So you’re going on a hospital tour. Maybe your care provider recommended this, maybe your doula, maybe your bff. Maybe you’re going because you like being prepared or maybe you’re just really excited and looking for yet another fun baby thing to do over the weekend. Maybe you are planning an unmedicated birth or maybe you just scheduled your c-section. Whatever the reason you’re taking the tour and whatever birth you’re planning, knowing what questions to ask on your tour can be overwhelming. Here are our top ten favorite questions to ask when touring hospitals, questions that, no matter what kind of amazing birth you are working towards, will give you a sense of what your hospitals policies and procedures are and if they will be supportive of your wishes.
Where do we go if we come in after hours?
People don’t always think about this, but if you show up to the hospital at 2am, the door you enter through or your check-in process might be different than if you show up for a scheduled induction at 7am. Normally your tour guide will talk about this, but sometimes they don’t. Make sure to bring it up if no one mentions it.
Where is your drink area?
This is a favorite for a few reasons. First it allows the person leading the tour to show off a bit (Check out our slushie machines), second it gives you a chance to be a bit nosey and look in cupboards and drawers at their snacks. And third it also leads perfectly into the next question.
Am I allowed to have more than just ice chips when I’m in labor?
This answer will differ from area to area and hospital to hospital. Some hospitals will say “If your care provider is alright with it you can have whatever you like.” Some will say clear liquids only, and others will say stick with the ice chips. It's an important question to ask because it can drastically affect the outcome of your birth. If you're wanting more freedom to eat and drink during labor, you may consider switching birthing locations if that's not their policy.
Who’s allowed/how many people are in the room before, during, and after the birth?
Some hospitals have a strict limit on how many people are in the room during labor and delivery. Some say “invite the whole family.” Depending on their answer you have some things to consider. First, if your hospital has a room limit of 2 support people in the room and you want your mom, your partner, AND you’ve hired a doula, you might have some hard choices to make (and one of those choices can always be to change birth locations). However, if your hospital’s policy is “you can have as many people at the birth as will fit in the room”, you still need to decide if having a room full of family and friends waiting and watching is going to be supportive or distracting.
What are my fetal monitoring options?
Fetal monitoring refers to monitoring the baby’s heart rate during labor. Standard practice in most hospitals is to do continuous fetal monitoring, or watching the baby’s heart rate throughout the whole labor. This is normally done by fixing a heart rate monitor in place with a big elastic band and will require you to stay in bed during your labor. However, intermittent fetal monitoring, or listening to the baby’s heart every 30 minutes or so, would allow you movement during labor and is shown to be a safe alternative.
Can I labor in the water? Can I see your tubs and showers?
Water is sometimes called the midwife’s epidural. More and more people are asking for tubs and showers to be an option during their labor and more and more hospitals are rising to the request. However, just because a hospital says they have tubs and showers for you to labor in that doesn’t always mean they’re accessible. I have seen gorgeous tubs and showers in hospitals that made me want to go home and redesign my bathroom. I have also seen Labor and Delivery wards with only 1 tub for the whole floor and it was being used for storage. Different hospitals might have different policies for when you can use these tubs and showers. Some might say that once your water breaks you can no longer be in the tub, others might say you can labor but not push in water, and others (on a very very blue moon) might even be ok with you delivering in the water. If being in the water is important to you, make sure you ask this question!
In the event of a cesarean, who is allowed in the OR with me? And while we’re at it, what are your caesarean rates?
Different hospitals have different policies about who can be present for a cesarean birth. Most (in my area at least) will allow 1 support person (normally the partner) into the OR. However, some are totally fine with your partner AND another support person such as your mother or doula. But the thing that you really should pay attention to (and that most people don’t think to ask) is what their caesarean rate is, or how often that hospital performs cesareans. In some areas of the country it can be hard to find a hospital with a cesarean rate below 30%, however the World Health Organization considers the ideal c-section rate for a community to be between 10%-15% and all hospitals should be aiming to be below 30%.
How do you handle delayed cord clamping?
Most hospitals (in my experience) will say something like “whatever your care provider is ok with we’re ok with”, but sometimes some hospitals have policies that are different than what you and your provider talked about. Check and double check. Delayed cord clamping has many proven benefits, so make sure you talk to both your provider and hospital to find out what what their policies are.
Does the baby have to go to the nursery?
How many doulas do you see here?
As more couples become aware of what a doula is and the benefits of having a doula at your birth doulas are slowly but surely becoming more common at hospitals. However, at some birth locations doulas are still a rarity. Worst yet, some nurses, doctors, and hospitals don’t fully understand what a doula is or might even expect a combative relationship with them. Asking how familiar a hospital is with doulas is a good way to judge how they will feel about having one at your birth.
No matter what kind of birth you’re planning, knowing your hospital’s policies and procedures is one of the best things you can do to make sure your wants and needs are going to be met. By taking a tour of your birth location and asking the right questions you are setting yourself up for success.
We are Birth Boot Camp certified doulas and childbirth educators. we are passionate about birth, education, and a couple's right to be informed about their options.
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