Usually somewhere around the 32+ week mark your doctor may recommend you take a tour of your delivery hospital. As a planner, but also as a Mom who has already been through this, I HIGHLY recommend you do this. There is nothing more stressful than trying to figure out where to park or what entrance to use when you’re having contractions! Take my advice; just avoid that scenario all together.
Your typical hospital tour can easily be scheduled on your hospital’s website. Ours limited the size of our tour group to about 6 couples, which was nice as it gives you the opportunity to ask questions. Yes you should have questions prepared!
I cannot speak for the structure of all tours, but ours started by taking us to the entrance we should arrive at when we are checking in. Pay attention here, as Hubby will be the one doing the drop-off and parking most likely. Our guide also went through the items we should have with us upon arrival in order to make check-in as smooth and quick as possible. Believe me when you can hardly stand during one of those whopper contractions you will want that process to be quick!
Items to Have Ready at Check-In
You should have the following items readily available upon arrival.
- You should have already “pre-registered” and sent your paperwork to the hospital in advance. This will dramatically cut down on the number of forms and things to sign. Your doctor will most likely provide this to you.
- Driver’s license for identification.
- Insurance Card.
You will unfortunately STILL be asked to sign a few forms when you arrive, which personally I found annoying. I mean what is the point of pre-registering then? Eventually you will be given a wristband with a bar code, as will your partner. This bar code will be used to keep track of everything the hospital uses. For example, every bag of fluid I was given via an IV was first scanned followed by my wristband bar code. This is how my hospital knew exactly how much of EVERYTHING to charge my insurance. Pretty organized huh?
What Will Your Hospital Room Be Like?
Different hospitals have different accommodations. For example, some hospitals have women share a labor room and then transport them to a different room for delivery. In addition to that, some postpartum recovery rooms are not private or require a reservation. You will want to know your hospital’s set up to ensure you have a comfortable delivery and recovery.
I also recommend asking additional questions about what amenities will be available in the labor and delivery rooms. Depending on the type of “environment” you want to create during the birthing process will also depend on what is available. For example, if you think you may want to utilize a tub during part of your labor you will want to ask if the typical room provides a private one.
Unfortunately for me, we were shown a room with a tub during the tour, but were not told that not every room came with one. Needless to say it was quite a bummer to find out the room we were provided during labor did not have a tub at all. If these types of amenities are important to you then be sure to ask!
Also don’t forget about the hubby! Be sure to ask questions to find out if a bed or cot will be available for him during your 3-5 day stay etc.
Below is a list of questions you should ask your hospital so you can make the appropriate arrangements if necessary:
- Will I have to share a room? Is there the option for a private room (and if so is there a way to reserve one)?
- Will I labor and deliver in the same room, or is there a triage area for labor and a separate area for the actual delivery?
- How many people are allowed in the room while I’m in labor? During the delivery? What about in the event of a C-section?
- Is there a waiting area for friends and family? (If so, ask to check it out!)
- Will I have access to a shower or birthing tub? Are these shared facilities that may be in use when I deliver or private and for me alone?
- Is there a chair, bed or cot for my partner to spend the night with me while I’m in the hospital?
- Is there a television in the room? Can I bring music?
- Will I be moved to a different room post-delivery? Is that room shared or private?
- How long will I stay in the hospital post-delivery? (This can vary per hospital but is typically 3 days for a vaginal delivery and up to 5 days for a C-section delivery).
What Are Your Hospital’s Stats and Policies?
This may or may not be important to you, but personally I wanted to know my hospital’s C-section rate. What does that indicate you ask? Well if a hospital’s C-section rate is high it could mean that they are a “baby factory” meaning they do not give moms ample time to have a vaginal delivery and will therefore rush for a C-section, as it is quicker. However, this stat may not mean anything if that hospital receives a lot of “high risk “ birth patients and therefore specializes in safe C-sections. This is an important distinction to figure out.
I cannot say this enough, but if there is NOTHING wrong, as in your heart rate and blood pressure as well as baby’s is fine, then there is no reason to rush. The body knows what to do, it simple needs to be given the time to do it!
For whatever reason some doctors may push for a C-section after so many hours of labor, especially after your water has broken, because of the risk of infection. However, that is nothing a bag of antibiotics can’t fix and in my opinion is NOT a reason for a C-section. A lot of first time moms give into these recommendations as they think, “the doctor knows best.”
Well I’m here to tell you that you can in fact SAY NO to literally anything they suggest. You are the customer, not them and it is your body. Granted they may make you sign a waiver form here and there, but the decision is ultimately yours. Don’t ever let a doctor pressure you into something you do not feel is right for you or your baby, this is your birth, not theirs.
