Picture this. Bonny babies with designer labels straight off the racks 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 natal care cells will cater to a niche clientele with wallets fat enough to splurge on childbirth. 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 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 bigger business opportunities. “Wipro alone accounts for 600 childbirths a year,” says a 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 birthing boutiques,” says Vishal Bali, president, Wockhardt Hospitals. “Today, women are concerned about three issues — time, convenience and safety,” he adds. “Fifty to 55 per cent of deliveries are caesarean, and they need full-fledged operating theatres,” says Dr R.P. Soonawala, head of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.
A birthing boutique needs 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 must ensure survival of the new-borns.”