who is opting for a natural birth without drugs, women here are increasingly opting for "alternative" birthing methods, say doctors.

Mums are asking for doulas or labour coaches who provide mental, emotional and sometimes physical support for the mothers. Hypnobirths and water births are also increasingly common.

Proponents of such methods list having a more natural and drug-free birth as benefits.

Another unconventional method is Waterbirthing, which involves the mother being immersed in body-temperature water, and giving birth with the help of a midwife or doula.

At NUH, there are facilities available for such a service, which will cost anything from an additional $321, on top of the regular charges. Mrs Jezreel Agilan, 29, a pre-school teacher, has two children, Adrianna, four, and Leonidas, three - both of whom were water-birthed.

In an interview with TNPS, Mrs Agilan says: "I loved it. The entire thing was drug-free and completely natural."

According to NUH, water-birthing reduces the need for epidurals and other pain-relieving drugs for some patients.

Mrs Agilan and her husband Joshua confess to being apprehensive initially and were worried that the baby would drown or be affected by the water.

But Mrs Agilan was against using any drugs at all. She opted for the method as she wanted her children to be born as naturally and healthily as possible.

Mrs Agilan adds: "Not only was it good for the child, this method also shortened my recovery time. In fact, three hours after the birth of my son, I was already well enough to be discharged from hospital.

"The experience was very empowering, as I was fully conscious, and could feel the child. I could just take cues from my own body, and push on my own rather than just take instructions from the doctor.

"My husband was there, and he was the one who caught the baby. He was the first one to touch our child and was even able to cut the umbilical cord. I was also completely conscious, and was able to hold my baby right there and then while the doctors performed checks on the child. It was a very special moment for us."

She adds: "My husband doesn't really smile much, but at that moment, I could just see him grinning from ear to ear." Housewife Christine Buyco-Sy, 34, also made use of an alternative birthing method - hypnobirth - to deliver her second child, one-year-old Ally.

She says she loved her experience.

"It would be utopic to say that the pain did not hurt. It was manageable. The deeper I went into hypnosis, the lesser the pain became but it took a lot of concentration. I remember coming out of my hypnotic state and immediately felt such intensity of pain that I shouted, 'The baby is coming out!' only to find out that I was only 7cm dilated.

"Although it helped with the pain, hypnobirthing for me was not just about dealing with labour pain. More meaningfully, it was about conditioning of the mind."

Hypnobirthing is a technique for the mother to be more relaxed during labour. It is also supposed to ease the pain during delivery. Mrs Buyco-Sy went to Parent Link, which provides classes for $495 per five sessions.

Mrs Buyco-Sy adds: "I loved that I was free - free from IV drip and monitoring machines, free to eat and drink anything I wanted and most importantly, free to move around. I was in every position I felt instinctively right. I wasn't addled by drugs or strapped down to anything."

Various delivery methods available in Singapore

Various methods of delivering a baby

Dr Lubna Harharah, specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre, helps explain the various methods of delivery.

Vaginal delivery

The mother will push the baby out, with help from contractions in the vaginal passage.

Propelled by the mother's effort and the force of her contractions, the baby makes his or her way through the birth canal.

After the baby is born, midwives will suction the amniotic fluid, blood and mucus from the baby's mouth and nose.

If the pregnancy and labour is normal, without complications, vaginal birth is safer than caesarean birth.

Pros

The benefits of a vaginal birth include less pain and less blood loss at the time of delivery, a shorter hospital stay, quicker recovery and less risk of compromising your fertility.

Cons

There is a slightly raised risk of injury to the vagina including drooping or shifting of the uterus and involuntary urination during coughing, laughing or carrying increased load.

But these risks can be minimised with post-pregnancy exercises.


Caesarean delivery

A caesarean delivery is a procedure where the baby is delivered through a cut in the mother's lower abdomen and uterus.

Pros

Can be planned in advance, hence reducing hassle and stress for expectant mothers, as women will feel more in control. Scheduled caesareans have a reduced risk of heavy bleeding after delivery, lower risk of birth trauma, decreased risk for shifting of the uterus and unwanted urine flow.

Cons

For the mother, it is major surgery and carries risk. There is increased chance of pain, lengthy recovery time, infections, injuries to the bladder or bowel, re-admissions to hospital, blood clots that can be fatal if the clot lodges in the lungs, tissue scarring that may reduce future fertility and side effects from anaesthesia.

After healing, the cut may leave a weak spot in the wall of the uterus. This could cause problems with an attempted vaginal birth later.

For the infant, a baby's lungs are usually filled with fluid before birth. When a baby is born vaginally, movement through the birth canal naturally squeezes the baby's chest and pushes the fluid out of the lungs.

During a caesarean section, the baby does not experience that pressure, so his or her lungs may still be wet after birth. The main risk for the baby is a mild respiratory difficulty called "transient tachypnea".

Water birth

Water birth

When the mother goes into full labour, she will enter a bathtub filled with water controlled at body temperature.

The National University Hospital offers water birthing here.

Once inside the tub, the baby's heartbeat will be monitored using a special device.

Proponents say that the water acts as a lubricant and may reduce the need for painkillers and other drugs.

Mothers may deliver the baby inside or outside the tub, or above the surface of the water. It is important to have appropriately skilled birth attendants.

Only women with a healthy pregnancy at term and free of complications should consider a water birth.

Pros

Warm water relaxes the muscles and encourages mental relaxation. This may improve blood flow to the uterus and giving one a sense of relaxation, leading to less painful contractions and shorter labour.

Some mothers believe that a water birth is a more natural and less stressful experience. Water provides natural buoyancy, which makes the mother feel lighter.

Water may also reduce vaginal tearing and may shorten the first stage of labour and reduce the need for anaesthesia.

Cons

During delivery, the pool may become contaminated by amniotic fluid, blood or faeces. This could lead to an increased risk of serious neonatal and/or postpartum infection.

The risk of the baby's umbilical cord snapping before it has been properly cut is also higher.

Some celebrities who have tried this include Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Connelly.


Hypnobirth

As the name suggests, this birthing method uses hypnosis and education to help the mother deal with labour pain.

Mothers are taught self-hypnosis and controlled breathing to achieve a more relaxing and satisfying method of birthing.

The technique is also supposed to reduce or remove the need to use artificial tools such as medicine or forceps to dilate the vagina.

There are no concrete pros and cons as it works hand in hand with the above delivery methods (excluding caesarean section). Some celebrities who have tried this include Jessica Alba and Angelina Jolie.

sueannc@sph.com.sg


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