When you choose your obstetrician, you are also choosing the hospital at which you’ll give birth. Therefore, you have to start thinking about which hospital to deliver at before selecting your obstetrician, because your doctor will have admitting privileges at a certain hospital. You may have to switch doctors in order to deliver at the hospital you want.
You can start your research by asking your current gynecologist about good hospitals. A good hospital usually means one that is less than an hour away, and is easily accessible by car. It is especially beneficial if the hospital is easily accessible by the interstate system, since you will not want to experience traffic while you are in labor.
Once you’ve located several hospitals within a fairly short radius, it is now time to consider more descriptive questions. First of all, if you have a high-risk pregnancy (such as one at risk for premature birth, or if you have gestational diabetes), you should make sure that your hospital has a neonatal intensive care unit. These units have special incubators that care for premature babies and employ trained neonatologist doctors and nurses. Hospitals that use the latest neonatal-care technology are also a plus, in case you are worried about more severe complications. Either way, if your obstetrician has admitting privileges at a hospital that lacks a neonatal intensive care unit, you should start looking for hospitals that have these units—preferably state-of-the-art units.
Many women who deliver want to have a private suite for their family, rather than a room that holds several women. Many hospitals offer these suites, for higher prices of course. On average, most private suites cost about $15,000, though some insurance programs may foot a portion of that bill (therefore, you should contact your insurance agent if you are considering a private hospital room). Some private suites even offer amenities such as whirlpools and HDTV. Often, these suites also permit you to spend the entire duration of your labor and delivery in the same suite, which is known as a Labor Delivery Recovery Postpartum (LDRP) room. You may also be cared for by one or two nurses who have no other patients, and so you will receive more personalized care. It is important to reserve a private room as early as possible in order to raise your chances of having it at your date of delivery.
Hospitals that offer these private suites also offer premium services such as lactation (breast-feeding) consultants, 24-hour anesthesiologist care, and a private nursery for keeping your infant near you after the birth. Other hospitals permit siblings to watch the birth, and permit 24-hour visitors unless the mother or infant is in need of more medical attention. Another 24-hour service you may not have previously considered is 24-hour room service—most new mothers are extremely hungry after birth and crave food at irregular hours. Other hospitals offer massages that last from fifteen minutes to two hours. Some of these services may be available whether you stay in a private suite or not, so be sure to inquire about them as you do your research.
You should also consider aspects apart from your hospital room. For instance, some hospitals offer free parking for visitors. A number of hospitals even extend special services following the birth. For instance, many hospitals offer new-parent classes for parents to learn about infant care. These courses are also beneficial because new parents can interact with other parents and make friends. There are also special support groups such as new mothers groups, new fathers groups, and even new siblings groups.
After you have made a list of hospitals that interest you, it is a good idea to schedule visits with them. Many hospitals offer group or individual tours for their maternity centers. During your visit, scrutinize the facilities for cleanliness, because hygiene is essential when your baby is born and is vulnerable to infection. You should arrive at your tour with a list of questions, though it is likely that many of these questions will be addressed during your tour. In addition, you should ask for a brochure or pamphlet of the hospital’s policies and regulations for maternity patients, so you can brush up on them before your delivery date. During your visit, be careful not to be taken in by the luxury of the facilities—make sure first and foremost that the hospital has the resources to successfully treat your infant in case of emergencies.