One of my jobs is to lead the labor and delivery hospital tour for those planning a hospital birth. It’s a tad amusing to me that I get to give these tours, considering who I am (a childbirth educator/blogger, doula, placenta encapsulator, etc.) and who typically leads such tours (nurses). As a huge proponent of informed consent, I make it clear to those on the tour that they can and should ask me anything. And I, in return, will answer their questions as honestly as possible.
Unfortunately, most parents don’t come prepared with a list of hospital tour questions and typically have a deer in the headlights look about them. I get it. Stepping into the hospital is like dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. “Wake up! You’re about to have a baby!” Things may seem very real for the first time.
However, hospital tours can help parents know what to expect, learn what options are available to them and can even help parents better visualize their birth experience. (It’s difficult to visualize a birth if you’ve never stepped foot in the place where your birth will unfold.)
Use this post to get the most out of your hospital tour by asking the right questions in order to be better prepared for the unknowns of childbirth and immediate postpartum. Let’s get started!
Hospital Tour 101: What to Ask, When to Attend and More!
Is a hospital tour necessary?
Can you give birth at a hospital without first touring the labor and delivery ward? Of course.
Do I recommend just showing up in labor having never seen the place you will give birth? Of course not.
These are some benefits of taking a hospital tour:
- A map to labor and delivery during labor won’t be necessary if you’ve already figured out where to go. A hospital tour during pregnancy helps work out the kinks of driving directions, where to park, where to go, etc., ahead of time. Trust me, this in itself is worth the hospital tour.
- If there is paperwork to complete, often times this can be accomplished at the hospital tour. The less paperwork in labor, the better.
- Once parents SEE where they will give birth, visualizing birth will be easier for them. This can be extremely helpful especially when working through fears of the unknown.
- A hospital tour provides ample opportunities to ask questions about birth plans, desires for birth, policies and procedures. This is a good time to see if your birth desires line up with what this particular hospital offers new parents.
When to Take a Hospital Tour
If you are confident that the hospital you’ve chosen is the correct choice for you and your family, I think a hospital tour will work best at the end of the second or the beginning of the third trimester.
However, if you are still undecided about where you want to give birth and with whom, I suggest taking the tour much earlier, perhaps at the beginning of the second trimester.
Surprisingly, I frequently get parents on the tour that are still unsure about where they want to give birth. If possible, don’t leave things unresolved on into the third trimester. Choose a quality care provider and birth venue early on in order to mentally settle in and prepare for labor and delivery.
How to Schedule a Hospital Tour
To schedule a hospital tour, call your local hospital to inquire about their schedule and availability. I give tours on Sunday afternoons exclusively, but I do know that if someone walked in unannounced they would happily be given a tour right then. However, I work at a small hospital and other hospitals probably don’t have the ability to be that flexible.
(Some hospitals may not offer in-person tours and point parents to a “virtual tour” instead. This is frustrating and unfortunate. A virtual tour lacks depth and leaves much to be desired. As I explain in my childbirth classes, if this is upsetting to you – complain! The movers and shakers in your community are you (the paying clients). By speaking up, especially en masse, policies change for the better. You can do it!)
Questions to Ask at a Hospital Tour
The following are a list of possible questions to ask at a hospital tour. Choose a handful that are important to you, write them down and take them with you on your tour. You’ll be happy you asked and became informed!
Hospital Tour Questions for Labor, Delivery and Immediate Postpartum
- Does my doctor or midwife deliver at this hospital?
- Where do I first go when I’m in labor? Do I go to triage or somewhere else?
- At what point in labor should I come to the hospital? Do I come as soon as I notice signs of labor, or do I labor at home for awhile?
- How far apart should my contractions be before coming to the hospital?
- How many patients are assigned to each nurse?
- How often do doulas attend births at this hospital?
- Will residents or students be present at my birth? If I am not comfortable with that, how do I make my wishes known?
- Are labor and delivery rooms private or shared?
- Are all the rooms this size? How are other rooms different?
- Will I have access to a refrigerator?
- Does each room have a birthing tub? Can women deliver in water?
- Does each room have a birthing ball? Peanut ball? What about a squat bar?
- How many pillows does each room have? Should I bring my own? (This may seem silly but there’s often a shortage of pillows in hospital rooms. Pillows are so helpful for pregnant women!)
- Is there a bed or cot for a support person?
- Should I bring a birth plan? How are birthing plans received?
- I am hoping for a ______________ birth. How will the staff at this hospital help make that happen?
- What are my options for pain management?
- What labor positions are encouraged? Pushing positions?
- I would like to wear my own clothes, how will that be handled?
- I would like to eat and drink in labor and am curious about policies about eating and drinking in labor.
- What are the available food options for patients in labor? What about for birth partners? Is there a cafeteria? What time does the cafeteria close? Are there vending machines?
- What is the policy for monitoring during an unmedicated labor?
- Can I be wirelessly monitored while walking the halls? Can I be monitored while in the tub or do I have to get out?
- What are the policies regarding photography and video during labor and delivery?
- What is the visitor policy? How many visitors are allowed in labor and delivery? What are the visiting hours for labor and delivery?
- At what point could I be separated from my birth partner?
- How many support people can be in the OR for a cesarean birth? Are doulas able to be in the OR?
- Are doulas available to assist with breastfeeding immediately after a cesarean birth?
- Does this hospital offer any family friendly options for a cesarean birth?
- If my baby is in need of a NICU, how would that be handled?
- Is it routine to receive an IV of pitocin after birth?
- How can I take my placenta home?
- What are your common newborn procedures? How is the first hour after birth typically handled?
Hospital Tour Questions for Postpartum
- Are there separate recovery or postpartum rooms? At what point will I be moved to another room?
- Are recovery and postpartum rooms shared?
- How many visitors are allowed in a postpartum room? What are the visiting hours during my postpartum stay?
- Can young children visit?
- Will I have access to a refrigerator?
- What are the available food options for patients during the postpartum stay? Does this include my partner?
- Is this hospital baby friendly?
- Do babies typically room in or do they stay in the nursery?
- Will my baby be separated from me at any point?
- What security is in place for my baby? How is this enforced?
- Is there a lactation consultant on staff? Are they an IBCLC? What are their hours? How do I access this person?
- At what point would you desire for my baby to have formula and how do you involve parents in that decision?
- Are pacifiers routinely given to babies?
- What sort of pads or adult diapers are supplied for postpartum?
- Is there wireless internet?
- Who can I call if I think of more questions after the tour?
Hospital Tour 101
Attend a hospital tour and check that off your pregnancy to-do list. They are fun, informative and help parents become prepared for childbirth.
Did you attend a hospital tour? What stood out to you? Did you ask many questions or were you mostly quiet? What questions did you wish you asked?
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