Going on a maternity hospital tour can be pretty exciting for some couples, scary for others! Just in case your nerves get the better of you, here is a list of important questions to ask when you take a maternity hospital tour. Remember, its important to also base your decision on how you feel and how you are treated by staff while you are in the hospital. When you’re walking around, ask yourself, ‘how do I feel being here?’ Observe and see if you see a friendly, supportive environment, or a busy, cold, hurried one. How you feel is very important, so with that in mind, ask these great questions to back up how you feel:
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #1: What Birth Aids Do You Have Available?
When you’re in labour, just having a bed in the middle of the birth room gives you little to work with. It can also draw you onto the bed where you may end up remaining for most of your labour, when you really need to get moving around and changing positions in order to help baby move down in to your pelvis to be born.
Find out if the maternity hospital offers birth/fit balls, floor mats, beanbags or other items to help you during labour, and how many are available – sometimes these items are shared and you can miss out on the day. You should also check if you’ll need to bring your own music player, essential oils and heat packs – some hospitals provide them and others prefer you to bring your own.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #2: What Is Your Policy With Partners Staying Overnight?
In Australia, public hospitals generally do not allow partners to stay overnight due to shared rooms and lack of space. Some private hospitals offer the opportunity for partners to stay overnight (some for an extra fee). So if you’d prefer your partner to stay with you, this is a question you might want to ask. If the hospital doesn’t allow it, you may feel a little down, but know that visiting hours usually do not apply to partners, so your partner can spend as much time with you as they like.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #3: Is It Policy To Room In With My Baby?
Many hospitals now have policies supporting babies rooming in with their mothers during their entire stay, but it does pay to ask. See if at any time your baby will be taken out of your room without you or if you will be separated at any point, because its important to be with your baby and as close to him or her as possible during this crucial bonding period.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #4: What Is Your Caesarean Section Rate?
The World Health Organisation has reported that around 15% of births is an acceptable rate of caesarean section births, with all things considered. However many hospitals exceed this, some far more than others. By finding out the caesarean section rate of a hospital, you’ll get a better idea of what sort of births go on there, and what the staff are used to supporting.
Sadly its not as common for staff to support completely natural births these days. If your hospital has a high caesarean rate and you don’t have other options, its very wise to invest in educating and informing yourself as best possible. Get your hands on the best support people you can find, including a good doula. Educate yourself with independent birth education classes (non-hospital based) and read THESE great books.
Its also good to ask what their policy on VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) is, if you’ve already had a caesarean. If they are actively supportive of VBAC’s this is a very good start.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #5: What Is Your Policy On Breastfeeding In Recovery?
If you have a caesarean section, mother-baby separation occurs after the operation, which can be upsetting for some mothers. As a new mother, you’ll likely be craving that skin to skin contact with your baby, and wanting to get breastfeeding established as soon as possible. Some hospitals will support breastfeeding in recovery and others will not, so if this is important to you, be sure to ask. You can also mention this in your birth plan that you’d like breastfeeding in recovery if possible.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #6: What Is Your Policy On The Third Stage Of Labour?
Once your baby has been born, the focus and excitement is right where it should be – on the baby. However in the background – and often without you realising it while you’re in blissful babyland – doctors and midwives tend to want to hurry the process along, so they can clean up and move onto the next birthing woman. The problem is, by hurrying things along, your baby is missing out on some huge health benefits by not having a physiological third stage (which is to do with the cord and placenta).
Despite a plethora of studies stating its massive benefits (without any harm), many doctors and hospitals are yet to adopt a policy of delayed cord clamping, but it is starting to become more commonplace. When a baby’s cord is cut immediately, baby is robbed of 32% of his volume of blood. Thats not a typo – one third of his or her blood volume. Just a two-minute delay in cord clamping can increase a baby’s iron reserve by 27-47 mg, which is equivalent to 1-2 months of a baby’s iron requirements. This could help to prevent iron deficiency from developing before 6 months of age.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #7: What Is Your Induction Rate?
