10 Questions to Ask When You Take a Hospital Maternity Tour
- A hospital maternity tour is the perfect time to ask questions.Sometime in your third trimester, you should schedule a hospital maternity tour. Why? Whether you are having a planned C-section or hope to have a natural birth, these tours give you a chance to meet some of the staff who will help you on one of the most important days of your life. Hospital maternity tours are also a great time to learn about the specific policies, procedures and practices that will affect your birth experience. Use these 10 hospital maternity tour questions to gather the essential details.
- 1. Where should I go when I come to the hospital in labor?Make sure you know where to park and where to enter the hospital. If you go into labor in the middle of the night, the front entrance of the hospital may be locked; you may need to come in through the emergency room entrance or another after-hours door instead. At many hospitals, you can skip the registration desk and go straight to the maternity unit if you have completed all your paperwork in advance. Every hospital has its own procedure, though, so be sure to ask.
- 2. What pain management options are available?Whether you plan on a natural birth or want an epidural as soon as possible, it’s a good idea to know the full scope of pain management options available to you. Ask about non-medication pain relief options, such as showers, whirlpool tubs, birthing balls, and massage rollers. You can use these tools alone or along with pain medication. All hospitals offer epidurals, but an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist must administer this form of pain relief. Ask if these healthcare providers are always available in-house, or if staff call them in as needed.
- 3. What is your policy regarding fetal monitoring?Fetal monitoring—checking the baby’s heartbeat—is a way to assess the baby’s well-being. It can be done periodically or continuously, and externally or internally. External fetal monitoring can happen two ways. A provider may use a Doppler stethoscope to listen to your baby’s heartbeat. Or a provider may place two belts around your belly to automatically track your contractions and your baby’s heart. Internal fetal monitoring involves placing an electrode on the baby’s head. This is only an option after the bag of water breaks. Ask what kind of monitoring is typically performed.
- 4. Can I eat and drink during labor?When people are scheduled to have surgery, they typically need to stop eating and drinking for at least six hours before the surgery. This reduces the risk of complications. For years, pregnant women were told they couldn’t eat or drink during labor for the same reason—to decrease the risk of complications if a C-section was necessary. The latest research, though, says eating and drinking during labor is safe. Ask what food and drink will be available to you, and if you can bring food from home.
- 5. What accommodations are available for family members?Ask if there are any rules or limitations regarding who can be with you during labor and birth. Due to space constraints, many hospitals will limit the number of people in the room. If that’s the case, ask if there is a family lounge or waiting area to accommodate overflow. Be sure to ask about visitation policies too. Are visitors allowed at all hours? What about small children? Also, ask if your support person will be able to remain with you if you need a C-section.
- 6. Will I need to change rooms during my hospital stay?In some hospitals, women remain in the same room throughout their hospital stay—from admission all the way to discharge. At others, women labor, give birth, and recover briefly in one room before going to a post-partum room for the remainder of their stay. Ask about sleeping accommodations for your significant other too. Will the hospital provide a bed or cot for your support person?
- 7. What will happen if I need a C-section?Some hospitals have operating rooms on the same floor as the maternity unit. At other hospitals, staff will take you to an operating room on another floor for a C-section. Knowing what to expect if a C-section is necessary can ease your mind during what may be a scary time. You will also want to ask if your support person can stay by your side throughout the C-section.
- 8. Do you offer cord blood banking?Cord blood refers to the blood that remains in the umbilical cord after birth. Most of the time, the umbilical cord and blood are disposed of after birth. However, because cord blood contains stem cells that may help treat certain diseases, some people collect and save cord blood in private or public cord blood banks. Most hospitals do not do cord blood banking on a routine basis. If you are interested in cord blood banking, ask if they’ve done cord blood banking before and what supplies, if any, you’ll need to bring with you to the hospital. Decisions and arrangements need to be clearly made prior to going into labor.
- 9. Do babies usually stay with their parents or in a newborn nursery?At most hospitals, babies now spend the majority of their time with their parents. This can be jarring if you expected to visit your baby in the nursery! Some hospitals have done away with newborn nurseries all together. Others still have them, but babies come and go throughout the day. Ask about typical baby care practices: Can you call someone to take care of your baby for a few hours so you can catch a nap?
- 10. How do you help with infant feeding?Whether you are planning to breastfeed or bottle feed, you will likely need some help and support. If you’re planning to breastfeed, ask if there are lactation consultants on staff—and if so, when they are available. You can also ask if the nurses have additional training in breastfeeding. If you are planning to formula feed, ask if you need to bring any supplies to the hospital with you. The answer will probably be no, but asking the question will give you important information about typical baby feeding practices at that hospital.
10 Important Hospital Maternity Tour Questions