Between doctors appointments, childbirth classes, choosing a name and decorating the nursery, there's a lot to do before your baby arrives. And while every new mom hopes for a smooth delivery, touring the hospital and asking questions are two of the most important things you can do for peace of mind and to help you make the right choice.
But how do you know what questions to ask? Below, Michael Cacciatore, MD, obstetrician at AdventHealth, suggests the following as a good starting point.
Does the hospital offer education classes to prepare for our baby's birth?
Parent education classes are designed to give you and your family the skills and knowledge you need to embark on this new phase of your life with confidence, says Dr. Cacciatore. Even if this isn't your first baby, you may find that there are new techniques and tips available for parents since your previous birth experience.
Parenting education classes at AdventHealth address topics such as childbirth, breastfeeding, safe-sitters, bringing baby home, ways to soothe your baby, infant/pediatric CPR, and even safe practices for introducing the family pet to a new baby.
Does the hospital provide care for high-risk pregnancies or babies, like preemies, who need extra care after birth?
If your pregnancy is high-risk, you want to be sure your hospital has experience with cases like yours. Factors for a high-risk pregnancy include maternal age under 17 or over 35, preexisting medical conditions like high blood pressure or heart problems, and medical conditions that occur during pregnancy such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.
Preemies babies delivered before the 37th week of pregnancy are prone to complications such as respiratory distress syndrome and infections, and require specialized care by trained neonatologist and a high-level Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
No one likes to anticipate problems during labor and delivery, but depth of expertise and advanced technology can make a crucial difference when unforeseen emergencies arise, Dr. Cacciatore says.
Is there an obstetrician, anesthesiologist and neonatologist available at all times?
If you're in labor for a while, what happens if your obstetrician gets called to another case? What if an emergency arises with you or your baby and you need surgery or the baby needs medical intervention? Your hospital should have an obstetrician, anesthesiologist and neonatologist on-site at all times to address any of these situations.
According to Dr. Cacciatore, AdventHealth is instituting an obstetric hospitalist program that provides an obstetrician at the hospital 24/7. So, even if your doctor is called away, you will still have trained obstetricians available to take over your labor and delivery.
Is a pediatrician available in the hospital?
Even if you've selected a pediatrician for your baby, it's ideal that one is available at all times during your hospital stay. These doctors, known as pediatric hospitalists, work with your regular pediatrician and other physicians and providers involved in your child's care.
If your baby is born full-term and healthy, but develops a health issue, the pediatric hospitalist will update your pediatrician and be part of your child's care team. When your baby leaves the hospital, the pediatric hospitalist will give your pediatrician a detailed overview of your child's hospital stay and thorough instructions for any necessary continuing care.
Does the hospital offer support for moms who want natural births or VBAC?
You want your hospital to be on the same page with you when it comes to your desire for a natural birth or a vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC).
If your obstetrician determines you're a good candidate to attempt VBAC, then you want a hospital that can accommodate VBAC, Dr. Cacciatore explains. Some hospitals may not offer VBAC because they don't have the staff or resources to handle an emergency C-section. An obstetrician must be on-site during the entire labor in case a C-section must be done, and an operating room and anesthesiologist must be available.
Is breastfeeding support available?
While natural, convenient and best for baby, breastfeeding can be tricky, so the more support and guidance new mothers have, the more likely it is that breastfeeding will be successful. Breastfeeding support should include lactation consultants, and on-site lactation services, such as private consultations, breast pump sales and rentals.
Lactation consultants help new moms learn the basics of breastfeeding and address any issues to ensure they can successfully breastfeed their babies, says Dr. Cacciatore.
How involved can family members be?
This is a good question to ask both your prospective hospital and yourself! You need to address your own preferences regarding family members in the birthing room and find out how many of them you can have in the room, Dr. Cacciatore advises. We encourage family members to be there if that's what the parents wish. Some don't want other family members in the room so those wishes will be respected as well.
You also should ask what the hospital's policy is on having someone with you in the operating room if you're having a scheduled C-section. AdventHealth policy allows one support person in the operating room as long as the delivering mother is not under general anesthetic.