How to Choose a Hospital for Your Birth
What you look for in the hospital where you will give birth, and the questions you ask about maternity care, can have a lasting impact on your health, your baby and your family. Labor, delivery and recuperation is a natural process, but it can be far more comfortable in a pleasant, supportive birthing environment.
Long before labor begins, think about your goals when it comes to where you give birth and the care you receive.
Can you choose your hospital?
Your OB-GYN and insurance provider figure greatly in this decision. When you select your doctor, you are often also deciding on a hospital. A doctor has to have active—or admitting—privileges at a hospital. An ob-gyn can’t just deliver babies at any hospital you choose, though some have admitting privileges at multiple facilities.
Your insurance will dictate the doctors it will cover and, by doing so, what hospitals are available to you as a patient. After figuring out which doctors and hospitals are covered by your insurance, finding a hospital that meets your needs and feels comfortable is the next step. To reduce out-of-pocket expenses, you’ll want to stay “in network.”
What questions should you ask about the birth setting?
Know what’s important to you, as there is a myriad of practice styles in maternity care. Bring a list of questions when you visit a hospital. Many hospitals also have birthing centers in addition to traditional labor and delivery suites, and these centers can offer a more relaxed environment. Hospitals often offer tours for prospective mothers, as do birthing centers.
Ask questions such as:
What is the hospital’s visitation policy?
Is there a birth center in the hospital? How does care in the birth center differ from traditional hospital maternity care?
Can your partner stay in the room with you at all times? What accommodations does the facility have for your partner?
Can the baby stay with you 24/7?
Does the hospital have a lactation specialist on staff?
Is the hospital part of a network that has a children’s hospital?
Does the hospital have a baby-friendly designation?
Is there a newborn ICU unit on site?
How long do women stay in the hospital after a vaginal birth? How long do they stay after a cesarean birth?
Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or midwife for insight. Ask family or friends who have had a baby recently. Many hospitals have childbirth educators and websites with detailed descriptions of their services, policies and online tours.
What if you have a high-risk pregnancy?
These factors may increase the risk of complications:
Mothers of very young age or older than 35
Mothers overweight or underweight
Problems in previous pregnancies
Pregnancy with twins or other multiples
Health conditions you have before you become pregnant, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer or HIV.
In these circumstances, consider a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Be sure the facility is well-equipped for a high-risk birth and any potential complications.
Whatever your situation, here’s to a healthy pregnancy. With such a big event on the horizon, be an advocate for yourself and your unborn baby. Do research, ask questions and explore all your options.
Our goal is to ensure that the arrival of your baby is as joyous and stress-free as possible. Learn more about our maternity services.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
Office on Women’s Health