Updated June 17, 2009 to add a link to this post - Complications during VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) and a terrible tragedy.
For those of you considering having babies in Bangalore (especially those that have had babies in other countries and are wondering how your experience compares with that here), here are some quick notes:
1. We had our baby at one of the bigger, multi-speciality hospitals in Bangalore that offers "birthing suites". Unfortunately, the day little N was to be born, all the birthing suites were taken. We were repeatedly told in the days leading up to the due date that birthing suites could not be booked in advance, but on the day I was admitted to the hospital, we were told that one of the suites was booked by one of the head honchos at the hospital, for, get this, a non labor and delivery procedure!
So I got admitted to the general labor and delivery (L&D) ward, which had three beds in a row in a room and two other beds in the room next door. Adjoining the three-bed room was the delivery room with two beds on which the delivery would take place. There was one bathroom for the five beds, which, in my opinion, was inadequate, especially because the hospital, as a rule, administers enemas to all women who come to deliver babies. I leave the rest to your imagination.
The L&D ward also pipes in Indian classical music in the early hours of the morning which can be pretty irritating when you are going through pain and contractions.
There is one on-call doctor (I guess an intern or a resident, I'm not sure, but rather on the young side) manning the L&D ward, monitoring the progress of labor and assisting the OB/Gyns with the delivery with about two or three nurses administering drips, injections, hooking up the fetal and contraction monitors, etc.
2. Whether you like it or not, you will get a thorough shaving in preparation for the delivery. Most hospitals in the US have discontinued this practice.
3. Almost all OB/Gyn practices here are single-doctor practices. In the US, my OB/Gyn practice had five doctors, each of whom I had to consult during my pregnancy and each of whom was familiar with my case file. So on the day N was born, it did not matter to me which doctor was on call because I knew all of them and they all knew me, so we were all comfortable with each other.
With a single-doctor practice, there is always the danger that your doctor may not be available on the day you go into labor and that after nine months of seeing one doctor, you could, in all likelihood, get stuck with a doctor you haven't seen even once during the last nine months.
If little N had come a week later (i.e., the following weekend), I could have found myself in the delivery room with a doctor I had never visited before. My doctor had plans to be out of town that weekend. I had asked her in the initial months of the pregnancy what would happen if I went into labor and she was not around. She had said, quite simply, that she hadn't taken a vacation in 3 years so there was no likelihood of that.
4. There is a paediatrician ready and waiting to check the newborn in the delivery room itself (whereas N's paediatrician only showed up the following day to check on him).
5. Once you have your baby, you are moved to a ward (room) of your choice - private or semi-private, again depending on availability.
6. Private rooms are pretty comfortable. They have an extra bed for someone to sleep in with you during your stay. Babies room in with the moms.
7. The dietician visits you everyday to make sure you are getting what you need in terms of proper nutrition post-partum and to customize your menu to your tastes.
8. You are given full encouragement and support to breastfeed the baby, starting from nutrition to the floor nurses and nurses from the lactation department who will assist you all through the night and day in case you and the baby have problems with breastfeeding. The nursing staff, both in the L&D ward and those assigned to the rooms, was excellent - very helpful, efficient and knowledgeable.
9. Your OB/Gyn and the paediatrician will check in with you twice a day.
10. Hospital stays are for two days for normal deliveries and if everything is ok with the baby (we were home in less than 48 hours after little N was born).
11. One of the less welcome aspects of the stay in the hospital was the constant stream of hospital staff that visit your room - orderlies, janitors to clean your room (three of them, one after the other), admin staff, public relations staff, electricians, dietician, nurses, food service people, the list goes on. The visits start at 6 am and don't end until 10 pm.
12. Generally, fathers-to-be are not allowed in the L&D ward because there are other women in the room as well. Luckily for me, by the time my contractions came on strong, the two beds on either side of me were empty and there was no one else in the delivery room and so the doctor had not problem with V being there with me.
13. All in all, it was a very positive experience. Througout the duration of the pregnancy I was worried about the process, wondering how it would go.
I lucked out with a very good doctor who was willing to listen to all my concerns (I talked to her about not wanting a C-section, for example; I was pretty nervous that I would be pressured into having a C-section), explain to me why something was prescribed and generally make the birth a collaborative process. This was a pleasant surprise. I had heard that doctors stood on a pedestal and told patients what needed to be done, without any explanations.
As should be the case wherever you decide to have a baby, I suggest that you develop an open line of communication with your doctor, educate yourself about the process and your options. In the end, you will have to trust her to make the decisions that are right for you and your baby.
This is all I can think of right now. If I can recall any more usefull stuff, I'll update this list.