As an expecting parent, there are a million things on your mind when you’re getting ready to have your baby. Because your brain is jam-packed with things like nursery plans, prepping for maternity leave, and figuring out where your mom’s staying when she comes to visit her grandbaby, it’s easy to be a bit preoccupied when you tour the hospital.
To make sure you get everything you need out of your hospital tour, we put together a list of questions you need answers to by the time the tour is complete. During the tour, if you find that one of these questions has gone unanswered, don’t hesitate to speak up. The nurses will appreciate the participation and the other parents on the tour will be glad you came prepared.
Getting From Your Home to Your Delivery Room
The hospital staff will likely cover the basic “register ahead of time, check in at the front desk, wait for an escort to take you up to the labor and delivery wing” arrival procedure. But not every delivery is generic, so make sure you cover things like:
1 – If there is bad traffic on the way to the hospital, can I get a police escort?
We had both our kids in a college town where the hospital was right down the street from the football stadium. If Sam had gone into labor directly before or after a game, there wasn’t a chance that we’d be making it to the hospital anytime soon without a police escort. If you live in an area where traffic could be a serious impediment, make sure you have this one covered – the last thing you want is to deliver a baby in the middle of a packed highway.
2 – If the main parking lot is full, where do I park?
Getting towed is not something you want to be worried about when you’re in the throes of labor. So, make sure you (or, more importantly, your spouse) know which areas of the parking lot you can and can’t park in.
3 – Is there a separate after-hours entrance?
When Addy was born, Sam went into labor late at night and we wasted valuable time driving to the wrong hospital entrance, discovering it was closed, and then figuring out where we were supposed to go.
4 – Are there any hospital renovations planned during the weeks surrounding my due date? If so, how will they change where I need to go when I get to the hospital?
When Addy was born, the hospital was undergoing a significant renovation. And, of course, it was just our luck that the main check-in desk was being renovated during the few days we were there. While it wasn’t an end-of-the-world inconvenience to figure things out of the fly, it would have made things easier if we’d known what to expect when we arrived.
5 – After I check in with the front desk, can I go up to labor and delivery myself or do I need to wait for an escort?
Sam’s labor with Addy lasted a grand total of 45 minutes. About 20 of those minutes were at the hospital, 10 of which we spent waiting in the hospital lobby for an escort. Turns out, I could have taken her up to labor and delivery myself, which I definitely would have done had I known.
6 – What happens if all your delivery rooms are full when I arrive?
This actually happened to us with Junior. We had to wait in a waiting room outside the labor and delivery wing for twentyish minutes while they put together a room for us.
Delivering Your Baby
The hospital staff will likely show you a typical delivery room, a recovery room (if it’s separate from the delivery room), the nursery, and the nurse’s station. They should walk you through the progression of rooms (if you labor somewhere separate then you deliver, etc.). Make sure you ask:
1 – How many non-hospital employees do you allow in the delivery room?
Most hospitals will cap the number of people you bring along to support you in your labor. They do this to make sure the doctors and nurses have the room they need when the delivery is going down (between people, machines, and tables with laid out instruments, those rooms get full fast). This is especially important if you’ve hired a doula or a birthing coach, because having that person in the room may mean that your mom (or a close friend) will have to wait outside. While excluding people from the delivery room may be a touchy subject, it’s certainly better to sort everything out ahead of time than to be surprised upon your arrival.
2 – Do you have a policy regarding doulas?
Doulas are a fantastic resource for expecting mothers. Our doula gave us so much peace of mind – knowing that there would be a trained professional there to help us through our birthing experience was incredibly calming. If you’ve hired a doula, make sure you know whether your hospital has any specifics policies that may affect the support your doula can provide.
3 – What birthing tools do you have available?
There are a lot of tools that can make labor go smoother. While everyone has a different labor position and technique they prefer, a lot of laboring moms find tools like birthing stools, bars, medicine balls, rocking chairs, etc. helpful. Some hospitals have these on hand, some don’t. If you’ve thought about using some of these tools yourself, make sure you know what will be available and what you may have to bring to the hospital yourself.
4 – Do I get to control the temperature in my room?
Sam prefers laboring in artic-like conditions (seriously, I spent Junior’s labor wrapped up in a blanket wearing a t-shirt, a long sleeved thermal, and a sweatshirt. And I was still cold!) Lucky for Sam, our room had its own thermostat. If your hospital doesn’t have that option, you may consider bringing a fan along in case you find yourself in need of being cooled down.
5 – Do you have an anesthesiologist on site all the time? If not, what’s the most amount of time it will take for me to receive pain medicine (specifically, an epidural) after I request it?
Waiting for an anesthesiologist to give an epidural is never fun, but knowing that relief will definitely be there within a set amount of time may just give you the encouragement you need to get through.
6 – Is there a point where you won’t give me an epidural if I ask for it?
Sam had an epidural with Junior and it made all the difference (seriously, it was incredible, Sam actually napped between 8 and 10 cm because the epidural relaxed her so much). She asked for one with Addy, but was kindly informed that wasn’t an option – her labor was going too fast. By the time an anesthesiologist would have made it to our room, we’d already weighed and measured Addy and given her to Sam for some skin-on-skin mom time.
