Hogar de las Madres

Yesterday, we got one more essential checked off our list: the clinic visit.  Obviously, we don’t want to actually have our kid at the clinic, but if complications come up and we have to transfer, the doctora prefers that it not be a completely alien environment. It also gave us a chance to jot down their prices, check out acceptable payment methods (yes, they do take Visa), and figure out where exactly the place is. It seems clean and un-intimidating. I’m guessing part of that is because the maternity hospital, while it has some association with the big hospital next door, is a physically separate facility. I’m not sure why you don’t see these in the US– you’d think it would really cut down on the cross-infection rates for ugly things like MRSA, if they just kept the maternity patients (i.e. the not-sick people) completely separate from the regular patients.

One thing that stunned us was how cheap medical care is. When we priced it out back in Maryland (my job included good insurance, but getting pregnant meant quitting my job), it would have cost us a bare minimum of $6,000 USD for a totally natural childbirth with no drugs, no emergencies, and no interventions, at the nearest small rural hospital. And compared to the swanky hospitals around Annapolis, DC, and Baltimore, that was a darn good deal. An emergency C-section at any of those hospitals can easily run you into the $20,000 range. If that had happened, our finances would have been completely wiped out, and we’d have been in debt for the first time in our lives.

At the Hogar, natural childbirth runs about 1300 soles, which is less than $500 at the current exchange rate. This includes a 2-day stay in the clinic to recuperate. You can pay a little more to get a private bathroom and cable TV. A Caesarian costs about 2500 soles: just under $1000, including three days’ recovery in the clinic. I am told you can have your kid at the hospital itself for even less– the only difference is that you spend your recovery time in a dormitory-style room with other women, instead of getting a private room. I’d still opt for the clinic, just because the place doesn’t have a hospital atmosphere, and hospitals really freak me out.

Still, we walked out of the Hogar’s office feeling a little stunned. In a clean, modern clinic in Miraflores, you can get a Caesarian section for less than one sixth of what it would cost you to birth a baby without any drugs or surgery in a rural Maryland hospital.

This isn’t all roses, of course. Because C-sections are more profitable, many of the private clinics run C-section rates of 90% or more, which is scary. That’s why the midwife is our first choice, not the clinic. Knives and needles are not my thing. Still, with the prices, you have to wonder… is there a medical tourism niche for coming to Lima to have a baby? For people who go the elective/mandatory C-section route, it would be economically sound to take a few months’ vacation, fly to Lima, rent an apartment for a few months, have your baby, hire someone to help you for a month of recovery, and then fly back home. I’m confident you could do the whole thing, including airfare, for well under $20,000. If there’s not already a business that can arrange this for you, there should be.