Across the world, pregnancy is usually viewed with great eagerness. It’s a time of tremendous happiness – mums-to-be are doted on by their husbands and partners, never denied a craving (not even pickles with ice cream at 4 am), and accommodated everywhere they go. And while expectant mothers are always the most excited, advice from mothers and mothers-in-law is never far away.
But in India, things are slightly different. A common attitude toward pregnancy – more so in urban areas – is that pregnancy is akin to a physical ailment. While a pregnant woman can and surely does experience things like fatigue and morning sickness, there’s absolutely no reason for her to be kept in a protective ‘bubble’ of safety. While some degree of protectiveness is understandable, a healthy mother-to-be should be allowed (and encouraged!) to move about freely – both for her own good and for that of her baby.
In rural India, and in the lower parts of the socioeconomic spectrum, expectant mothers are not treated much differently from women who aren’t pregnant. They work right through term, often until entering labour. There have been cases of women delivering babies during the harvest and immediately resuming physical labour.
But among the educated middle and upper-middle classes of urban India, the concepts of pregnancy and delivery are slowly but surely being influenced by Western tradition. In developed nations, a healthy pregnant mother is expected not only to remain active throughout her pregnancy, but also to be medically diligent – this means regular scans and prenatal care. The father also plays a role that goes far beyond late-night trips to the kitchen or supermarket, and often includes attending prenatal yoga classes with the expectant mother, and being present during labour.
This is where The Birthplace comes into play. While most hospitals in the city deliver babies, The Birthplace goes above and beyond the basics, offering a holistic pregnancy and delivery regimen that stretches from pre-conception counselling to neonatal and post-delivery care – and they even advocate normal delivery. Having opened their doors in June 2013, The Birthplace has already become a familiar landmark on Road No. 2 in Banjara Hills.
I happened to be lucky enough to be invited to The Birthplace to speak with their impressive team of medical professionals – Dr. Pratibha Narayan, Dr. Nirmala, Dr. Sivaranjani, and Dr. Saroja. What struck me immediately upon entering the building is how The Birthplace has been designed to be as welcoming and relaxing as possible. This is not your typical hospital; in fact, it was like no hospital I’d ever seen.
Dr. Pratibha is The Birthplace’s senior gynaecologist, her experience respected by the many patients I witnessed queuing up for her advice and help. Her expertise, built over more than 15 years at leading hospitals in Mumbai and Hyderabad, means that her repertoire is vast. She excels in “managing and treating both routine and high-risk pregnancies, recurrent pregnancy losses, and infertility”. Completing the FOGSI training course on infertility and visiting the International Conference on Infertility as a delegate have only strengthened her capabilities.
Dr. Nirmala is a dedicated obstetrician and gynaecologist who served as a consultant in both fields at several leading hospitals, including Kamineni Hospitals and Surya Fertility and Maternity Home. She is trained in hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, and colposcopy; was an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at IGGMC, Nagpur; and presented papers at Gynaecon NOGS and the AICC RCOG Conference.
Paediatrician Dr. Sivaranjani comes to The Birthplace from JIPMER, Puducherry. Having worked as a senior lecturer of paediatrics at the Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology in Malaysia, and as a paediatric consultant at Apollo Hospitals, she now offers her vast experience to both new and experienced mothers dealing with common and unusual problems. An expert in paediatric procedures and emergencies, Dr. Sivaranjani is the author of “Baby & Child Care Solutions by a Specialist”.
The Birthplace says that their “obstetricians, nurses, and counsellors are leading experts in their respective fields, with years of experience and serious commitment to the right clinical protocols and processes”. That’s a bit of an understatement considering the kind of work they do, and how meticulously they do it.
For example, during my brief conversation with Dr. Saroja, I was introduced to the list of prenatal scans an expectant mother undergoes and why each is vital to ensure optimal foetal health. As well as being an MD in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr. Saroja is a foetal medicine expert certified by the Foetal Medicine Foundation in London; she has more than ten years of experience as an ob-gyn and foetal medical consultant with leading healthcare institutions across the country.
