The Battle Over Birth

  • Share
  • Read Later

NATAL MANUEVERS: Group care at France's largest maternity center

(5 of 5)

American actress Gwyneth Paltrow, 30, was rumored to be considering the Portland for the birth of her first child with British rocker Chris Martin. British newspapers have been obsessively tracking Paltrow's choices — a prenatal yoga regime, birthing pools reportedly installed in her homes in London and the U.S. In the end, she is said to have opted for London's other celebrity hospital, St. John and St. Elizabeth, where model Kate Moss had her baby.

These private clinics are a far cry from the busy wards of Britain's public hospitals, but they come at a price. For a regular vaginal delivery at the Portland, patients can expect a bill for $4,340 for the birth and the first night, $1,712 per night thereafter. The Portland offers package deals for non-medical C-sections: $7,973 for the first night and the operation, $2,114 for subsequent nights, including medication. Most C-section patients stay five days, at a total cost of $14,315.

At 8 a.m. this Friday, 34-year-old freelance consultant Betsy Ludwig is scheduled to have her baby at the Portland by maternal-choice C-section. As she's an American expatriate, the cost will be covered by her insurance, but that's not the the reason why she chose the Portland. Instead, she wanted maternal choice there because she considers it the lowest-risk way to give birth. "Pretty much every woman I know who is my age or above has had to have an emergency C-section," says Ludwig. "Why go through all of that if you don't have to?"

In Germany, private insurance offers other options, too. Ruth Wishart, a 40-year-old Scottish woman who has lived in Berlin since 1999, started thinking about having a child two years ago. She decided she wanted to have a natural birth, so she opted for the Birth Center Klausenerplatz, which doesn't provide medical intervention. Since 1997, the number of such organic birth facilities in Germany has doubled, although only 2% of women actually give birth outside the hospital system. In the lead-up to the birth of Wishart's son, Ben — now three months old — she met with the center's midwives, who monitored Ben's position and his size. When her due date came and went, the midwives suggested that she drink first herbal tea, and later, a mixture of castor oil, vodka and orange juice. After just two slugs of that, she went into labor. In the center, she stayed in the birth tub for a couple of hours. Then she moved to the rope, and later the large birthing ball — both of which help the muscles relax. The pushing stage lasted an unusually and agonizingly long four hours, but soon after Ben emerged, she was sitting, sipping champagne. The midwives "absolutely knew what they were doing," she says. "They managed to get strength out of me that I did not know I had. In hospital they would probably have used forceps." The centers are proving so popular that soon they may be covered by the state-sponsored insurance scheme. That kind of progress suggests that European women are destined to win the battle for control of their births. But it certainly is a slow, painful delivery.
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. Next Page