For so many new and expecting parents, it can be challenging to figure out how birth works. And it's not just the biology of it: knowing how a hospital runs and how the staff operates (both literally and figuratively!) is crucial for moms who might be arriving mid-labor and super-stressed.
Because after all, the birth is primarily about the mom. She's the one who will remember the experience and either wince at or treasure the memories. The problem is that a lot of moms either don't know how to stand up for themselves and what they want, or there's some reason why they're not able to.
And while a mom having a good birth experience is important, there are also rules hospitals have to follow that are simply protocol. This can affect the way a mom's labor and delivery goes, and it can also affect how she interacts with the staff that's on hand when she's laboring. It might even affect her support person or partner and the way the whole family unit gets to interact.
From how they can handle the baby to what they can say to the laboring or newly postpartum mama, here are 20 things the hospital staff is not allowed to do without mom's consent.
20 Tell Anyone She's In Labor & Delivery
Not every mama wants to get all glamorous and made-up for her visitors, and some moms don't want anyone to know they're in labor and delivery at all. And the thing is, the hospital staff has to respect (and protect) her privacy. Technically, they can't confirm she's even a patient there, as that's against HIPAA laws.
So if someone notices the pregnant mama has been absent on social media and she's not answering any texts, calling the local hospital won't give you any answers! After all, there are many reasons why a mom might want to keep her location on the down-low, and that's her business.
19 Giving Visitors All-Access
Unless mom says it's okay, hospital staff can't even let people into the doors of L&D. So even if a woman's overbearing mother-in-law is pacing up and down the corridor outside L&D, there's no rule saying the staff has to let her in. In fact, it's their job to keep any unwanted drama safely locked out while the mom in labor does her thing!
It can be awkward for family relationships, sure, but again: the most important person on this labor day is the soon-to-be mom. Any and everyone else takes a backseat to her wishes and her comfort (except for the baby and the baby's safety, of course!).
18 Take The Baby From The Room
With all the (thankfully, dated) stories of babies going missing from hospitals thanks to unscrupulous people posing as nurses, there are many precautions in place to protect modern babies from the moment they enter the world. It starts with specific procedures when a nurse needs to swipe the baby from mom.
So under no circumstances (except in a legitimate emergency) is any hospital staff member permitted to take the baby from the mom's sight. They have to ask before they take your little one, and many hospitals even have a rule that the baby has to go in their little wheely cart, just in case.
17 Adjust The Meds
In many hospitals, moms sign a bunch of paperwork upon admittance. And in that stack of paperwork, there's usually a clause about mom agreeing to any necessary treatment during her stay. It's sort of a blanket contract that ensures doctors will be able to handle whatever procedures or care a mom needs, no matter what state she's in when the emergency arises.
But when it comes to labor and the mom has an IV or some other dosing protocol, the nurse has to inform the mom what he or she is doing. It's not okay to just crank someone's IV up to full throttle, for example. Moms are also free to ask for clarification before accepting any treatment or meds.
16 Perform An Exam
Although it seems like some doctors and hospital staff are all about convenience and their own preferences, the fact is that people are supposed to ask before attempting an exam on either the mom or her new baby. Especially when it comes to checks during labor, the hospital staff should always advise a mom of what they're going to do and why. And in many cases, moms can totally opt out, as long as they speak up.
Basically, the mom is meant to be in control, and so she has the final say when it comes to agreeing to an exam on the baby or delaying it a few hours so she can have some more bonding time before the newborn hearing screen.
15 Give The Baby A Bath
Lots of moms are eager to give their babies their first bath at home. It's a special bonding moment, and it's the start of a beautiful routine that your baby will come to enjoy. But in many hospitals, it's standard procedure to bathe the newborn. And while that's fine if a mom wants it, babies are born with vernix, that waxy coating, for a reason. It's good for their skin and doesn't need to be washed off.
Therefore, moms have the right to refuse a bath for their babies, and the nurse or other staff definitely has to ask before hitting the showers with the baby!
14 Put The Baby In The Nursery
These days, it's not standard procedure anymore to take a new mom's baby straight to the nursery. And some hospitals don't even have nurseries anymore! The one nearest to me has a small room for hearing tests and other procedures, but there's not actually a nursery to take the baby to if a mom requests a break!
That said, in hospitals that do have nurseries, the staff has to ask before wheeling the baby away. Barring an emergency, they can't just pop the baby into the nursery and leave mom hanging. And, mama can always accompany her baby if there's some necessary procedure taking place in the nursery or other baby room.
13 Take Any Pictures
Remember the viral photos of nurses being a little rough with someone's newborn baby? They were kind of posing the baby and laughing about it for some reason. But the hardest part about that situation was, they took photos in the first place, which are a complete no-no. Clearly, those staff members were either reprimanded or flat-out fired, because taking photos of a mama or her baby without her consent is a big misstep.
Sure, a nurse might ask if you want her to snap a photo of you and your new baby. But she can't just go snap-happy on her own or take photos for hospital use without your consent.
12 Go Ahead With Any Treatment Plan
Whatever treatment the mom or baby need postpartum, there has to be a plan in place or written orders somewhere. And even if your doctor writes an order for your nurse, you as the mom have the final say and the veto power. Of course, if you majorly disagree with something that's seen as hospital protocol, other issues could arise.
But in general, if you say no, the treatment plan has to be switched up until you agree. That means choices in terms of pain relief, labor positions, and whatever else you have an opinion or strong feelings about, regardless of how the staff feels.
