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Royal Baby: Why these three women went private like Princess Kate

Three women tell Stephanie Bell you can’t put a price on peace of mind

Settling the bill for giving birth at an exclusive London hospital isn’t a problem for the Duchess, but why do NI mums opt to pay thousands?

Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana won hearts with her very first photo shoot on the steps of St Mary’s Hospital, aged eight hours. And in spite of having just given birth, mum Kate looked fresh and beautiful as she proudly showed off her adorable new daughter.

The Duchess of Cambridge enjoyed such good care when she gave birth to Prince George that she returned to the Lindo Wing for Charlotte’s birth.

The 17 en-suite rooms of the private maternity unit in St Mary’s offer comfort and luxury to those anxious mums-to-be who are fortunate enough to afford it.

Art work, chef-made food and champagne to toast the baby’s arrival is all part of the service and each en-suite room has satellite TV, a radio, wi-fi, bedside phone and fridge.

The Duke of Cambridge was the first heir to the throne to be born there and Princess Diana also had his brother Prince Harry in The Lindo Wing.

The hospital’s brochure boasts: “Our world-class maternity care, combined with a personalised service, will relax and reassure you throughout one of the most emotional and exciting experiences of your life.”

Naturally it comes at a price, with a normal birth costing £5,215 plus £945 for any additional night’s stay. The price goes up for a caesarean delivery to £6,745.

It is not just royals though who are enjoying private health care during pregnancy.

In Northern Ireland more and more young women are opting to pay thousands for the reassurance of having access to a top consultant when expecting their babies.

For them the cost is worth the peace of mind it buys during what is one of the most anxious times for any woman.

We talk to three young mums who followed in the royal footsteps by paying for private health care when expecting their babies.

Ruth Cranston (30), from Portadown, is network manager for a charity and runs her own handmade jewellery business Ruthie Bijoux on Facebook. Ruth is married to Simon (30), a postman, and they have twin boys Charlie and Ben, aged two. She says:

I had two miscarriages before I had the boys. They were both quite traumatic pregnancies, so when I was expecting for the third time, we choose to go private because we didn't want to take any chances.

With my first pregnancies on the NHS, I saw a different person each time and was given different opinions. One told me the pregnancy was viable and then I was told it wasn't and I was just left trying to read between the lines.

I wanted the reassurance of seeing the same person and the peace of mind of having regular check-ups.

I was worried my third pregnancy wasn't going to be viable because of what I had been through before and I wanted the best chance. I went private with Dr Geoff McCracken who has his own clinic in Craigavon.

If I didn't feel the boys kicking, I just had to ring Geoff and he would bring me in for a scan to reassure me.

He understood that after two miscarriages I was very anxious. It was a tough pregnancy and the boys were in the breach position for quite a while, and also, I had broken my hip when I was younger so I was never going to have a natural birth.

I had a lot of swelling and there were concerns about pre-eclampsia and, at one stage, I was seeing my consultant every week and the boys were delivered by C-section at 35 weeks. Charlie was 4lb 5oz and Ben was 5lb 4 oz and they had to spend some time in neo-natal care.

It cost £2,000 and because we are both working we were lucky that we were able to afford it. For me it was an investment, not a bill. I feel for anyone who can't afford it and doesn't have the option. I think it's lovely that Kate and William had a girl and that they included Diana in the name. She is a beautiful baby."

Nuala Murphy (34), who works in marketing for a technology company, gave birth just nine weeks ago to her second son Conrad. Nuala, from Belfast, is married to Jonathan (35) a company director and they also have 21-month-old Henry. Nuala paid for private health care during both pregnancies. She says:

Jonny and I wanted to have the continuity of care from start to finish which is why we decided to go private. I had friends who had gone private and they got to see the same consultant at every appointment and I just found that very reassuring.

We are also both very busy and we didn’t want to have long waiting times at appointments, which again, I know through friends can happen in the NHS.

We went to consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Samina Dornan at 3fivetwo Healthcare.

Going private, it is consultant-led and that was important to us. When we met Samina, we felt instantly at ease and confident that if any problems arose she would be there for us. 

Our care also included an appointment with a foetal cardiologist Frank Casey, which isn’t standard on the NHS.

I did have a few medical concerns and it was very reassuring to be able to pick up the phone. Samina got back to me within a couple of hours and was able to reassure me I had nothing to worry about. I know if it had been the NHS, I might have had to wait a few days to speak to someone. Just having her phone number and knowing that you can ring her at any time is a comfort and the care is not just focused on the baby but mum and dad and the whole family.

