Choosing a hospital to deliver your baby is yet another decision you’ll have to carefully weigh during your pregnancy. Certain things such as your choice of doctor and your insurance policy will preclude you from choosing some hospitals if your doctor doesn’t have admitting privileges to it, or it’s not in your insurance company’s network of allowed facilities. In some cases, your doctor will be able to deliver your baby at more than one hospital, so you’ll have the option to make a choice. On the other hand, you may start with choosing the hospital first, and then find a doctor with admitting privileges there.
First and foremost, if you are a high risk pregnancy, or want to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), some hospitals cannot or will not accommodate you. If you are VBAC, the hospital must have an operating room on standby in case of complications, as well as an anesthesiologist. If you anticipate problems with the baby, you may want to consider choosing a hospital based on its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
- Distance is an obvious factor in choosing a hospital to deliver your baby. Consider not only the distance, but how long it will take to get there in rush hour traffic, and if there are several alternate routes if one is closed or if there is an accident.
- Rooms are another important consideration when choosing a hospital to deliver your baby. Can you both labor and deliver your baby in one room? Is it private? Is it large enough to accommodate your husband, family and friends? Is there a limit to how many guests can attend the birth? Is it comfortable, pleasant and up to date? Will your baby be able to room with you in the room, or the nursery?
- Hospital Policies should also be considered. How restrictive are their policies concerning fetal monitoring and intravenous (IV) fluids? Do mothers have the freedom to move about during labor? Are there strict rules concerning visitors and visiting hours? How secure is the maternity ward?
- Other important factors to consider include if an anesthesiologist is on call 24/7 to administer an epidural. What is the nurse to patient ratio? Is there a birthing center available that offers whirlpool Jacuzzi tubs for a more “low-tech” approach to labor and delivery?
Choosing a hospital to deliver your baby can be a tough decision, particularly if you live in an area with many to choose from — some women who live in rural areas with few hospitals are not so fortunate. Many hospitals have scheduled tours of the maternity ward available to expecting couples, and some even have tours for children to get them ready to be big brothers and sisters. Schedule a tour so that you can get a feel for the facility and the staff. If you choose a hospital, you may even be able to get pre-registered there during the tour so that once you’re in labor, paperwork is one less thing you’ll have to worry about.