Too Posh to Push?

12.07.12

Too Posh to Push: Inside Kate's Exclusive London Maternity Hospital

One of Kate's gynecologists delivers exclusively at London's fanciest maternity hospital, The Portland. Will Kate have her baby there?

While the rest of the Royal-watching population have spent the past few days focused on Kate’s extreme morning sickness, London’s super-rich Moms have been busily speculating about where the royal tot will be born.

Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William Leaves Hospital
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge leave the King Edward VII hospital, where she has been treated for hyperemesis gravidarum or extreme morning sickness, on December 6, 2012 in London, England. (Danny Martindale / WireImage via Getty Images)

London, like New York, Los Angeles or Hong Kong, has an extensive choice of posh maternity hospitals. Princess Diana had her boys at the private Lindo wing of St Mary’s Paddington (with no drugs). The luxurious private rooms at Queen Charlotte’s hospital in north London or the Chelsea and Westminster at the top of the King’s Road are popular choices for London’s more affluent mothers-to-be. But the betting has shortened significantly on Kate choosing the fanciest and most exclusive of all London’s maternity hospitals, the Portland, near Regent’s Park, after Dr Marcus Setchell, London’s grandest obstetrician, who delivers exclusively at the Portland, was spotted coming out of the King Edward hospital where Kate spent the last few days. Princesses Betarice and Eugenie were born at the Portland.

The Portland Hospital
London's The Portland Hospital entrance. (Courtesy of The Portland Hospital)

From 1990 to 2008, Setchell served as surgeon and gynecologist to the queen. He cared for Prince Edward’s wife Sophie after her ectopic pregnancy in 2001 and also performed Camilla's hysterectomy in 2007.

In 2008, he was officially replaced as royal gynecologist by Alan Farthing, the former fiancé of a BBC television newsreader named Jill Dando, who was shot in a dramatic and unsolved murder in 1998 outside her home in Fulham. However, as Setchell’s presence at Kate’s bedside shows, the grand old man of British gynecology is still an integral part of the royal medical team.

Although Kate’s pregnancy is officially being presided over by Farthing (who primarily practises at the Queen Charlotte) former patients of Setchell say that if he is involved, the birth is unlikely to happen anywhere except the Portland.

Although the Portland has no shortage of celebrity clients -  Jennifer Saunders, Victoria Beckham, Claudia Schiffer, Anna Friel and Jodie Kidd to name just a few – landing Kate would be a huge PR coup for the hospital, which is owned by the Nashville, Tennesse based company, Hospital Corporation of America (in the US the company operates medical facilities under the brand Tristar).

Former clients say that Kate could expect to spend up to $30,000 at the all-private Portland to have her baby there, assuming she had a 5 – 7 day stay – something of a bargain by New York or LA standards, but comfortably making it the most expensive delivery option in the UK.

The Portland website indicates that prices for a normal delivery and a one-night stay start at around £6,000, rising to £8,000 for an elective Caesarean. Subsequent nights are charged at £2,000 per night for a regular suite (prices for a deluxe suite are higher). Then there are extra fees for epidurals (£920 plus £75 for each top-up) – and the thing that really makes the Portland famous – its room service.

The room service is available 24-hours and features a menu to rival any decent neighbourhood London restaurant.

For moms, the clear chicken broth, poached salmon salad and soothing jello are favourites, while Dads tend to opt for red meat: grilled lamb chops and steaks. A decent wine list is available, and celebratory champagne is kept on ice for post-delivery celebrations. Moms also speak highly of the fresh mint tea.

As well as being famous for its luxurious accommodation - 100-thread count sheets and suites where entire families are able to stay in adjoining rooms (particularly popular with foreign fathers who want to be on hand but don’t want to be in the room for the birth itself) -  the hospital is famous for having one of the highest rates of Caesarian delivery in the UK. 53% of births in 2011 were via c-section, double the national average, leading to the perception in the public mind that the Portland is the hospital of choice for moms who are ‘too posh too push’.

Past customers, however, praise the lack of ‘politically correct’ choices forced on new moms.

“You get painkillers galore and you are definitely not forced to breast feed like you are in the public hospitals,” says one mother, “If you want a c-section, that’s no problem. They have a full night nursery for new babies, so if you are tired you give your baby to a nurse for the whole night and they bring it back to you all washed and scrubbed first thing in the morning. You are not forced to ‘bond’ with your child.”

The Portland will even place the birth announcement of your baby in the Times newspaper.

The Portland Hospital Labour Ward
London's The Portland Hospital labour ward. (Courtesy of The Portland Hospital )

Kate would also be guaranteed complete privacy – the Portland’s experience dealing with celebrities means they would never fall for a brazen prank like the phone call by two Australian radio DJ’s to the King Edward earlier this week. The private en-suite rooms mean there are few communal areas for new moms to bump into each other.

The only possible argument against the Portland is that it does not have the full adult intensive care facilities of the larger hospitals.

Although onsite emergency facilities include an adult high dependency unit, neonatal intensive care unit, a special care baby unit and a transitional care unit, women requiring intensive care treatment are transferred to the nearby private Princess Grace hospital. However, in 2011, just 0.08% of mothers were transferred from the Portland post-delivery needing intensive care treatment.

Still, Kate’s medical team may be unwilling to take even the tiniest of risks.

A spokesman for the Portland says: “The hospital revolves around choice and safety. Everybody is working flat out to make sure that the couple are part of the decision making team. Its all about trying to help the mother have the most pleasant experience in absolute safety."