What to Look for, What to Ask, When Making Your Birthplace Choice
- What is your gut reaction to the environment? Does it feel warm? Do you feel welcomed? Do you like the people who are showing you around? Are they the same people you will have contact with during the birth?
- How does the facility look and sound? Is there a “hospital room” feeling? Is there street noise to deal with? Can the lights be dimmed during the birth?
- What is the facility’s policy on birth attendants? Can you include friends, children and relatives, or only your partner? If it is a hospital, is a doula allowed?
- What is the policy on walking around during labor? Will you be required to wear a fetal monitor the whole time you are in labor?
- If it is a hospital, do they routinely start an intravenous line? Are women routinely given enemas or pubic shaves?
- Are you allowed to eat and drink during labor?
- Can you wear your own clothing or is a hospital gown required?
- What is the facility’s cesarean section rate? What is its rate of episiotomies?
- How are emergencies handled? If it is a freestanding birth center, how are transfers done and what hospital is used as a back-up?
- What is the policy on mother/baby separation? Will your naked baby be handed directly to you at birth for skin-to-skin contact, which has been shown to be best for baby? How long can you hold her? Will the baby sleep in your room? Will the baby be taken away from you for exams or can you attend these as well?
- If the baby should need intensive care, are parents encouraged to hold him? Is breastfeeding encouraged in the intensive care unit?
- Does the facility have a lactation specialist who can help you with early breastfeeding? Can you specify that no bottles are to be given to your baby?
- If it is a birth center, is it licensed? About 37 states currently license birth centers, so check to see if your state does.
Once you have had a chance to explore all the options, you should make a decision from your heart instead of your head. Since all of the options are statistically safe, the best place for you to give birth is where you feel emotionally safest. It is that simple, really - your baby’s birth will proceed most smoothly where you feel most comfortable.