Special Delivery

Itar-Tass
Sasha Baille did not return to her home country of Luxembourg for the birth of her son because she did not like the idea of leaving Moscow for several months. Doctors do not recommend flying less than a month before a baby's due date and getting a passport and a visa for a newborn can take up to two months. To go home for the delivery would have meant taking a considerable leave of absence from her job -- and her husband. "I decided to deliver my baby in Moscow. There are so many women who have done it -- I thought, 'Why not me?'" she said.

Delivery in Moscow can be as smooth as at home, and it is cheaper than in the United States, said Ann-Tyler Konradi, who delivered her third baby in the maternity ward of the Presidential Clinic three years ago. "One hundred percent of my expenses were covered by my insurance company. They were happy to pay several times less than in the States," she said.

Although prenatal care can be given in any clinic, Russian or foreign, private or public, foreign women considering giving birth in Moscow should know that babies can only be delivered in Russian facilities by Russian doctors, since Russian law prohibits foreign doctors from operating in Russian hospitals and major operations cannot be performed at

foreign-owned clinics. However, foreign clinics can make arrangements with Russian hospitals to follow up after the birth. Konradi's daughter was examined by a pediatrician from the American Clinic under such an arrangement shortly after she was born.

In general, maternity wards with qualified specialists can be found in every hospital in the city, but options for foreigners who want an experience similar to the one they might get at home are limited. Only a single private clinic and a handful of state ones provide levels of comfort similar to those in the West.

Unlike Konradi, who had given birth to two other children and spoke some Russian, Sasha Baille was preparing to deliver her first child, and neither she nor her husband spoke any Russian when they arrived in Moscow about a year ago. Baille went to the Perinatal Medical Center on Sevastopolsky Prospekt in southwest Moscow about 6 weeks before her due date, where she was given a contract that detailed what services would be provided, and for how much, should she decide to give birth there.

"It was in Russian. I did not understand a word," she said, although she took the contract home and tried to translate it with the help of friends.

Currently, the average price of a contract birth in Moscow ranges from 30,000 to 545,000 rubles, depending on the facility and the level of comfort. Insurance companies can cover some or all of the costs, depending on the provider, said Oleg Kurdakov, the insurance specialist at the Perinatal Medical Center.

This center, founded by the Moscow city government, is perhaps the most modern and expensive maternity facility in the country. It provides prenatal care from the earliest stages of the pregnancy right up to delivery. Prenatal care runs to about 107,000 rubles and vaginal delivery from 99,000 to 198,000 rubles. Caesarean sections are more expensive, ranging from 132,000 to 262,000 rubles.

"One thing I learned very well is that you must know what the contract entitles you to and insist on every point of the contract being fulfilled," Baille said.

State maternity hospitals generally demand a medical certificate called an obmennaya karta from patients who did their prenatal care at another medical facility. The certificate must include the results of all tests and other related information -- without this document the patient cannot be admitted to the hospital. Baille did not have an obmennaya karta, but her birth contract at the Perinatal Center included weekly checkups starting at 32 weeks, which fulfilled the requirements for prenatal care.

Baille was very pleased with her doctor, who spoke English competently. "She was very professional -- just as all the staff were. Giving birth was not a problem," Baille said.

She had the option of having anesthesia, breast-feeding immediately after the birth and even having her husband present -- all innovations in a medical culture in which pregnancy and birth are governed by stringent regulations and social mores. But as more fathers ask to be part of the birth process, hospitals are adapting to the trend -- for contract births. Because giving birth remains a strictly female matter in Russia, however, many local women prefer to have their mothers or sisters or female friends with them instead of their husbands, said Andrei Akopyan, head of the national family planning center.

No medical tests were required from Baille's husband, Connor Sweeney, in order for him to be present in the delivery room -- he was just given a special robe and shoe covers and asked not to bring his phone.

Unlike the wide range of prenatal services, postnatal care can be differentiated only by the level of comfort. New mothers can spend their time in the hospital in rooms ranging from a private room with telephone and bathroom (99,000 to 198,000 rubles) to a two-room deluxe suite (405,000 rubles), to a three-room VIP apartment (545,000 rubles), which also includes a private nurse and the right to order food from a restaurant six times a day.

Mothers who choose two or more rooms can opt for the baby to stay with them or be taken to the nursery. In a one-room suite, the mother can spend time with her baby during the day.

For Baille, whose son Leo stayed with her constantly, the nights proved the most difficult. Her English-speaking doctor was not present, and the attendants only spoke Russian.

"I am not criticizing them," Baille said, "one should not expect everyone to speak English; but those who want to follow my experience should be prepared."

The Center for Family Planning and Reproduction, which is also located on Sevastopolsky Prospekt, provides a similar approach, but for less. It is considered to be one of the best state facilities in Moscow and is popular with home-grown celebrities; Kristina Orbakaite and Natasha Korolyova both gave birth to their children here. A contract there starts at 84,000 rubles and the facility has both private and semiprivate postnatal rooms. The center also boasts three English-speaking obstetricians.

The only private delivery facility in Moscow is the Euromed Clinic. The clinic runs its own maternity wards in three maternity hospitals in northwest and southwest Moscow. Patients who choose this clinic are provided with a personal medical team consisting of an obstetrician, midwife, anesthetist, baby nurse and neonatal specialist.

Contacts

OBP,

7 Michurinsky Prospekt, 147-0450

Perinatal Medical Center,
24 Sevastopolsky Prospekt, building 1, 331-6623



Center for Family Planning and Reproduction,
24A Sevastopolsky Prospekt, 331-8631



Euromed Clinic,
2A Ul. Salyama Adilya, (499) 199-7637