Did you know that when you choose your OB-GYN or health practitioner, you are also choosing your maternity hospital? When selecting your doctor or midwife, take the time to research where they have admitting privileges. Most obstetricians have admitting privileges to only one hospital—and you’ll want to be comfortable with the location.
Why does that matter if you trust your delivery doctor? Depending on their on-call schedule, your doctor might not be the one delivering your baby. If they are unable to be at the hospital when you go into labor, there’s a chance that an OB-GYN working at the hospital might be the one to handle the delivery. You will want to be comfortable with the labor and delivery team at your maternity hospital in that situation.
When researching your maternity hospital, it’s important to be thorough and make sure you’re asking the right questions. Does the hospital have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)? What are their policies on COVID-19? Will you have a private room?
Rest easy. Here’s your complete guide for how to choose a maternity hospital for you and your baby.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Maternity Hospital
Do They Cover My Basics?
When writing up a list of the best maternity hospitals for you, first start with the basics. Check with your insurance company to make sure that the hospital accepts your insurance. If travel distance is important to you, consider what traffic would be like on the way to the hospital once you go into labor.
What Are the Hospital’s Team and Practices Like?
Above everything, it’s important that you and your baby are being cared for by a skilled team. Check the accreditations of the hospital’s OB-GYNs and anesthesiologists to see if they are board-certified. When your practitioner is board-certified, this means they’ve undergone extra training in their field, as well as ongoing professional development.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, inquire if the nursing staff is certified in high-risk obstetrics. If there’s a chance your baby will be born preterm or have other special needs, inquire if the hospital has a team of neonatologists and nurses. Will you be able to have a hands-on relationship with your baby while they’re in NICU?
Ask questions about the maternity hospital’s procedures so you know what to expect during your birthing experience. Will you labor and give birth in the same room, or will you be moved to a new room before your baby is born? Will you be able to stay with your baby 24/7 or will they be moved to a nursery?
In the case of a complication like an unexpected c-section, you want to ensure your maternity hospital has the staff and resources to provide you with the best care possible. Do they have an anesthesiologist available around the clock?
Do you know if this hospital is a teaching hospital? In these situations, medical students and/or residents might be present during your labor and birth. If you’re not comfortable with that (which is completely understandable), ask if you can request they stay out of the room.
Do You Have a High-Risk Pregnancy?
If you have a high-risk pregnancy or pre-existing conditions, plan for your worst-case situation and make sure the maternity hospital has the appropriate facilities. Do they have a neonatal intensive care unit in the case of preterm birth or other complications?
Women are considered to have a high-risk pregnancy if they are:
- Either very young or older than 35
- Overweight or underweight
- Pregnant with more than one baby
- Have pre-existing health conditions like diabetes or cancer
Talk to your doctor about your specific pregnancy needs and what situations you should be ready for. If you need to be transferred in the event of an emergency, it’s understandably better to only need to travel between floors, instead of between health facilities. If your chosen hospital doesn’t have the appropriate equipment, consider an alternate plan if complications occur.
Do They Support Your Birthing Plan?
You likely have plans for how you want your birthing experience to go. Women who have a birthing plan often have a more positive birthing experience. Whether you want to have a natural birth, use pain medications, or have a c-section, make sure your maternity hospital is equipped to handle your unique situation.
Consider if there is any labor or birthing equipment that will make your experience more comfortable for you. If you want to have a water birth or freedom of movement, check hospital policies to see if they can accommodate these wishes. Hospitals that offer wireless fetal monitoring, for example, can allow you to walk around your room or floor while keeping an eye on your baby’s vitals.
What Are Maternity Accommodations Like?
It’s likely that you’ll spend at least a few days at the hospital following birth. Inquire into room accommodations so you can plan what you need to pack to be comfortable.
Research if rooms and bathrooms are private or if you’ll need to share with others. If you want a private room, inquire with your insurance company about what the fees would be. If having a private room is important to you, you might want to shop around to compare costs between hospitals.
Will your partner, family member, or friend be able to stay overnight with you? Clear this with the hospital first. If so, ask what accommodations are available for them to sleep, like a couch or recliner. Some hospitals provide rollaway beds so visitors can sleep in the room comfortably, while others may allow you to bring an inflatable mattress.
Consider how you’ll spend your time at the hospital when you’re not doting on your baby. Is there a TV in the labor and delivery rooms and postpartum rooms? Some maternity hospitals offer daily group and one-on-one activities like childbirth education, breastfeeding classes, and even lessons for making homemade baby food.
While you can certainly arrange for friends and family to bring you food, you might want to visit the cafeteria once or twice. Check to see if the cafeteria is open 24/7, how orders are handled, and if they accommodate any specific dietary needs. Some hospitals also gave small cafes for coffee, pastries, and some quick snacks.
What Are Their COVID Policies?
Hospitals contain patients that don’t have the ability to fight off infections. As the pandemic continues to affect everyday life, hospitals have put policies into place to protect patients and staff. Most will conduct some sort of screening at the entrances, ranging from verbal assessments to temperature checks.
Many hospitals have capacity limits on who can be in the birthing room or visit after your baby is born. Some allow just one visitor to accompany moms-to-be in the labor and delivery room. Inquire if your partner will be able to stay with you throughout the entire labor and delivery experience.
What Should I Ask on the Tour?
Your next step will be to tour your prospective maternity hospital. This is a smart step to take to prepare for the birthing process, especially for first-time parents. It can also ease a lot of nerves surrounding the childbirth experience.
Come prepared with a list of questions and don’t be shy when talking about your needs and wishes. Ask about hospital policies like where to park, what to pack in your hospital bag, and visiting hours. Some other questions to ask include:
- How many people are allowed in the delivery room?
- Where can other friends and family wait?
- What is the hospital’s cesarean rate?
- On average, how many births take place each day?
- Is the hospital comfortable with natural birth?
- What kind of fetal monitoring is available?
- What pain management methods do you offer?
- How long do laboring mothers need to wait for an epidermal?
- What labor and birthing equipment would I have access to?
- Do you allow video recording and/or photography?
- Will I be able to labor at my own pace?
- Can I choose how I push or deliver?
- Are there any situations where my baby will need to be transferred to another facility?
- What are the hospital’s support systems surround formula or breastfeeding?
- Who handles the majority of baby care, the parents or the nurses?
Plan to schedule your tour at least one to two months in advance of your due date. Request to see all rooms you’ll be in during your stay, as well as hospital accommodations like cafeterias and common areas. Ask if there is a choice between private and shared rooms, and ask to see both options.
Choose the Best Maternity Hospital for Your Needs
Don’t be afraid to be thorough when choosing the right maternity hospital for you and your baby. Childbirth is an emotional process and it’s important to be comfortable with your prospective hospital’s accommodations and OB-GYN team.
Want to make your birthing process even more special? We offer maternity packages that include a decorated room, photos of your baby, a birthday cake, and even a makeover for mom. Contact us today to learn more about obstetrics services like pregnancy care, childbirth, and postpartum care, or to schedule a tour.