7 – What pain relief options do you have other than an epidural?
Our hospital also offered a shot that took the edge of Sam’s pain for about an hour. One advantage to this option is that the doctor gave us the shot herself and we didn’t have to wait for an anesthesiologist.
8 – Can I walk outside my room when I’m in labor?
With Junior, Sam’s labor was pretty slow at the beginning. Sam found that getting up and walking around helped nudged things along. If you might want to try that as well, make sure you know where you can and can’t go walking around. You don’t want to have a run in with the hospital staff over being in the wrong place.
9 – Do you have Wi-Fi? Cable TV? Movies?
Labor can last a really long time, sometimes 20 or 30 hours. While I hope your labor isn’t that long, make sure you know what amenities are available to help you and your support group pass the time as you wait for your bundle of joy.
10 – Are there food options for my support group when the cafeteria is closed?
If you go through a particularly long labor, your support group will likely want to eat as you labor (you may want to eat too, but most hospitals prefer that you don’t). It’s good to know if there are options for grabbing a quick snack when the cafeteria is closed. If the cafeteria is closed during specific hours and there are no other options, consider bringing along snacks like energy bars, beef jerky, or trail mix.
After The Baby is Born
The nurses will guide you through how they weigh and measure the baby, where the nursery is, how they do meals for recovering moms, how visiting hours work, etc. Make sure you ask:
1 – Do you have a NICU? Are there circumstances where my baby may be transported to another facility?
While every mom hopes and prays for a happy, healthy baby, it’s a reality that some newborns need serious medical attention. Make sure you know what facilities your hospital does and does not have so you can be prepared if less than ideal circumstances play out on the day of your delivery.
2 – Do you have breastfeeding support available?
As we found out with Junior and we were reminded with Addy, breastfeeding is not easy. When it’s not working, it’s extremely frustrating – the baby cries and cries because she’s hungry but she won’t eat because she’s having trouble figuring everything out. It’s so helpful to have someone there to help you through those intense moments. If the hospital doesn’t have someone on hand, consider hiring a doula for breastfeeding support.
3 – If my spouse wants to stay at the hospital during my recovery, what sleeping accommodations are available?
Especially if this is your first, your spouse will probably want to stay overnight with you. If your hospital has a couch or a bed option in the recovery rooms, have your spouse try it out. That way he’ll know whether he should bring extra blankets, pillows, or cushions when he comes to stay the night.
4 – During my recovery, how much control do I have over the fraction of time my baby is in my room vs. in the nursery?
Some parents want to be around their newborn 24/7. Others (like us) are more than happy to leave the baby in the nursery. Either way, it’s good to know how much control you’ll have over where your baby spends her first few days.
5 – How do you handle baby safety? What plans are in place so I don’t accidentally go home with someone else’s baby or someone doesn’t walk out of the hospital with my baby?
All hospitals have some plan for making sure no one walks out with your baby. But to put your mind at ease, ask what they are. For example, at the hospital where we had our first two, each baby wore an anklet with a computer chip. If the chip came within some distance of the maternity ward entrance, the doors would automatically lock. If the anklet was cut by anyone other than authorized hospital personnel, the whole floor went on lock down.
6 – Do you keep a room stocked with refreshments for parents?
In our hospital, the nurses kept a small kitchen area stocked with ice cream, popsicles, soda, Gatorade, bottled water, jello, pudding, etc. I was apparently allowed open access to this room, but I didn’t find out about it until day two of our hospital stay.
7 – Do you have baby bathing and grooming classes available?
The nurses at our hospital offered a mini class every day on how to bath a baby. This was super helpful as a first-time dad. Find out if your hospital provides the same service or if the staff would consider giving a demonstration if a class is not available.
8 – How long will my stay be? Can I leave early? Can I stay longer? If my baby needs longer term care, can I stay with her?
For us, the two days we spent in the hospital after the births both our kids was just about the right amount of time. Much longer and we would have gone stir crazy. Much shorter and Sam wouldn’t have had enough time to recover. The only way we would have stayed longer is if our kids needed longer term care in the hospital. If that had happened, Sam definitely would have wanted to stay with the baby at the hospital.
Going Home with the Baby
Some hospital tours focus on the arrival, delivery, and recovery. While going home isn’t nearly as exciting as that other stuff, it’s also important to know about. So, make sure you ask:
1 – What’s the typical procedure when we leave with the baby?
For us it was pretty simple – we signed a few papers, dropped the baby in a car seat, and we were off.
2 – Will someone at the hospital be available to make sure the car seat’s properly installed?
You want to make sure your newborn is safe on her inaugural car ride. If no one at the hospital checks car seats, you may be able to get some help from your local police department.
3 – What things do I get sent home with?
Make sure you get the full list of both baby supplies and supplies for parents that you can take home. That way you’ll know what you need to buy ahead of time so you don’t have to do a quick run to Walmart on the way home from the hospital.
The above list is certainly not all-inclusive – what things did we miss that you wish you would have asked about on your hospital tour?