Marcus and I recently took a tour of the maternity suite in which we’ll be delivering. The quick walking tour took us through the waiting room, triage, nursery, two birthing rooms, and the operating rooms (we didn’t get to go inside due to sterilization, but got to see where it was). Most importantly, it gave us a chance to ask questions regarding our stay so we’ll be prepared for the big day.
Every birthing center and hospital differs in their practices. Some are very pro-medication, some aren’t. Some provide breastfeeding support, other’s don’t. Some provide birthing balls and aids, others won’t…you get the picture. So it’s important to research centers in your area to find what best fits your needs.
Here are some questions that may help you along the way.
1) What support is available for natural births?
- Does the center provide birthing aids? Which ones? And do I need to specifically request them before checking in?
- Are doulas allowed to assist?
- Are there showers or baths available to use during labor?
- Will I be confined to my room or am allowed to roam the halls during labor?
These questions are especially important to ask in a hospital setting. Chances are the majority of their births are medicated so they may not provide all the resources you’re looking for.
2) Are the delivery rooms private?
- If not, can I request a private one? Is there an extra charge and will my insurance cover it?
Not every location provides the luxury of a private room. You definitely want to ask this question if you’re not okay with other couples in the room as you labor and deliver.
3) What are the visiting hours? Obviously important if you plan to have friends and family visit.
4) Can my partner stay overnight?
- How about other guests?
- What accommodations are supplied for them?
5) Will the baby be staying with me or in the nursery?
- Where will the baby be bathed and weighed?
- Is there a warming station provided?
- Under what circumstances will the baby be taken to the nursery?
You can always refuse your baby leave your sight unless it’s an emergency. In that case, your partner should be able to go with the baby.
6) What’s provided and what do I need to bring from home? In other words, will I be okay if my water breaks in the middle of the grocery store and I have to rush to the hospital without my meticulously-packed bag?
7) Do you allow photography? Labor and birth photography is becoming very popular, but some centers don’t allow it for legal reasons. It’s a good idea to check their policies before booking a photographer or bringing your own camera.
8) What’s your policy on breastfeeding? Will I get support if I need it? Some hospitals support immediate breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, while others turn to testing first. Pro-breastfeeding facilities will often have a lactation specialist on site to help things get going. If this is an important topic for you, be sure to ask.
9) What’s the nurse-to-patient ratio? You’ll see your nurse way more than your doctor during your stay. So it’s good to know the chances of having the same nurses check up on you throughout labor, how many moms they’re working with at a given time, and how long their shifts are so you can get an idea of the type of relationship you can expect.
10) Does the center have a NICU? What’s the plan otherwise? If your pregnancy is high risk, chances are your doctor has already referred you to a ward with a NICU just in case. But even if not, things happen and you may need one. Ask about the protocol.
11) Is there an operating room on site? It’s a major plus if the ward has their own operating room if you need a C-section. Less chance of it being in use when you need it.
12) Can I pre-register for my stay? Yes! Give them your health and insurance information ahead of time so you won’t be stuck filling out paperwork between contractions. One less thing to worry about!
13) How long is the typical stay? Generally it’s 48 hours after a vaginal birth and 96 hours after a Cesarean, but every ward is different. I’ve recently heard of the “5-day stay” during which mothers elect to stay at the hospital for 5 days and nights for extra assistance. I assume there’s an extra charge, but something to look into if it’s appealing to you.
14) Where’s the best spot to park? You don’t want to be searching for a parking spot in between contractions.
15) What security measures are in place to ensure the safety of mom and baby? But hospitals are safe! Ok, hear me out. You just had a baby, you don’t want anything to happen. So how does the center protect things from happening? Cameras, security guards, double doors?
Most centers provide matching bracelets to mother and child and some go as far as putting a security tag on the baby’s wrist that will alarm if it gets close to the doors. You also want to be sure they’re diligent about visitor sign-in and sign-out. It’s also a good idea to ask how often nurses come in to check up on mom and baby- anything to make you more comfortable.
These are just a few questions I found helpful during our tour. Feel free to add some you’d ask in the comments!