11 Give The Baby To Dad
When a friend of mine had her first son, he was in the hospital's NICU for the first few weeks of his life. The father wasn't present and hadn't been there at birth... And yet the nurses in the NICU allowed the unknown man into the nursery and let him touch and hold the baby! Baby daddy drama aside, no random guy or gal should be able to walk into the NICU or nursery or anywhere in the hospital and put their hands on a baby.
We need to see some ID at the very least, but the first thing that the staff needs is the mom's consent. What if she has a protective order against the dad or the guy who thinks he is the dad truly isn't? Essentially, they can't just hand the baby to anyone unless the mom confirms who he or she is.
10 Change Anything On The Birth Certificate
Yes, there have been cautionary tales about nurses disliking the baby's name and then changing it on the birth certificate. But in real life, hospital staff can get in big trouble for messing with any of the paperwork. Their job is to get mom and dad's details down as the parents dictate them, plus get that adorable footprint keepsake.
So, however, you want to spell your baby's name or whatever you want to write in there, the hospital staff legally cannot alter that document. Sure, it's just an application for the birth certificate, but it's legit nonetheless, and that paperwork could affect the rest of your baby's life, too.
9 Contact Anyone On Her Behalf
Even if your birth team knows who the daddy is, they can't just call him up when you arrive to check in. At the hospital I delivered my second son at, the nurses even took me aside when my husband had left with our older child to make sure I was in a safe situation.
Hospitals are meant to be safe places, so the staff won't contact anyone without your permission. This gives moms who might need an "out" a way to stay safe while recovering from childbirth and gives them time to figure out their next move. For the rest of us, it might just mean avoiding an awkward situation!
8 Invite In-Hospital Visitors
The mom in the above photo was tired of being told to breastfeed her soon-to-be-born baby. She had undergone cancer and was a survivor, but that meant she wasn't able to breastfeed. Her solution? Put a sign up in her delivery room!
And although most moms who opt not to nurse (or can't) for whatever reason won't need a sign, it is true that the hospital staff can't force a lactation consultant or any other 'expert' on you during your stay. It's up to you whether you want any visitors at all, let alone ones who come in with an agenda, however well-meaning it might be.
7 Get Into Mom's Stuff
Beware the nurse who asks whether you've brought the baby a going-home outfit and then moves like she's going to rummage through your bag for it. Hospital rules are she has to keep her hands off your stuff. And it's definitely uncommon for hospital staff to go through your stuff, even if they need to get something for you or find important paperwork.
Unless you're unconscious or out of it and they need some vital info from your purse, there's no reason for hospital staff to look in your belongings or baggage at all. This one's mostly common courtesy no matter where you go, anyway!
6 Tell Mom She Can't Have Meds (Or Say She Needs Them)
Your nurse (or other hospital staff member) might have the best intentions when it comes to coaching you through your labor and birth. But if she or he tells you that you cannot have any pain relief, holler for a new nurse (or have someone else do it for you!). Unless you've really bonded with your nurse and told her, before the contractions set in, that you absolutely didn't want any pain meds offered, she should just respect your request.
Yes, intense labor can change a mom's plans or opinions on pain relief, and that's fine. But it's never the hospital staff's job to convince you of a course of action either way.
5 Kick People Out Of The Hospital Room
When it comes to birth, each mom has her own preferences about who she wants in the room and what role they'll play. And afterward, there are likely to be at least a few visitors rotating in and out. But whether a mom is in a private room or a shared one, the hospital staff can't kick people out if they're not causing an issue.
During visiting hours, new moms are allowed their visits, and it doesn't matter why the staff needs to come in; they can ask the mom for permission to do what they need to do, or they can wait until the visitors have left.
4 Give The Baby Formula
There have been many unsettling stories about babies being given formula in the hospital after their mamas expressly forbade it. Because while there are rules for a reason (and those rules say it's the mom's choice!), some people are always out to break those rules. Plus, mistakes happen, too.
In general, however, the rule is that if the mom doesn't want the baby to drink formula, then the hospital staff may not give it; end of story. The only exception is a specific doctor's order for some life-threatening emergency or condition or order by child services, should it come to that.
3 Give Anything To The Baby
For a lot of hospitals, there is a set of rules governing what newborn babies must have within the first couple of days of birth. However, there are many things that the mom can say no to that are well within her legal rights. It varies by state and facility, however, and many hospitals tend to make up their own rules that they strictly enforce.
However, the hospital cannot just hand anything to your baby (or feed them just anything). Even donor breastmilk requires multiple signatures and releases; hospital staff can't simply perform a procedure or administer meds without informing the parent what they're doing and why.
2 Take The Baby's Ankle Monitor Off
There's a reason you and the baby are both tagged with multiple ID bands. Right after your little one emerges from the womb, gets dried off, and is all checked out, the staff will affix the baby with special tracking bracelets. In most hospitals these days, the ID bands are digital, but at the very least, they'll have the family name, the baby's vital info, and a barcode.
Mom (and dad or partner, if applicable) will have a matching tag, which not only helps prevent baby mix-ups but also ensures no unsavory characters will try and swipe your precious bundle. Most bracelets have sensors that trigger alarms if anyone gets too close to a window or door, too, and nurses cannot remove the bracelets for any reason until you're ready to go home!
1 Discharge Her Early
Unless you're a really raucous postpartum lady, odds are, the hospital won't try to shorten your stay! In general, moms with a natural birth will have a 24-hour or more stay, while moms with C-sections might require up to three days to recover. Either way, the hospitals have a protocol for the length of stay, and they also often negotiate insurance rates based on a certain timeframe.
Long story short, the hospital staff should not and likely will not kick a mom out before at least the minimum recovery time has passed. In fact, it's against the rules to do so! Especially if a mom requires follow-up care, it's not legal, in many areas, to discharge her before she has treatment.