You've probably come across news reports about the mom who was charged by the hospital for requesting to have skin-to-skin contact with her newborn after delivering him via C-section. You probably thought it was ridiculous, and it certainly raised some eyebrows when the husband, Ryan Grassley, posted a photo of the hospital bill on Reddit.
"I had to pay $39.35 to hold my baby after he was born," he wrote. In the photo, a line item that reads, "Skin-to-skin after CS," that amounted to $39.35 -- that's around P2,000 -- was highlighted.
The dad of two wasn't really complaining and posted the photo in jest. "During the C-section the nurse asked my wife if she would like to do skin to skin after the baby was born, which of course, anyone would say yes to. We just noticed it in the bill today and had a laugh," Ryan said on the thread. He added that nurse let him hold the baby on his wife's neck/chest and reminded him to hold the baby since his wife, Lidia, just had a CS operation. The nurse even took pictures of them. "Everyone involved in the process was great, and we had a positive experience. It's amazing to watch doctors and nurses work at that level. It takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get to that level," he said.
While Ryan’s post became a takeoff point for others to share their hospital bill horror stories, so to speak, a Canadian doula spoke up and explained the reason behind the extra fee.
"During a caesarean, many people become shaky, nauseous, uncomfortable, and even faint. These are normal physiological reactions. In order to facilitate skin-to-skin in the [operating room (OR)], an extra nurse needs to be available to assist," Meaghan Grant of the Toronto Family Doulas wrote on her Facebook post. "And before people scream that 'there's a nurse for the baby,' there is, but that nurse has other responsibilities in the OR. They aren't either holding the baby or twiddling their thumbs. So yes, an extra nurse is needed," she said.
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A representative of the hospital in Utah where Lidia gave birth echoed Grant's explanation. “In the case of a C-section, where the bedside caregiver is occupied caring for the mother during surgery, an additional nurse is brought into the OR to allow the infant to remain in the OR suite with the mother,” the representative told The Huffington Post. The fee is not only for holding the baby but also to help ensure the safety of both the mother and child.
Grant, who is also a member of a hospital's advisory committee, further stressed that instead of focusing on the hospital bill, people should turn their attention to the fact that the hospital advocates skin-to-skin contact in the operating room, which is not standard procedure in hospitals.
Here in the Philippines, as far as we know, local hospitals don't charge extra for nurses who assist in immediate skin-to-skin contact for CS deliveries -- or at least it doesn't appear in the hospital bill like in Ryan's experience. After all, we have Republic Act No. 7600, otherwise known as the Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act of 1992.
Under this law, newborns born via normal spontaneous delivery should “be put to the breast of the mother immediately after birth” and roomed-in with the mother within 30 minutes. For babies born via CS, it doesn’t say anything about immediate skin-to-skin contact, but it does state that "infants delivered by caesarian section shall be roomed-in and breastfed within three to four hours after birth."
Our own Department of Health actually has an initiative called "Unang Yakap Protocol," a four-step procedure to encourage skin-to-skin bonding and early breastfeeding, ideally within the first hour of the baby's birth. Skin-to-skin contact has been proven to be essential and even life-saving for both moms and babies.
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Our local hospitals may not be charging for skin-to-skin assistance, considering it as part of service in its maternity package, and it is dictated by the law. But you should not hesitate telling your doctor that you want this in your birth plan and, just to be sure, ask if it comes with added cost.
Have you been charged for immediate skin-t0-skin contact regardless of the kind of delivery? Tell us in the comments below or via our Facebook.