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Selection Criteria

Below are a few suggestions for questions to ask and items to note when you visit the institution.

  • Is the hospital located in a quiet or high-traffic area?
  • Can you easily get to the hospital from your home?
  • Are reserved parking spaces available, or can the car be parked nearby?

When things are proceeding without complications, several hours usually pass between the first signs of labor and the birth of the baby, so there is no reason for stress or panic. Once contractions have begun in earnest, however, it is difficult to keep a cool head. So it is better to make sure ahead of time that it will be easy to reach the hospital with no problems.

  • Can pain medications be requested?
  • Is an anesthetist always available in the delivery room?

Not all hospitals offer epidural anesthesia, because they do not all have anesthetists present around the clock. As an expectant mother, you should make timely inquiries about these aspects of delivery. Think about your tolerance for pain as well, so that when the time comes you will know what your preferences are.

  • Is the laboring mother allowed to walk, drink, and snack between contractions?

During an uncomplicated labor and delivery, the woman can get up and walk if she wishes. Walking helps labor progress and relaxes and distracts the mother. Eating and drinking should also be allowed, if the mother wishes to do so. Light foods with high energy content-e.g., sugar cubes or sweets, a spoonful of honey or jam-along with small sips of water or fruit juice help keep up the mother's strength.

  • During an uncomplicated labor and delivery, can the laboring mother decide for herself which is the most comfortable position for delivery?
  • Does the hospital have birthing stools, handrails, and other structures for leaning or support?
  • Is water birth possible?

The classic lithotomic position, with the woman lying on the bed, is practical for the obstetrical staff but not very comfortable for the mother. For surgically assisted deliveries (use of forceps or vacuum extractor), the supine position is unavoidable. However, if there are no complications, the woman should be allowed to give birth in the position in which she is most comfortable. If you are considering a water birth, you should request it-in facilities that offer this service-when you are admitted, so that the staff will have sufficient time to prepare the tub.

  • Are procedures such as induction of labor with oxytocin, intravenous administration of fluids, or episiotomy done routinely?

Such practices should not be systematically undertaken with all laboring women, but only when they are necessary.

  • What are the facility's percentages for cesarean sections and induced births?

This information gives you an idea of the medicalization of childbirth at that particular hospital.

  • Is the father or a relative allowed to be present at the birth?

Fortunately, it is now common practice to allow fathers to be present at the birth. However, some hospitals still do not allow other support persons to accompany the mother.

  • Is a neonatologist always present for the baby's first examination?
  • Does the hospital have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) itself, or is there one at another institution close by?

Smaller private clinics do not always have a pediatrician on duty at all hours of the day. This should be discussed upon admission.

  • Are breastfeeding and early bonding encouraged?
  • Is rooming in possible?
  • Are newborns cared for in the nursery given artificial milk or glucose solution?

Direct contact with the mother, early bonding through breastfeeding, and nursing on demand instead of at set feeding times are key factors in getting breastfeeding off to a good start. Not all institutions allow the newborn to remain in the room with the mother. In such cases, the nursery staff members sometimes give babies glucose solution so they will cry less at night.

  • How many women stay in one room?
  • What are the rules for family visits?
  • Are fathers allowed to come outside of regular visiting hours?

Naturally, brand-new mothers often want to spend the first days after delivery as a cozy threesome with the baby and father. A constant stream of visitors, the presence of other new mothers in the room, and the comings and goings of friends and family members are often exhausting. In this regard, there is a positive side to a facility with strictly enforced visiting hours-provided, of course, that the father can also stay with his new family outside of those hours. However, for organizational reasons, not all hospitals permit this.

Page created on: 03/09/2012
Last modified on: 03/09/2012
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