As a doula, I provide emotional, physical, and informational support for clients. Most of the time, I’m answering questions for my clients. More accurately, I’m helping my client find out what kinds of questions are relevant to them and who to ask! The informational support is the best way I can help them be sure in their choices and feel like they’re the one in the driver’s seat of their own pregnancy. And one of the best opportunities to ask those pointed questions? The hospital tour of the labor and delivery unit!
Expectant parents who decide to deliver at a hospital are encouraged to tour the hospital beforehand. It helps them know what to expect during their stay, hospital policies, and even logistical issues like parking or valet service for a laboring mom! Most often, parents need to pre-register for these hospital tours. Expect the tour to last one to two hours and be led by a labor & delivery nurse or hospital staff member. You will be given a rundown of basic information, an opportunity to ask questions, and you'll even see the nursery and a delivery or recovery room. Here are 19 of my favorite questions to ask on the hospital tour!
What pain relief options do you offer?
YES, this is a relevant question! In the UK, most laboring women are offered - and use - “gas and air”, or nitrous oxide. It’s basically “laughing gas” that makes you feel a little loopy and ambivalent to labor pains. But in the United States, only a few hospitals offer this pain relief treatment. Epidurals and narcotics are more common.
Do you have a NICU and what level is it?
This is a just-in-case question for most parents. Level 3 NICUs are able to handle more complex cases. If your hospital doesn’t have a NICU or has a lower-complexity NICU, your baby might require a transfer to a different hospital than you are recovering in.
How many beds?
This might seem like a silly question, but a unit with only a few beds might actually fill up. Mothers statistically go into labor in the middle of the night (isn’t that kind of magical?), so knowing how many beds they have and babies they routinely deliver in a given day is important!
What do you do if you run out of beds?
As a follow-up to the above question, ask about their plans for running out of beds. The best hospitals have backup plans.
What is your c-section rate?
Most hospitals cringe at this question. I’d recommend keeping a few things in mind when they answer you. Can they provide data to back their answer? Remember that the World Health Organization suggests that 10% C-section rate is a good goal, as some births really are emergent enough to require a C-section. And c-section rates can vary by provider, so ask this one to your care provider, too!
Is there a birthing tub? How many?
If it’s important for you to have a water birth, definitely ask this question! My own hospital only had one birthing tub and it was first-come, first-serve.
Are birthing and recovery rooms private?
Some parents actually share recovery rooms with a neighbor! This might be dependent on hospital overflow as well, so don’t forget to ask about their backup plan for those situations!
Do you transfer from labor to recovery room post-birth, or stay in the same room?
It’s becoming more common to have a family-style suite with comfortable furniture and hide-away medical devices. In these types of rooms, parents often labor, birth, and recover without leaving their space. However, some hospitals still use a labor wing - where you actually labor and deliver your baby - and a recovery wing, for immediate postpartum help.
Do you practice rooming in?
“Rooming in” is the practice of keeping the baby in the same room with mother. It is meant to encourage bonding, nursing relationships, and general comfort and ease for both mom and baby. However, some hospitals practice rooming in and strongly discourage sendingthe baby to the nursery to get overnight rest. It’s a matter of patient choice, so be sure to ask about what your birthing center prefers!
Do you have in-house lactation consultants who visit postpartum parents?
Some hospitals will send a lactation consultant to visit every postpartum parent before their discharge. Others have lactation consultants available only by demand. Ask on your tour so you can plan ahead!
Is this a teaching hospital?
Teaching hospitals may have different policies or capabilities than other hospitals. As a patient, you might be asked to sign a consent form that allows residents to treat or observe you being treated or delivering your baby.
Parking? Is there a fee?
This might seem silly, but parking fees can really add up! It’s good to know if there are vouchers or a guest pass for the family that might visit, too.
Is there a valet? Which hours is there a valet?
Again, this is NOT a silly question! Valets are common in labor & delivery units, because partners often want to stay with the laboring mother instead of running off to park the car. My own hospital had a free valet available until 9 pm every day.
Do you have Wifi?
Wifi makes it easier to watch your own shows or connect with family while you’re in labor or recovering from birth. Those hospital TVs only entertain for so long!
Can my partner stay with me? Is there a couch or bed in the room?
Most labor and delivery units allow parents to stay together in the hospital. However, not all offer beds - and many don’t offer comfortable beds.
Do you have birthing balls or squatting bars?
It’s really easy to bring your own birthing ball, but you might be able to use the hospital’s if they offer them! Again, ask how many they have - they might be in use by others when you’re in labor.
How do you feel about doulas?
This is important to ask as an open-ended question. The tour guide’s answer might reveal more than you’d expect! Whether or not you plan to use a doula, this question may help reveal your hospital’s willingness to work with YOU as the “driver” of your care.
What is the induction rate at this hospital?
Induction rates can reveal a lot about the doctors that are permitted to practice in the hospital. Also, keep in mind: a hospital with a level 3 NICU will handle more complex pregnancies, many of which require induction for safe delivery. A high induction rate should be considered in context.
What is the policy on cameras or recording during labor?
Some hospitals have a strict no-camera policy. Bonus: save money on a birth photographer! Downside: you won’t get to have photos or video of your baby’s birth. Be sure to ask before ruffling feathers by whipping out your GoPro during labor!
What other questions did you find helpful during your hospital tour? Tweet @pi3sugarpi3 with #LaborAndDeliveryQuestions for future article submission!