My second birth experience was a homebirth and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I also had a hospital delivery in what I believe to be a wonderful hospital. At the time I was looking for OB GYN’s (I never considered a midwife, it was so far off my radar you wouldn’t believe it. I was quite a different person then and not educated in childbirth, breastfeeding, or AP anything) based on the recommendations of my husband’s co worker’s. I switched OB’s early on because my first doctor would see us for 5 minutes after the nurse did all of the heavy lifting. He criticized me for gaining too much weight too quickly, frankly, he was right, but it wasn’t in the nicest tone.
We picked a new OB GYN based on the hospital he delivered at and the fact that his office was 8 minutes from my house. St. Joseph’s Medical Center was touted as a wonderful place to give birth. They even had The Birth Place, an epidural free zone meant for low risk, natural birth deliveries that was more like home. I wanted to give birth there but didn’t get to (I was “high risk” with Gestational Diabetes).
Still, this hospital was wonderful. It is also one of very few “Baby Friendly” hospitals in the nation.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.
My labor and delivery nurses honored my birth plan. I won’t write out my own birth story, but the induction process itself inhibited my desire to labor the way I wanted. This ultimately led me to get an epidural. This was not spurred on by my nurses or my doctor. In fact, the doctor who delivered my son (not my own OB who was not on call) accepted our plan to leave the cord attached (delayed cord clamping) and allowed me to pull my son out on my own.
St Joseph’s also encourages “rooming in.” Rooming in means your baby is with you at all times as long as you are both healthy. The nurses will likely change your baby but you are in charge of the rest. Hopefully your hospital also allows your significant other to stay the night to help you. Nurses will help you around the clock to nurse you baby (hopefully) if you need the assistance. If you are set on breastfeeding your baby you will want to insist on this. If yours does not have this policy you may want to look around for a new hospital or ask if you can room in anyways.
Giving birth at a “baby friendly” hospital means you will also have access to excellent Lactation Consultants. I have already written about how my Lactation Consultant saved my breastfeeding relationship with my first son. I had free follow ups and I took advantage of them.
You will also want to ask:
- “What is your hospital’s C-Section rate?”
- “Can I eat during my labor?”
- “Can I eat my own food?”
- “Is there a shower or tub I can labor in”
- Are the rooms equipped with birth balls, birth stools, or other labor tools?”
- “Am I required to be monitored?”
- “Will the nurses read over my birth plan and honor it?”
- “If I have a C-Section, can I use a mirror to view the birth?”
- “Will I be able to nurse my baby within 15 minutes, barring any immediate complications?”
- “Can I check out early?”
- “Can I have a waterbirth if I choose?” (some hospitals have tubs for waterbirths, others allow you to bring your own tub.)
- “Can my doula be present?”
If you are delivering in a birth center that does not allow epidurals, you will want to ask what the transfer plan is in case of an emergency C-Section or if you decide you want pain medication.
Choosing the right care provider, whether it be an OB GYN or midwife, is also important. I can’t say that one is more important than the other. Even the best provider can’t provide you with your birth experience if the hospital is working against you, and vice versa. Most of these questions can apply to finding your provider. If you are looking for a homebirth midwife I have a list of questions that you may want to copy.
Every woman deserves quality medical care. I am so happy I chose a homebirth, but I know even if I had known more about childbirth while pregnant with my first son I still would have birthed in a hospital. Being a first time mom, I wouldn’t have known how my labor would be, and being in a hospital would have felt safer. However, I would have educated myself better about inductions and would have chosen a midwife rather than an OB GYN. Unfortunately many women have no choices in hospitals because they only have the one in their town. In this case you will want to be your own advocate! Hire a doula, make sure your husband is on the same page with you regarding your birth plan. And speaking of birth plans, having one that is too long or too strict may do more harm than good. Sometimes it is best to have 2, a detailed plan to discuss with the doctor/midwife who will be delivering you, and a shorter, list form for the labor nurses. They will be more likely to read it this way.