July 11, 2013 at 1:55 PM ET
When Duchess Kate walks into St. Mary’s hospital in London, where she is scheduled to give birth in the coming days, there’s a good chance she won’t be paying too much attention to her surroundings.
But the hospital's newly refurbished Lindo Wing, one of London’s premiere private maternity wards, is something of a legendary locale: Princes William and Harry were born there, and the facility offers world-class obstetrician-led care with service fit for a king — or a duchess, as the case may be.
“It was so peaceful and well run,” said Meera Feldman, 36, whose second child was born at the Lindo Wing in May. “There were many midwives around to offer advice and help after the birth. I was looked after so well that it changed my whole perception of what giving birth can be like.”
Feldman gave birth to her first child at a National Health Service, or NHS hospital, a U.K. facility open to the public that costs nothing. While the medical care is usually good at NHS hospitals, there are very few extras, and midwives, who take the lead with normal births, are notoriously overstretched.
By comparison, the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s is staffed with some of the country’s most experienced midwives who pride themselves on giving personal service. It’s a first choice for many London women because it is attached to an NHS teaching hospital with top-notch emergency care.
“There is one nurse there who remembered me each time I came in throughout three different pregnancies and births,” said Ariella Woolf, who delivered her three kids at St Mary’s in 2006, 2008 and 2010. “You didn’t feel as if you were a number and the staff always called me by name. There is a real personal touch to it.”
But this personal service comes with a royal price tag. A normal delivery with a one-night stay costs £4,965 (around $7,400), and that’s not including the obstetrician and anesthetist’s bills. Each additional night in a basic room costs another £900, or $1,340. Deluxe rooms and suites go for even more.
Although the Lindo Wing was recently refurbished, it is still a hospital and not a hotel. The rooms are not fancy — most are sparsely decorated in creams and whites and offer few frills. Accommodation and breakfast are offered to the partners of women giving birth, who will also likely have more time and energy than new moms to take advantage of the satellite TV, radio, Internet access and free daily newspaper.
More important for new moms is the help the hospital offers after the birth. Lactation consultants are on hand to assist with breastfeeding, physical therapists teach exercises to strengthen muscles worn down by pregnancy, and midwives give moms a much needed break from endless feedings by holding, changing and rocking the little ones. There’s also a nursery to take care of the babies if moms need a longer break overnight or during the day.
“The staff there was always around to help and offer advice; one midwife even brushed my hair,” said Feldman, who lives in London. “They stressed that I needed to take time to look after myself as well as my baby.”
Even the food at St Mary’s is prepared with an extra dose of love and attention. Moms get to choose their meals from an extensive menu with a range of healthy options. And if they are feeling peckish between mealtimes, tea, coffee and biscuits are always on hand.
“My baby would decide that he wanted to eat whenever my food would come so the staff would take it away and reheat it for me when I was ready,” said Sara Silverman, 39, who spent four days at St Mary’s when her first child was in September 2012. “The kitchen was good and they were fast. I built up quite a collection of biscuits (cookies) by the end of my stay. I would very happily have another there.”