Picture this. Bonny babies off the rack with designer labels in trendy boutiques: That is the future shape of hospital labour rooms for the bold and beautiful new-age mothers.
Christened “boutique birthing centres”, these new-age delivery cells will cater to a niche clientele with wallets fat enough to splurge of natal care. Healthcare majors like Wockhardt and Apollo Healthcare are taking the lead.
The trend, however, is not new. Apollo Hospitals came up with the idea of a “cradle” in Delhi three years ago, but subsequently had to close them down because of lack of patrons.
The “cradles” might be viable now given the jump in the number of working women in the metros, especially in cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, where the per capita take-home is much higher. “In this age of consumerism, it is but natural that people would want to be talked about. And giving birth to a child is something that people want to talk about,” says an official at the Max Healthcare, which runs “exclusive pre-natal and post-natal healthcare units in its Saket hospital.
The boutique birthing centres are fitted with special parlours known as Labour-Delivery Recovery (LDR) suites. These multi-purpose suites resemble plush hotel rooms — which can be converted into labour rooms and recuperating cells. The prices are steep. A three-day normal delivery costs anywhere between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
Healthcare giants smell better business opportunities. “Wipro alone accounts for 600 childbirths a year,” says a top source in Apollo Hospitals, which is setting up a new birthing centre in Bangalore. They hope to follow it up with 10 more in 10 Tier 1 cities.
Wockhardt has a birthing centre at its Bangalore facility. “It is a choice for empowered women, especially the working mother. Even older women going in for childbirth are opting for for birthing boutiques,” says Vishal Bali, President, Wockhardt Hospitals. “Today, women are concerned about three issues — time, convenience and safety,” he adds.
“Today, 50 to 55 per cent of all deliveries are caesarean, and they need full-fledged operating theatres,” says Dr R.P. Soonawala, head of the Institute of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.
A birthing boutique must have a “level-three” nursery next to it. Says Dr. Shubnum Singh from Delhi: “Nurseries are important, especially for premature deliveries. And it is not just equipment, quality staff ensure the survival of the new-borns.”