Choosing the right Hospital for YOU.

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.

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  • Abi

    Great blog! I too learned a lot from my first birth experience in a hospital. I’ll be switching providers for my next child. My OB was great. I just want a different experience. Thanks!

  • guest

    I’m wondering about a different hospital myself. Ours did okay on all the things above, but the birth experience I had was traumatic. Being in that hospital freaks me out a little now. I wonder if you (or anyone) can tell me how long it was before they saw an actual doctor? We had several mitigating factors which meant our ‘regular’ doctor wasn’t available. It was 28 hours (24 labor 4 pushing) before a doctor showed up period for me. My water broke 3 weeks early and we were first time parents. We were in a new town and didn’t know the doctor who was supposed to show up. We didn’t understand why no one did. I ended up with a C section. Turns out that I’m pretty much guaranteed a C Section for any and all future births because of how traumatic the original experience was on my body. Had a doctor showed up and looked at me, they would have known my baby was in the wrong position, I could have had an immediate C section and could have had a VBAC. Now I’ll be stuck taking care of a small child and a newborn by myself post C section since we don’t have any family close by.

  • Frequently at Baby Friendly Hospitals, the nurses can get additional lactation training and one nurse is trained as a Nurse Lactation Specialist, which is not the same as a licensed LC. I am only throwing this out there because I worked and delivered in a BFH and the breastfeeding advice was AWFUL. We struggled until I saw a real LC on my own.

  • Sarah Schulz

    Loved this post! I must say, I LOVED my hospital. Loved it. I live 2 blocks from a gigantic hospital with perhaps the highest rate of babies born in the country. But I opted for a hospital 15 minutes away in the same hospital system which was a small community hospital. It was awesome. My husband had his own bed in my large room, there were tubs to labor in, one nurse to two patients, I could go on and on. I must say I loved my birth experience. The nurses kept commenting on how I was the happiest woman in labor they had ever seen. The only thing I would change is I wish someone had caught my son’s tongue tie there in the hospital. We didn’t catch it for four months. But honestly I loved my hospital, my OB, and my whole birth experience.

  • Livingsimplynm

    I didn’t know that I had a choice the first time and I delivered in a military base hospital in Germany. Not a great experience, but no horror story either. All the little things like being pushed to get an epidural, not being allowed out of the bed, not being allowed to eat, having my daughter taken away for a bath, and having to share a bathroom all led me to look for alternatives a year and a half later when I was expecting again. I loved my home birth. It went as I had hoped and planned and I loved everything about it.

  • Christina D.

    This post really inspired me to look into my options for when I get pregnant with our 2nd child. When I had my son, like you I didn’t consider a midwife. I saw an OBGYN and delivered at a hospital. Now, here’s the thing. I loved, loved, LOVED the hospital I was at. It was one of the Baby Friendly hospitals that you mentioned, and touted that quite clearly everywhere. Since I knew I wanted to breastfeed I thought this was a clear choice for me. The nurses, lactation consultants, everyone there was just fantastic. My problem, however, was with the OBGYN practice. I knew early on that I wasn’t overly fond of the doctors there (with the exception of one doctor who I really liked) and didn’t like the receptionists either, I just always felt very rushed with them. I just didn’t realize at the time that I could switch mid-pregnancy prior to 28 weeks… if I had known that, I would’ve been out of there in a heartbeat. Fast forward to when I go into labor… when I get to the hospital I find out that the practice I’m going to is part of a 3 branch practice so the doctor delivering me may not be any of the doctors I’ve seen at the branch I’ve been going to… umm… WHAT? (not one of the doctors ever mentioned that to me) Well… too late to change now, I’m there and sure enough the doctor I see is no one I know. Fantastic. He immediately puts me on pitocin because I’m not progressing quickly. The pitocin caused my son to start showing signs of distress and I wasn’t dilated enough to deliver him so I had to have a c-section. My husband and I were wrecks and so scared. It was just a very stressful situation and I do not want to repeat it. I found a great Midwifery group in the area and will be meeting with them soon to discuss VBACs and my options and what not before we start trying to conceive again. I didn’t even think of calling someone else until I read this post, I thought I would just have a repeat c-section and be done with it, but your post really made me see that there are so many better choices out there. Anyway, sorry to ramble a bit there, but I had to share my story in order to shed some light on my situation and so you can see how much you saved me from going through that again. Thank you so much for this informative article, I just love your blog and think you are doing a great job with it!