Most of us mamas still rely on the amazing NHS for pregnancy and birth, perhaps adding in NCT, but there are private maternity care options open as discrete options throughout your pregnancy and birth
Words Alice Whitehead
To celebrate the birth of her first born in March, 35-year-old Kensington mum Monique Thomson enjoyed a Champagne high tea in her hospital bed complete with scones, cheesecake and dainty sandwiches.
“I was breastfeeding my new baby Charlotte while enjoying brie and cranberry and smoked salmon sandwiches,” says Monique. “It was like a five star hotel, not a hospital.”
Indeed, Monique describes her departure from her private room at the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington – where the royal babies of The Duchess of Cambridge were delivered – as a ‘checkout’ rather than a ‘discharge’, and says the whole consultant-led experience was incredibly positive.
With one-to-one and group antenatal classes (where you can meet the staff that will be with you during labour), the Lindo Wing also offers private rooms from £5,650, with satellite television, wifi, fridges and room service, and a comprehensive wine list so new parents can wet the baby’s head.
“Nothing was too much trouble,” says Monique. “All the staff took time to chat to me and care for me, and when my family visited they even asked if they’d like a cup of tea with cookies too.”
Monique isn’t alone in her decision to go private. In London there has been a three-fold rise in the number of prospective parents turning to private maternity care to nurture them through one of the most important experiences of their lives. The Westminster Maternity Suite at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS hospital, for example, offers 18 ensuite rooms, from £3,935, with consultant-led care and the option to have a home birth, as well as birthing pools and a relaxation garden.
And at the Kensington Wing at Chelsea & Westminster NHS hospital in Fulham, packages start from £5,665, with options for postnatal physiotherapy and specialist breastfeeding support.“Families have trusted us for generations at this special time,” says Tracey How, head of operations at Imperial Private Healthcare, which runs the consultant and midwife-led Lindo Wing and Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital. “From world class consultants and specially selected midwives to elegant surroundings and delicious menus, we want everything to be comforting, relaxing and reassuring.”
But even before the baby is born, it’s possible to opt for first class care with private scans from as early as seven weeks, which is great for mums who are worried in those crucial early months – the NHS
only carries out scans from 12 weeks unless there are complications you know about.
Amanda Ivanovitch, 42, a company director from Wimbledon, paid £150 for a ultrasound scan at the Women’s Ultrasound Centre at Nuada Medical, one of many private scan clinics on Harley Street. She says it was “worth every penny”.
“After 10 rounds of IVF, it gave me great peace of mind to go to a friendly face with my latest pregnancy,” says Amanda.
Private scan clinics also offer same day appointments and weekend and evening appointments to fit busy schedules; and partners and family can attend too.”
It was a comforting experience for 33-year-old Natalie Harrington too, when she gave birth to her son Aubrey at the UK’s only fully private maternity hospital, The Portland. Delivering more than 1,600 babies every year, it offers consultant and midwife-led packages and is the only private maternity unit in London that has an on-site Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
The midwife package, which can be accessed at 10, 20 or 30 weeks’ pregnancy, includes antenatal appointments, scans, blood tests, delivery and the first 24-hours postnatal care, says Michaela Paul, maternity services advisor. “We are proud of the clinical care we offer,” she says. “Having had my own baby at the hospital, I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
Finding a private midwife
Another important concern for mums-to-be is continuity of care, and whether they give birth in a private hospital or in the comfort of their own home, a medically trained midwife can be a reassuring presence.
Unlike NHS midwives who can be forced to juggle a caseload of up to 100 women, private midwifes have only one or two clients and can be on call 24/7. They will meet with mums at the start of the pregnancy, attend labour and give six weeks post-natal care.
For 39-year-old West Greenwich mum Aimee Peters, who works in marketing for a global bank, using a private midwife through Neighbourhood Midwives, which covers London, Kent and Southampton, relieved the pressure of a difficult pregnancy.
“We moved house three times when I was 15 weeks and I felt increasingly nervous, but Neighbourhood Midwife Tina Perridge was incredible,” says Aimee. “Because of the many discussions we’d had she knew exactly what I wanted and gave me so much strength.
This was a massive factor in my own ability to get on with the task and not be afraid.” While Aimee paid around £4,000 for her midwife, a range of packages is available from Neighbourhood Midwives, with additional postnatal care starting at £850.
Annabel Athill, co-founder of Kensington Midwives, quotes studies that show how support throughout labour from the same person helps build confidence and reduces anxiety. “Anxiety leads to the release of adrenaline, which is very counter-productive in labour,” says Annabel, whose packages start from £2,000. “Which is why we offer extras such as massage and hypnobirthing .”
What do doulas do?
This need for a familiar face, or in situations where the family can’t provide support, has led many women to opt for a doula. “A doula does not advise from a medical perspective but is there to help prospective parents make informed decisions and provide continuous support through pregnancy, labour, birth, and for one or two home visits afterwards,” says Katie Fox, a Doula UK recognised birth doula and hypnobirthing practitioner. “Studies have shown that a birth memory can remain with us for life, so a positive experience is always sought after.”
The not-for-profit association of doulas, Doula UK (doula.org.uk), is a good place to start and all members adhere to a strict code of practice, complete approved training and attend continuous professional development courses. Prices start from around £600.
Some doulas, such as Doula UK’s Margherita Tessarin, are also Ayurvedic practioners, while others offer postnatal support, from emotional support to help with breastfeeding in those first difficult weeks of motherhood.
Private Scans (all Harley Street)
How to find a doula
Private Maternity Hospitals
The Portland (call to book an Open Day slot on 020 7390 6068); www.theportlandhospital.com
Private wings for giving birth (at NHS hospitals)
The Lindo Wing, St Mary’s, www.imperialprivatehealthcare.co.uk
Sir Stanley Clayton Ward, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, www.imperialprivatehealthcare.co.uk
Kensington Wing, Chelsea & Westminster www.chelwest.nhs.uk
Westminster Maternity Suite, Guy’s & St Thomas’, www.guysandstthomasprivatehealthcare.co.uk