Giving birth at NUH: the pain, the joy, and the cost

The Bossy Flossie family recently grew by one with new recruit little Jammy! My little cherub is now seven weeks old and, mercifully, his delivery is fast becoming a foggy memory. The labour was both a joyful and a traumatic experience. I am so glad I chose to give birth at NUH, as discussed in an earlier post. The nurses were great, the facilities were modern, and the final medical bill did not horrify.

A latecomer

When I hit my 37th week of pregnancy I started receiving regular messages such as, “How are you feeling?” and “Has the baby arrived yet?”. Naturally, I responded with good humour and anticipation. After all, I was super excited. At that point, I could go into labour at any time! But as the days and weeks passed, my feelings curdled into impatience and irritation.

A due date is based on a 40-week pregnancy. However, a healthy baby can be born anytime between 37 and 42 weeks. My own due date came and went, and still, there was no baby. So, my doctor advised me to have an induction.

A painful induction

I was 41 weeks on the day of my induction. I arrived at the National University Hospital (NUH) at 8.30am with a small bag of personal essentials. I’d packed toiletries, a mountain of home-made sultana biscuits, a change of clothes, and an exercise ball with pump.

birth at NUH

Shortly after arriving at ward 48, a medical belt was strapped around my waist to measure contractions. According to the machine, I was already contracting although I didn’t feel a thing! The nurse then gave me a prostaglandin vaginal suppository to speed things up. This is one of the many ways you can induce labour and it works by stimulating the uterine contractions. The nurse asked me to return again in the afternoon, leaving me free to roam the hospital grounds.

birth at NUH

I spent the next few hours walking around NUH, drinking coffee, and working on an essay for my Master’s degree. I tucked into some nasi lemak for lunch and at 3.00pm I headed to ward 9A to check into my hospital room.

I had a private A-class room at NUH charged at $535.00 per night. The room was clean and spacious, containing a separate bathroom, TV, hospital bed, desk with chair, and a recliner for visitors to sit and sleep. Extra sheets, blankets and pillows were available in the cupboard. Best of all, plenty of natural light and lush views of Kent Ridge brightened the room. I felt super comfortable chilling here while I waited for my labour experience to begin.

birth at NUH

The “fun” begins

It wasn’t until 5.00pm that I really started to feel the contractions. From then on, things escalated quickly! I called my husband to hurry on over. He arrived with a bag of baby items including a car seat for the eventual trip home. By 6.00pm I was in agony and my clothes were soaked through with sweat. The contractions were happening every 1 minute and felt like giant iron talons crunching and clamping on my insides. I applied all the techniques learnt during my antenatal classes to work through the pain. I stretched and bounced on my exercise ball, paced the ward, breathed deeply, and took a hot shower. The speed of contractions did not ease up and I quickly went from 1cm to 5cm dilated. By 9.00pm I was in active labour and ready to push the baby out!

Remaining graceful under the circumstances was not easy. I howled all the way to the delivery suite. One of the nurses gave me an injection to temporarily slow the contractions while they prepped me for labour. That’s when the bomb dropped… The anaesthetist gravely informed that due to my previous broken back, the risk of infection with an epidural was too high and that I was going to have to proceed without it. I felt shattered, exhausted, and ready to give up. Was this level of pain, more akin to torture, really normal? I later learned that contractions are significantly more intense when pregnancy is induced.

The head nurse could see I was flailing. With much enthusiasm and vigour, she persuaded me that pushing the baby out would be a piece of cake. “Stop thinking about the epidural and just get on with it” she implored. The contractions were starting up again at 5 minutes apart. With all the strength I could muster, and a few sucks of laughing gas, I got ready for the grand finale.

birth at NUH

Labour is nothing like in the movies. To push properly you must use your abdominal muscles. If you are screaming then you are doing it wrong! During each contraction, I pushed and heaved with all my might while the nurse and my husband supported my legs. In the breaks in between, I rested my eyes and breathed the laughing gas. The gas itself doesn’t really ease the pain so much as provide a distraction, as you place the cup over your mouth to deeply inhale and exhale.

A blogger is born

The doctor pulled little Jammy out at 12.05am. He entered the world full of energy (and hair!) – waving his arms, clenching his fists and screaming his lungs out. We were overjoyed to welcome a healthy, bonny boy.

birth at NUH

I remained at NUH for two nights. During this time the nurses taught me how to swaddle, change a nappy, and breastfeed. Jammy slept in the same room as me in his own bassinet. However, for tired mummies, NUH also has a nursery where babies can be cared for while you rest.

birth at NUH

While recovering from the trauma of labour, and as I bonded with Jammy, I developed a ravenous appetite for sweets. I gulped down cups and cups of milky milo, courtesy of NUH, and feasted on the homemade biscuits I had packed with me. I decided to give the hospital food a miss.

On the last day of my stay, just before I went home, the nurse on duty assured me that I would be a good mother. She said all I needed to remember was that babies cry for only one of three reasons: hunger, a dirty diaper, or because they are in need of a cuddle.

Throughout my stay, all of the nurses at NUH were wonderful. They attended to my every need in a manner that was attentive, kind and patient. I wrote them a thank you note before departing.

birth at NUH

Jammy is now growing well and gaining weight rapidly. It will be no time at all before he is also blogging with his mamma Bossy Flossie!

How much did it cost?

In a previous blog, I shared the typical prenatal costs you can expect at NUH, KKH and Raffles Hospital. Delivery costs are charged separately.

My delivery with induction at NUH cost $6,453.00. This included $679.45 per day for both room and medical treatment. I was charged an additional $993.62 for baby-related costs including use of the baby cot, doctor’s check-up, and vaccination. The total bill was $7446.62.

Altogether, I had a very positive experience during my pregnancy and giving birth at NUH. I am grateful for their care and expertise in helping me deliver a precious boy and future blogger!

birth at NUH
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