Having a baby is worrying; it is the fear of the unknown. People tell you when it is your second child it is easier but that’s not the case, until the baby is delivered safe and well you can’t help but have concerns.

People also think that going private is about getting extra scans, but I think that is a misconception — there is so much more to it.

Yes, you do get lots of extra scans which are very reassuring, but it is about access to a consultant in a very quick time and knowing that you have that well qualified professional on hand at all times.

I had both of my babies in the Royal Victoria Maternity Hospital and the staff there was amazing. Samina was at both deliveries; it was a great comfort to know that if anything was to go wrong, we had the best medical care available.

It cost over £3,000 each time to go private which we felt was money well spent. Of course I didn’t have the hair and makeup stylists on hand that the Duchess of Cambridge had and can assure you I didn’t look as good as she did.

I’m delighted for the royal couple and I think Charlotte is a beautiful, very fitting name for a princess, it’s great for everybody.”

Tara Craig (40), from Bangor, is editor of the Wedding Journal magazine and is married to Gary (46), a civil servant. They have three children, Joshua (13), Benjamin (10) and Maisy (7). Tara went private when she was expecting Maisy. She says:

Nothing is ever straight forward when you are having kids. With my first one the baby’s shoulder got stuck in the birth canal and it was a struggle to get it out.

It proved to be a more harrowing experience than you would want for your first child birth.

During my second pregnancy, I was monitored more closely because of the problem I had first time round. Although that birth was fine, I still felt when I was expecting Maisy that I didn’t want to take the risk again and I opted to have an elective C-section.

Because that is not available through the NHS, I choose to go private with 3fivetwo healthcare and my consultant was Stephen Ong.

Everything was a lot more certain. I knew I was going to have a girl and I didn’t know the first two times what I was having. I was able to choose my date for the birth and put it in my diary.

Going for appointments was as pleasant and going to this lovely clinic was like visiting your friend for a cup of tea, as it was so homely. It was nice to be taken out of that sterile hospital environment.

It is lovely to have if you can afford it.

Having had my first two babies with the NHS I can’t fault them, either. No one can predict what will happen when you are in labour.

I found the midwives and all the medical staff outstanding in their attitude and how caring they were considering how many people they see every day and the pressures they are under.

I wouldn’t have gone private if I had been able to get a C-section on the NHS.

It cost us about £3,000, which was a sizeable bill but worth every penny for the peace of mind.

I’m delighted for Kate and William and extremely envious of just how amazing she looked. No make-up artist on earth could have made me look like that, even eight days after giving birth, never mind eight hours.”

The vast majority happy with NHS

Private maternity care is a luxury which not every woman can afford and the vast majority of mums-to-be enjoy healthy births through the NHS.

Antenatal care is provided by NHS midwives according to a recommended schedule of appointments and includes free scans and blood tests.

One of the main reasons why some women opt to pay for antenatal care is because they see the same consultant throughout their pregnancy.

Other reasons are the flexibility of being able to make appointments to suit, and the fact that they are in the more comfortable surroundings of a private clinic or at home.

Private antenatal care can be provided by obstetricians and midwives in private clinics and hospitals or in the private wing of an NHS hospital. Scans and blood tests provided by the clinic are charged for, even though these are free on the NHS.

Few women having an NHS hospital birth already know the midwife who looks after them in labour. After having their baby, women go onto a postnatal ward which may be shared with a number of other mothers.

Global gifts fit for a princess

  • Princess Charlotte has been showered with gifts from all over the world in honour of her birth
  •  The Australian government has given the new royal two gifts including a $10,000 (£5,233) donation made in her honour to a sanctuary for the Mountain Pygmy-possum, of which there are only 2,000 left in the wild
  •  They also sent the princess a special one-of-a-kind cot blanket made from Tasmanian merino wool at the country’s oldest textile mill, Waverley Woollen Mills, which is embroidered with the Australian floral emblem, the wattle
  •  President of Israel Reuven Rivlin sent the princess a pink sundress embroidered with the words “From Israel With Love”. It also has a gold brooch with a heart-shaped charm and a Middle Eastern sign meaning “protection”
  •  Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is sending along a special hat for the newest heir to the throne to “make sure that Princess Charlotte is kept warm in her early years”
  • According to a press release, the personalised hat will be created by Glasgow-based firm Wonky Woolies and will feature a delicate tartan pattern
  •  And so that her older brother Prince George doesn’t feel left out the company is also crafting a second hat just for him
  •  The Scottish government also plans to donate £25,000 each to the charities Cash for Kids and Turning Point, too

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