If you're like many parents preparing for the birth of a new baby, you probably have a lot of questions. Among the most important is the question of where to have your baby. When considering a maternity hospital, here are some important questions to ask:
Do they offer education to help you prepare for the birth of your baby?
There's a lot to figure out, and many times your hospital can help. With classes and support groups on topics ranging from prenatal yoga to childbirth preparation to breastfeeding, your local hospital can be a great resource for expert information.
"Often, parents don't realize how many resources are available to them before, during and after pregnancy," says Nicole Giangregorio, manager of women's support programs at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. "We have classes for every member of the family — mom and dad, siblings, even grandparents."
Does the hospital provide care for high-risk pregnancies and babies who need extra care after birth?
Every mom hopes for a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but sometimes things don't go as planned. It's important to find out about your hospital's expertise in caring for women with pregnancy complications, especially if you are expecting multiples or have health issues like diabetes.
After delivery, some babies need extra help. Choosing a hospital with a high-level neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can give you peace of mind that your baby will quickly receive the care he or she might need.
What support is available for moms wanting a "natural" childbirth? What about VBAC?
Many moms want to try for an un-medicated childbirth, or a vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC). Find out what is available at the hospital you're considering — from intermittent monitoring and showers during labor, to birthing balls and squatting bars, to doulas and other care team members who are specially trained to help assist moms through childbirth. Also check to see whether your hospital has a recommended birth plan, and be sure to fill it out and discuss it with your support person and doctor ahead of time.
Is there an obstetrician, anesthesiologist and neonatologist at the hospital at all times?
Believe it or not, some hospitals don't have these important members of the delivery team on-site at all times. In many cases, these doctors are paged to come in as needed. Find out what your hospital's practice is and be sure you're comfortable with it.
How involved can family members be?
If you're planning to have family members or friends in the delivery room, be sure to check out your hospital's policies. You may also want to find out if you'll have a private room, and whether there is a place for someone to stay overnight.
Is breastfeeding support available?
It's no secret that breastfeeding provides many health benefits for both moms and babies. Although breastfeeding is natural, it doesn't come naturally to everyone. If you choose to breastfeed, you may need guidance and support from your caregivers. "Ask about the resources available in the hospital," advises Giangregorio. "Look into the practices that foster breastfeeding, like skin-to-skin, rooming in with your baby, and lactation education."
What about a pediatrician?
In most cases, your baby's pediatrician will do your baby's first checkups in the hospital. You'll want to choose a pediatrician before your baby is born, and make sure he or she is able to take care of your baby at the maternity hospital you choose.
With a little research and a few of the right questions, you'll be prepared to select a hospital that will help support the birthing experience you want and deserve.