You also do not have to give birth at the hospital your OBGYN is associated with. These questions should help you decide what hospital is right for you:
- How long is the average labor time for this hospital?
- What’s the hospital’s C-section rate?
- How long will I have to wait for an epidural?
- Is this a teaching hospital? If so, can I expect interns or students to be present during my delivery? Can I request to not have them?
- Is there a policy regarding videos or photos during labor and delivery?
- Can I eat and/or drink while in labor?
- What is the hospital’s policy regarding episiotomy? (ie. cutting you to make room for baby to be born vaginally)
- Can my doula or midwife be present?
- Can I wear my own dressing gown or pajamas during labor?
- What happens in the event that I require a C-section?
- Am I allowed to walk around during labor? If so, am I restricted to the room? If there is an area where laboring moms are allowed to walk, ask to see it.
- Do I have to get an IV line placed immediately upon arrival? Is a hep-lock an option? (The IV tube is placed in the vein and is sealed with a saline solution until needed. This is so you don’t have to drag an IV bag with you while mid-contraction)
- How often do you do fetal monitoring during labor? Is it required? (Some hospitals have mobile units available to allow you to walk around, whereas others may require you to come back to the room every 30 minutes for monitoring.)
- How often do you perform pelvic exams during labor?
- Are there any restrictions on positions can I give birth in?
- Will I have access to a birthing ball or birthing bar? (This is a bar that can be attached to your hospital bed for you to pull or lean on during pushing)
Questions Regarding Baby
It was very important to my husband and I that we knew every decision we had to make for our baby as soon as she was born. You also do not want to be surprised if they take your baby from you immediately post delivery. If this is not something that you want be sure to voice those concerns to your doctor and nurse when you arrive. I found it extremely handy to have my birth plan printed for each nurse that was assigned to me. (Read my post about How To Write a Birth Plan for more information)
Secondly, you will want to make sure you know the necessary steps to procure your little one’s birth certificate and obtain a social security card. After filling out some paperwork our hospital submitted all of this for us and we received our birth certificate and social security card in the mail a few weeks later. Every hospital’s procedure is different so you will want to know these instructions.
It is also important to know what the requirements are to go home with your baby if they are sent to the NICU for whatever reason. Our hospital for instance required you to be infant CPR certified before your baby was allowed to be checked out of the NICU to go home. You will want to make sure you know these requirements as you the last thing you want to worry about after going through delivery is going to a CPR class. No thank you!
Below is a list of questions regarding your little one I would be sure to ask:
- Will the baby be taken from me for cleaning and examination right away or can they perform the exams while the baby remains me with?
- Is there the option for a delayed cord cutting?
- When does the baby receive their vitamin K shot and erythromycin eye ointment?
- What happens in the event that my baby is in distress and requires NICU attention? Will they be transferred to another facility?
- If my baby is taken to the nursery, will they be brought to me for feedings?
- Does the hospital offer post-delivery consultation with a lactation consultant, should I want one?
- If we need to supplement with formula can I bring my own in?
- What security measures does the hospital have in place to ensure the safety of Mom and Baby?
- How do I complete the paperwork to obtain my baby’s birth certificate?
- What, if anything, needs to be done before the baby can be released for home? (Some hospitals require proof of a properly installed car seat.)
Postpartum Recovery Questions
Some of these questions may have been answered when asking about the hospital’s accommodations. However, you should still ask to see one of the postpartum recovery rooms. This will also help you know what other items you may need to pack and bring with you. (Read my post on What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for more information)
One thing that was great about our hospital was that everything for the baby was provided. Even down to the hats, socks, onesies, blankets, diapers and wipes! The best part is you can take all of this stuff home with you! If it is provided in your room then you are welcome to take home anything extra. Hospitals are not allowed to have other patients use anything that was in their room prior, so they are most likely going to throw anything you leave behind away for sanitary reasons. We’re talking free diapers here people load them up!
Below are a few questions regarding visitor policies etc. in the postpartum recovery area:
- Will I have access to a shower post-delivery? Is the shower shared or private?
- How do meals work? Will food be brought for my husband as well?
- Is there a hospital cafe, and if so what are the hours and menu?
- What are the visiting hours and policies once the baby is born?
- Does the hospital offer parking validation? If not, what is the parking fee? (This is important for any visitors coming as well)
There you have it. The top 40 questions to ask on a hospital tour. I hope this enlightens you to all the choices you have and things to consider when deciding on the facility that is best for your new family. Remember this is YOUR birth and no one can make you do anything you do not feel is right for your body or baby. Knowing the answers to these questions prior to delivery is an important step in deciding on how you want your birth experience.