Knowing a hospital’s induction rate is just as important as it’s caesarean rate. Why? It tells you that there appears to be a policy of failure to wait and trusting that a woman’s body will labour – in most cases. Full term pregnancy is up to 42 full weeks of pregnancy. If the induction rate is high, then it’s likely that women are being offered inductions far too early or too frequently, or they are not being adequately informed of the risks. Find out more about induction of labour here.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #8: Do You Allow Photography and/or Videography?
If you’d like to take photos and/or videos of your birth, even with your own camera, this is a must ask question. Some hospitals and doctors have a policy of no videos at birth for legal reasons.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #9: What Are Your Visiting Hours?
You’ll likely want to know visiting hours to pass on to any friends and family – of course, make sure you’re ready for visitors in your own time and don’t feel obligated to pack visitors into every minute. You’ll be pretty tired and need your rest, so don’t try to please anyone else but yourself.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #10: How Do You Deal With Unwanted Visitors During Birth And After?
Its a really sucky thing when family or friends turn up when you least expected (or wanted) it. As a doula, I have seen birth completely de-railed when parents rocked up to the birth suite after specifically being told no, and oh boy, was the labouring mother angry. I had to work really hard to get her back on track and in the zone. Even if you say no, sometimes it still happens and it can be quite upsetting to a woman in labour, let alone a mother trying to get the knack of breastfeeding with engorged breasts and hungry baby. You might like to tell your hospital that if anyone turns up, its an absolute no, no matter who it is, and you don’t want to know about it. Its the best way not to disturb your labour.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #11: Am I Able To Leave The Room While In Labour?
Its very important to be active during labour, so find out if you are able to move around the ward, and if there are any stairs you can walk up and down to help get labour going. Find out about the benefits of an active birth here.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #12: Do You Have An NICU? If So, What Level?
If your baby will need special assistance or is a high risk baby, you may want to find out about their NICU (newborn intensive care) facilities. Most big, teaching hospitals in Australia have a full level 5 NICU, so if you give birth at a hospital which has a lower level NICU, your baby may need to be transferred. In which case you may want to ask what the previsions would be for mothers – if you will be separated from your baby or if the hospital will take you too.
This of course isn’t required for the majority of babies, especially if you are low risk, so you don’t need to base your decision on this one alone.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #13: How Do You Feel About Doulas?
Some hospitals have started to disallow doulas attending births which is a really disappointing, considering the huge benefits they offer. Its a great idea to find out this in advance, even if you don’t want a doula, for two reasons. One: because you may change your mind, and two: you get an insight into their philosophies as a hospital. If they don’t support doulas, then it will be very telling about how they do birth there. At the end of the day, it should be the mother’s choice as to who they hire to support them, especially when it means less intervention and more support for the birthing couple.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #14: What Is Your Policy With Fetal Monitoring?
This is an important question to ask, because hospitals have varied policies on monitoring. Some will want to monitor you upon arrival, some every 4 hours, and some prefer to keep it to a minimum. Some hospitals have policies of internal exams every four hours too, which is completely unnecessary. The problem with electronic fetal monitoring is that it can be very restrictive, keeping you on the bed when you need to be moving. Sometimes maternity wards get so busy that they forget to come and take the monitoring off you after the 20 minutes they promised, so you end up stuck in bed much longer, which is not good for labour. Studies have shown that continuous electronic fetal monitoring results in a higher rate of caesarean section without improving outcomes.
Find out about internal exams here.
Maternity Hospital Tour Question #15: Under What Circumstances Would Formula Be Given And Will I Be Asked First?
Some mothers are shocked to hear that their baby has been given formula without their permission, usually after a caesarean, but I have also heard of babies being given formula where the mother had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I attended a birth where a caesarean was required (we were unsure how long mum would be in recovery due to complications), and in order to prevent any formula being used, we had the mother-to-be express some colostrum, in case the new baby needed food and she was unable to feed her baby.
These are just a few important questions you might want to ask – but always think about whats important to you and add any to your list of must ask questions. All the best for a fabulous birth!