Even in her eighth month of pregnancy, Loni Venti still clung to her bright-red lipstick, platinum-dyed locks and pinup-worthy high heels.
So when the 33-year-old beauty editor went into labor last month, she planned on doing so in style. No stiff, standard-issue hospital gown for her: She was bringing her own delivery duds.
“Giving birth is one of those milestone moments, like your wedding,” Venti tells The Post. “And for all your milestone moments, you want to bring your best self.”
The Staten Island native — who recently moved to Santa Monica, Calif. — tried on a dozen labor garments from the internet before settling on a blue, $40, flutter-sleeve wrap dress from the label Pretty Pushers and a $30, empire-waisted, floral frock from Baby Be Mine.
“Let’s be honest: Birth is a messy situation,” says Venti about bringing not one — but two — pushing costumes. “I just wanted to have options.”
For women hoping to look and feel put together in the delivery room, there are hordes of haute hospital ensembles from brands with names like Gownies, Gracefully Birthed and Posh Pushers. These outfits — which cost between $30 and $80 — feature strategic openings for fetal monitors, IVs, anesthesia and nursing, so women can have a smooth-but-stylish birth experience.
“They’re basically functional hospital gowns, but they come in different sizes and are more comfortable,” says Kim Roemer, a labor and delivery nurse who founded Posh Pushers with a colleague in 2011 after hearing patients complaining about the shapeless, scratchy sacks they were given at the hospital.
“You can feel it in the fabric in a hospital delivery gown — you know it’s seen battle,” says TV producer Nassdja Anthony, 31, who got a Posh Pushers gown as a gift from a friend before her son’s birth in June. “I think you feel beautiful in the process no matter what … but to put something on that you know is clean and is a pretty color brings a little bit of sunshine when you might need it.”
Roemer says that it’s also the rise of social media that has helped boost popularity of their gowns in the past couple of years.
“They definitely make for a prettier first-birth announcement picture,” she says.
‘To put something on that you know is clean and is a pretty color brings a little bit of sunshine when you might need it.’
Lisa Taylor, a certified doula and educator at Birth Matters NYC, has noticed this growing interest among her clients, too.
“A few years ago, nobody had heard of bringing your own laboring gown,” she says. “Now about 15 to 20 percent buy — or at least really seriously think about buying — one.”
It’s enough that hospitals are beginning to rethink their standard schmattas. In the past year, the NYC-based Pretty Pushers has worked with a dozen medical systems and eight military hospitals nationwide to help develop stylish, reusable patient gowns for their delivery wards.
“Nurses started calling us, saying, ‘I saw one of my patients wearing your gowns — what have you got for [the hospital]?’ ” says Pretty Pushers founder Mary Apple, adding that she’s in talks with two NYC medical centers about updating their female patients’ togs.
Marisa Masciotti-Peer, a labor and delivery nurse at Mount Sinai, sees these more-stylish gowns as part of a larger trend toward personalizing or upgrading the “birth experience,” such as bringing flameless candles, lavender oil and pillowcases from home, or curating a personalized “push playlist” to help moms feel more relaxed.
“These things all help the patient feel not so much like a patient, because she’s not there because she’s sick; she’s there to have a baby,” she says.
That’s why Greenpoint resident Heather Giesa bought a Kelly-green Pretty Pushers frock three years ago, when she was pregnant with her first son, Milo.
“The whole hospital setting wasn’t exactly appealing to me,” says the 36-year-old pilates and dance instructor. And the idea of wearing a hospital gown was particularly unpleasant. “I know they’re washed, but they’ve been worn before… The idea of bringing something to wear that was mine — that I had control over — was comforting to me on some level.”
Giesa even got to wear the halter-neck gown again to deliver her second son, Levi, two months ago.
“I had to wash it, of course,” she says. “But it’s great for breast-feeding, so it works for a nightgown, too, so I’ve gotten a lot out of it.”
Yet, while most medical professionals concede that many of these garments are completely fine to don during delivery, they might be impractical.
“I warn my patients, if this is something you want to keep forever, you might want to wait until after delivery to put it on,” says Masciotti-Peer.
That’s what happened to Anthony when she started going through the labor process in her Lilly Pulitzer-esque printed gown this past summer.
“The nurse turned to me and said, ‘This is really pretty — I don’t know if you want to wear it during delivery,’” she says. So she changed into a hospital gown, and after pushing, swapped it for the cuter option and is glad she did.
“Having a clean and pretty gown to put on after [I’d] been working incredibly hard, it made me feel human in a way,” Anthony says. “And it was really convenient, because it allowed for breast-feeding and skin-to-skin contact [with the baby] and also allowed the doctors to have access to take my IVs out.”
Still, some women — like 32-year-old Natalia Garcia, who bought herself a Pretty Pusher after seeing her friend wearing one on Instagram — says that she would rather suffer through labor in a soiled-but-cute slip than in a frumpy hospital tunic.
As the Flushing resident puts it: “The standard gowns are so kind of ick.”
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