Childbirth choices: five star or free?

Melanie's post-birth recovery room at the Palazzo Versace included all meals.
Melanie's post-birth recovery room at the Palazzo Versace included all meals. Photo: Supplied

It's not often you hear the words labour and luxury in the same sentence but for some, a 5-star start to parenthood is exactly what they seek. And with a number of private hospitals now offering packages which include a post-birth stay at a sumptuous first class resort, many mums are choosing to recover in style.

But are these lavish options worth the price, or is a public hospital experience, which won't cost you a cent, all you need to recover from childbirth?

Mother of two, Melanie, chose to treat herself to the Regal Suite and Palazzo Platinum Package at the Palazzo Versace after the birth of her second child at Pindara Private Hospital, costing $550 for two nights.

Louise after her baby's birth.
Louise after her baby's birth. Photo: Supplied

While she admits she at first felt the combination of screaming newborns and extravagant hotels made for an unusual combination, her research soon showed it would be perfect for her family's needs. Mums stay in hospital until at least day three after delivery (four days for caesarean births) and can then check in to the resort.   

"Knowing we would have our active two-and-a-half-year-old daughter with us throughout the post-birth period, we thought it would be great to take advantage of the package," she explains. "A part of me knew also how crazy things get with a newborn and I was looking forward to a little treat for myself before the 'fog' really settled in."

Melanie had also found her hospital experience with her first child to be far from restful - not to mention uncomfortable for her husband. "He stayed with me each night as he didn't want to miss a second learning about our new bundle of joy. Unfortunately that meant he spent hours hunched on a single lounge chair trying to get sleep when he could," she says. "We kept visitors to a minimum but were not expecting the constant flow of hospital personnel 'popping in' what felt like every minute. It was very difficult to get some restful quiet time."

Conversely, Melanie felt her recovery time at the Palazzo Versace was all she could have hoped for.  

"We arrived and were treated like royalty by the staff," she says. "It was amazing! There were welcome notes and big fluffy towels and a huge big bed and a spa bath to fit four.

"I'd barely had two or three hours of sleep over the last couple of days, so all those options were looking extremely inviting and I sure I did a happy dance inside.

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"Part of me had to keep pinching myself that I was here as a 'patient' - it certainly didn't feel that way."

Yet, as amazing as Melanie's experience was, some mums will still specifically choose to a public hospital over a private one. Louise, who gave birth to her son at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, is emphatic she would not have done it any other way.

"On our side of town, the biggest, best equipped hospital for having a baby is a public one," she says. "A number of problems were discovered with my baby, and this hospital definitely had the best equipment and expertise to work out exactly what was wrong and what to do about it."

"My baby ended up needing to stay in the special care nursery (one step down from neonatal intensive care) and I was so lucky to be staying in the same hospital as him, just upstairs, instead of having him transported to a separate place to me."

Louise also has high praise for the public hospital staff who looked after her during this emotional time. "I can't say enough about the midwives who cared for me on the ward. Even though I wasn't at my best they were kind and understanding," she says.

"I felt very grateful to have access to the experience and expertise for myself and my baby. I got to see lactation consultants on the ward and after I'd gone home, and I had a physio come and show me how to best recover from my c-section. A special continence nurse helped me sort out some problems I was having as the result of surgery, and a cardiologist and physio with special expertise in caring for newborns helped care for my son. Everything we needed was there - and it was free."

While Melanie was happy to pay for her Versace stay, she ultimately saw this experience as a gift to herself and her second born child.

"I hear women talk about 'push presents', so in my own way this was my little reward for bringing Bub into the world safe and sound and have a little R'n'R time," she says. "The support, consultation and advice from the midwives and their friendliness were a credit to the system."

"On the whole it gave me an opportunity to unwind, bond, and recover in style before life with two children under three began."