You’ve put aside money for the diapers and day care—but have you saved up for your postpartum hospital room? Yep, depending on where you give birth, if you decide that you want to have a private recovery room instead of one that’s shared with another new mom, you may need to cough up more cash. And that privacy can come at a steep price. At Mount Sinai hospital in New York City, for example, a deluxe room with a view of Central Park costs a shocking $1,250 per night, and their cheapest option (a standard-size room with a view of the courtyard) is $595. Yikes.
But before you set up a crowdfunding site to finance your birth, know that hospitals in other cities may offer private rooms at a more reasonable rate, such as $50 a night, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. And luckily, many hospitals only have private postpartum rooms available, so this may not even be something you need to worry about. In fact, shared rooms are becoming less common in the US. NYU Langone Health in New York City, for example, is opening a new pavilion in 2018 that will have a private-room-only setup, and Maui Memorial Medical Center in Hawaii recently made the decision to no longer charge extra fees for moms who want to spend their first days with baby sans roommates.
But for many women in large cities, the potential of sharing a room with a stranger (and her new baby) after they’ve just given birth is a stark reality. If that makes you cringe, then you might, in fact, want to consider shelling out the extra money for a private room. First step? Take your budget into account, says Georgann Abraham, RN, manager and coordinator of maternity education and lactation at UCLA Health BirthPlace in Santa Monica (where all rooms are private). You may have to make sacrifices elsewhere to compensate—whether it’s skipping a piece of unnecessary nursery furniture or foregoing a few date nights and fancy dinners.
The type of delivery you have may also influence your decision. “If you have a vaginal delivery, you’re in the hospital for a shorter period of time, so it would be more tolerable to be in a shared room,” Abraham explains. But if you have a c-section, you’re there longer, so that would make it that much more difficult to share.”
There’s also a way to possibly skirt the cost: Even if a hospital does charge for a private room, you may end up being the only person in a shared suite anyway—if the maternity ward doesn’t happen to be crowded the day you deliver. Taryn M., a mother of two, decided to skip paying for a private room for both of her pregnancies and instead kept her fingers crossed that she wouldn’t land a roommate. “As much as I wanted to be alone in the days after giving birth, I decided to roll the dice. It's a hospital, not a hotel. I'd rather spend a few hundred dollars on an actual hotel room for a getaway with my husband when the time comes,” she says. “With my first birth, I lucked out. With my second, I got a roommate in the middle of the night and the worst part was not having as much space for our friends and family to spread out when they visited. But in a way, it ensured they didn't stay too long, and I got the rest I needed before coming home.”
If you decide to go for a private room, then talk to your doctor or your hospital’s admitting office to find out what steps you need to take to secure it. Remember that the additional cost typically isn’t covered by insurance, so you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the upgrade. And because some hospitals have only a few private rooms available, they are often on a first come, first served basis.
Private Room vs Shared Room: How to Decide
Unsure whether the benefits of a private room are worth the ticket price? Here are four questions to explore with your partner.
How important is peace and quiet?
Having visitors after giving birth can be disruptive and exhausting. You can’t do much about your own relatives—and if you share a room, you can count on double the commotion, especially if you end up with the bed closest to the door. What’s more, if both you and your roommate are keeping baby in the room, then, of course, you’ll be woken with double the crying.
If you’re okay with that, then the private room may not be necessary. But if you’re the kind of person who is sensitive to noise and extraneous activity, then you might consider a private room if it’s within budget. The privacy allows new mothers to sleep and bond with baby in a quiet, calm environment (with the exception of doctors and nurses coming and going), and for many women, that experience is priceless.
How much privacy do you prefer?
The aftermath of giving birth can be painful and downright messy, so sharing a room with a stranger is the last thing that some women want to do.
“There are so many advantages to a private room,” says Samantha Patwardhan, MD, a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and an ob-gyn at Partners in Women’s Health in Denver. “Breastfeeding can be challenging, and having the comfort of one’s private space would encourage relaxation. All of the ‘glamorous’ aspects of postpartum recovery, including bleeding and dealing with sanitary supplies, taking frequent trips to the lavatory, needing stitches or incisions evaluated and having your uterus checked are not meant to be shared with strangers.”
On top of that, if you have a difficult birth or have a baby in the NICU, a private room can give you and your family time to recover during what can be an overwhelmingly emotional time.
Marisa M. ended up spending $725 a night for three nights in a private room at Mount Sinai in New York City. For her, being able to have privacy as she recovered from a c-section made it worth the cost. “After all I’d been though, we wanted private time with our baby as a new family. I believe the private room helped immensely with my recovery. I had a catheter in for three days, I was having blunt conversations with my nurses about my inability to urinate on my own, and I was also learning how to breastfeed. I felt very vulnerable, even in front of my parents. I can’t imagine going through that in front of a stranger and her family.”
Are the “extras” worth it to you?
Some hospitals can seem more like hotels, thanks to the luxe offerings accompanying private postpartum rooms. For example, even though UCHealth Birth Center in Aurora, Colorado, has all private rooms, families can upgrade to a private luxury, multiroom suite that features a large living room with plenty of space for a parade of visitors.
Women who give birth in Miami at Jackson Memorial have the option of paying extra for a private room. There, the maternity suites VIP experience costs $150 for the entire stay, but the perks are especially pampering. New moms enjoy gourmet dinners and are greeted with a fresh fruit welcome basket and L’Occitane toiletries. (If you’ve spent hours laboring and pushing, this may not seem over the top at all!)
Mabel D. gave birth at Jackson Memorial two years ago and has no regrets about choosing a private postpartum room. “I was rushed to the hospital with preeclampsia and hypertension. I was 25 weeks pregnant and petrified. My son was born emergency c-section, and during my recovery I didn’t want to speak to anyone about the trauma that we had just endured. During the most difficult of times, we paid a little extra for comfort, good food and all the luxury the hospital could provide. I still dream of the salmon with mixed rice on a bed of vegetables and lemon dill sauce!”
What’s the policy regarding spouses, and are you okay with it?
In some hospitals, particularly in large cities, spouses can’t sleep over in a regular room. Either there’s no furniture to accommodate or they’re simply not allowed to stay. So if you don’t want to spend the first night alone, you might consider skipping a future spa treatment (or vacation) and using that money toward a private room. Private rooms typically come with sleeping accommodations for a guest, such as a sofa, cot or queen-size bed for the two of you. Even if you choose to have baby room-in (which means you won’t be getting a ton of sleep), you’ll at least have your spouse to help out and provide emotional support.
Published December 2017