Dr. Saroja points out that an expectant mother undergoes her first scan between six to ten weeks into her pregnancy, to test for the viability of the foetus. At 11 to 13 weeks, the first trimester screening consists of nuchal translucency and biochemical tests that screen for Down syndrome and other chromosomal anomalies. At 20 to 22 weeks comes the target scan for anomalies (TIFFA), to determine the feasibility of the mother carrying her baby to term. The foetal ECHO and Doppler can detect heart-related structural anomalies and monitor the foetus’ heart rate, respectively, and several follow-ups ensure that all issues related to foetal structure are documented prior to delivery. What’s unique about the technology used at The Birthplace is that unlike 3D and 4D ultrasound machines, theirs presents a picture of your baby in human colour. It’s a far more special experience for the parents-to-be, especially if the foetus is in a good enough position for its face to show.
These tests and scans ensure that any structural defects are caught ahead of time. If the problem can be corrected using medical measures post-delivery, mothers are advised to continue with the pregnancy. For example, a hole in the heart is likely to close between the time it is detected and the time of delivery. But if not, it can be corrected once the baby is born.
These can be anxious times for a couple, regardless of whether the expectant mother is having her first child or her fifth, or whether or not her previous scans indicated optimal foetal health. The Birthplace recognises the daunting nature of these nine months. They have taken every step possible to put their patients at ease from the moment they enter until the moment they leave, whether they’re in for routine scans or for delivery. This includes, should the need arise or the patient desire it, everything required for a Caesarean procedure. The facility features fully-equipped operating theatres, round-the-clock anaesthesia, and quality nursing from professionals who are both technically competent and understanding of their roles as caregivers.
Another part of the experience which the team at The Birthplace deserves immense credit for is the plush accommodation. With just 25 rooms, this hospital bills itself as a “boutique facility”, and these rooms are surely more luxurious and comfortable than your average budget hotel. The deluxe suites, especially, are a sight. Impressive sofa-beds are perfect for fathers-to-be of all sizes, and the room is rounded off with a wardrobe, a dining area, and an impressive bathroom. The really nice touch here, however, is the complimentary bottle of bubbly (non-alcoholic, of course) offered to new parents. The normal rooms are quite similar, but without the champagne or a separate living area. All of them can be customised, however, with the expectant mother’s choice of music, photographs, and other touches of home and familiarity.
But all this is tangible – the rooms, the scans, the gourmet dining, and the plush lobby are all secondary to how well everything integrates. That sense of completion and ‘all-in-one’ is what makes The Birthplace the standout hospital of its kind. It’s the small touches, too – those which other hospitals lack – that round the package off as the best in the city. Some expectant mothers won’t mind sharing every moment with friends and family, while others prefer their privacy. The Birthplace lets mums-to-be set their own visiting hours. Keep yourself available around the clock, or limit 24x7 availability to your husband – whatever your desire, The Birthplace will be happy to accommodate you.
Another intangible that makes The Birthplace unique is their belief that mother and child should not be so cruelly parted after birth. You’ll find one of The Birthplace’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) units in each room. Equipped with warmers, incubators, phototherapy lights, and a mobile infant-warming blanket, it’s perfectly capable of monitoring newborns while they remain by their mothers’ sides. And an extension of this philosophy is that the father ought to be around to see his child, meaning The Birthplace allows dads to be around for delivery.
Don’t be fooled by the name – The Birthplace doesn’t limit itself to delivery. They also perform minimally-invasive gynaecological procedures, and offer neonatal and infant care, diet and nutrition counselling for expectant mothers, and Lamaze and yoga classes to help mums-to-be adjust to the demands and pregnancy and labour. Other services include childbirth education, emotional counselling, lactation counselling, postpartum counselling, and help that may be required prior to, during, and after pregnancy and birth (this also makes it a great way to meet other new parents).
I can’t put this any more bluntly – if you’re planning to have a baby, do so with The Birthplace. It’s the kind of concept that needs to reach as many eyes and ears as possible. To sweeten the deal, the price you’re quoted is the price you pay, even if the doctor asks you to stay another night or two. The Birthplace wants to make this experience “as comfortable and beautiful as we possibly can, so that you have memories you can cherish forever.” And cherish them you will. At The Birthplace, you won’t just deliver your baby – you’ll experience the beauty of pregnancy, birth and bonding with your child. And you’ll do it with a building full of people who care with every fibre of their being.