January 16, 2020

What to look for when choosing a hospital for delivery

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Couple speaking with doctor on choosing a hospital for delivery.

Ask these questions when choosing a hospital for delivery and to find out whether a facility can accommodate your childbirth needs.

Choosing where to give birth is about so much more than whether a hospital is in-network with your health insurance coverage. Of course, that factor, along with selecting a location where your provider delivers babies, is important. But you also want to choose a hospital that fits the unique needs of your growing family. Choosing a hospital for delivery takes time, but you want to make sure you and your baby receive quality care from the start.

“Find a place where you feel comfortable and that aligns with your birth plan or goals for your delivery,” said Kameron Brainard, CNM, APN, of Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives Melrose. You want to deliver someplace where you’ll get high quality care no matter what kind of birth you envision.

When you have a place in mind, one of the best ways to get a feel for it is to take a tour and ask plenty of questions. Here’s what you might want to find out when choosing a hospital for delivery.

Know your options

If your birth plan involves having a low-intervention delivery, you may want to inquire about the hospital’s C-section rate, induction rate and epidural rate. However, if it’s your plan to get an epidural, ask whether the hospital has 24-hour anesthesia services.

It’s important to learn about all options for pain management, Brainard said. Alternative options to keep the mother-to-be comfortable may include the use of exercise or peanut balls or a birthing tub. So if these items are an important part of your birth plan, ask about them.

Policies

Inquire about the fine details in varying policies as you’re choosing a hospital to give birth. Each hospital will have policies surrounding birthing. Fetal monitoring is a policy that will vary across facilities.

“We know intermittent monitoring is a safe alternative for a low-risk pregnancy,” Brainard said. “If this pregnancy is a higher risk, and your baby will need continuous monitoring, ask if the hospital has wireless units. That’s going to allow for more mobility for you to be upright.”

Brainard also recommended asking about whether the hospital allows for eating and drinking during labor. “This may vary based on the risk status of the patient,” Brainard explained. “But it is important to find out how or what you’re going to be able to consume.”

Ask about the policies surrounding guests in both the delivery unit and the postpartum unit. “If you want a lot of family or friends in the room, that’s something definitely to inquire about,” Brainard said.

Routine procedures during and after delivery for both mom and baby are also considerations. If they are important to you, Brainard said, inquire about such topics as whether the hospital encourages skin-to-skin contact between baby and mother or partner, whether the hospital engages in delayed cord clamping and whether the baby rooms in with mom or stays in a separate nursery.

Staff

Find out the nurse-to-patient ratio. Getting more attention can play a significant role in your delivery experience, Brainard said. You can also ask about staff philosophies. “If a woman is planning a low-intervention labor, she should ask how supportive the nurses are of natural childbirth, and if the facility is familiar with doulas.”

If you’re planning to breastfeed, learn about the hospital’s lactation support, she added. You may also wonder who will be taking care of your baby. “Sometimes there is a nurse taking care of both mom and baby. We call that couplet care,” Brainard explained. “Sometimes the baby is taken to the nursery and taken care of by a nursery nurse.”

Ultimately, it’s essential to determine the factors that are most important to you and your family. The smallest details will help make your delivery process easier.

At Vanderbilt, we know childbirth is a special experience. We take exceptionally good care of your baby’s health and yours, no matter what kind of birth you experience, so you can focus on the joy of your new arrival. To talk with our labor and delivery experts, call Vanderbilt Women’s Health at 615-343-5700.