One of the things I struggle with after moving back to India is the lack of information online. I'll see guest houses on the road, but they won't have websites, or even a listing on MakeMyTrip/TripAdvisor. I know restaurants offer home delivery, but there's no way of ordering other than to call them up. And perhaps most irksome of all, there are very few online reviews of any product or service.
... All of which is to say that I had to resort to asking people about maternity hospitals in Hyderabad, rather than just resorting to good old Google. The internet was almost no use - it couldn't even tell me the average cost of having a baby (up to delivery). So to potentially save someone else some time, here's what we found. I should preface this by saying what we were looking for:
* A hospital within 8-10kms of our house in Madhapur/Hitech City. Not only do you not want to deliver your baby en route, but also, it just makes it simpler for check-ups.
* A reasonable C-section rate. I have nothing against medical intervention, but I also didn't want to go to a place with a statistical history of repeatedly interfering.
* Low to no wait times. We waited five hours (not even exaggerating) at Vijaya Diagnostics for a TIFFA scan. It makes me BP-hopping mad. I'm the type that makes appointments well in advance, and I expect hospitals to honour the time slots they give me, barring an emergency of some sort.
* A trustworthy doctor whom we felt comfortable with. I just can't relax around a doctor who says things like "They deliver breech babies naturally in the US because they don't care if it dies," or "The only reason people can't breastfeed is because they don't try hard enough." That kind of BS is annoying enough coming from elderly relatives who 'don't know better,' but to hear it from a medical practitioner was terrifying.
* I preferably wanted a place that understood the relevance of skin-to-skin, lactation consulting, and so on. I'm not saying I'd necessarily want an active labour or remember to do Lamaze. However, I'd be happier if the hospital's philosophies weren't stuck in the 1980's.
There were four hospitals we considered - Fernandes, Rainbow, Motherhood, and The Birthplace. Fernandes was out straight away because of its location near Abids. While they have a clinic in Jubilee Hills, that one only offers Day Care procedures. Rainbow was incredibly close to our house, but had a C-section rate that scared me. I'm not suggesting they don't have a good reason for it. I'm only saying I was spooked and didn't bother looking any closer.
That left us with two serious contenders - Motherhood, on Road No 12, and The Birthplace on Road No 2. Both were easily accessible. Both had senior doctors with good reviews from people whom we knew. Both preached the value of an unmedicated labour where possible. So we decided to schedule consultations with the gynacs we had been recommended at both places, and see whom we felt more comfortable with. Honestly, what it came down to wasn't which gynac we clicked with - both were fantastic. Instead, what it came down to was our experience at their waiting rooms.
Motherhood was much busier, and our appointment was delayed by 20 minutes. On the other hand, Birthplace only has 23-25 beds, so it's far less crowded. We never felt rushed. This is a tiny thing, but I also appreciated the fact that the bathrooms were cleaner, and the labour suites looked less used. The Birthplace is, overall, much more sophisticated.
Those are all really small, subjective things. I could just as easily have gone with Motherhood, especially since the price difference between the two is considerable. The Birthplace costs (much) more than any other hospital, though they do include things like epidurals which other hospitals often add on as extras. However, we decided on The Birthplace, and I've been very happy with that decision. A few things that really stood out for me:
* We've never had to wait for an appointment or a scan or a test. Everything happens with clinical precision. Even blood work is usually turned around in 24 hours, and the results are emailed over, along with a follow up phone call. My doctor's available by email as well as during our appointments.
* The way they carry out scans is fantastic. Their experience even beats the ones we had in Toronto. They project what the sonographer's seeing onto an HDTV in 3D/4D. It's pretty amazing that they also let A stay in the whole time, rather than for the last ten minutes.
* They have some fairly useful classes over the weekends, on topics ranging from nutrition to Lamaze to prenatal yoga. I like the flexibility involved in choosing the classes you want to go to (and I lurve the whole wheat cheese sandwiches they serve at the end, but that's irrelevant).
* Dr. Pratibha Narayan came highly recommended. She specializes in high risk pregnancies, and what I love about that is the fact that she doesn't stress about the small stuff. A chilled out doctor is your one raft of sanity in India, where most people are just so intense about pregnancy (Don't lift that! Don't travel! Eat for two! Baaah. I push back, but it's even better when your doctor pushes back too).
As for what it all costs, here's a rough rundown of what you can expect to shell out at a high-end place and a more average place. I wasn't in India for the first 4.5 months, so some of these are estimates (I've no idea how many times blood work is actually done here). Don't freak out at the big numbers, insurance will usually cover the bulk of this. Do remember to check the terms though - most providers won't cover maternity for the first 2-3 years after you take the policy.