From the moment you discover you’re pregnant, decisions await you. Fortunately, many of them, such as what color to paint the nursery and whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, are not life-changing (though they may seem so at the time). But the big-picture decisions—questions like where your baby will be born, who will deliver her and whether or not you should schedule the birth—can have a profound impact on your pregnancy and delivery, often making the difference between a joyous experience you can’t wait to repeat and a traumatic one you’d rather forget. >> We’re here to help, with information to guide you through these and other choices you may be facing, such as whether to get an epidural or to try for a vaginal birth after having a Cesarean. We also provide lots of immediately practical advice, including surprising tips for an easier labor. >> Finally, though no two labor and delivery experiences are exactly alike, our outline of what happens in the final hours of pregnancy can help you prepare for the most exciting day of your life: your baby’s birth day. Wherever you are in your journey toward motherhood, be sure to keep this guide handy.
If you have pregnancy complications or risk factors for a C-section, prefer an obstetrician to a midwife or want to receive labor-induction and/or pain medication, a hospital is for you. If your insurance lets you choose, here’s a checklist of what to look for. Keep in mind that very few hospitals meet all these criteria, some of which are, obviously, more important than others.
> An obstetrician is on the premises at all times.
> The hospital’s maternal mortality rate is at or below .01 percent.
> There is a neonatal intensive-care unit of at least level II (level III is best).
> The primary C-section rate is at or below the national average of 26 percent.
> The hospital does not limit when you can receive pain medication.
> The hospital has a lactation consultant on staff.
> Midwives are allowed to deliver babies, and doula services are permitted.
> The same nurses care for you throughout labor, delivery and recovery.
> During labor, women are allowed to walk around and to use private bathtubs or showers. > Women can give birth in rooms specifically geared for labor/delivery, recovery and postpartum.
> There is a place for the father to sleep overnight.
> The baby can stay in your room with you.
> Friends and relatives besides the father are allowed to attend the birth.
> The hospital has a tolerant visitor policy, especially regarding siblings.
> Water births, videotaping of births and massage services are permitted and/or available.
> Classes on infant care, breastfeeding, sibling relationships and the like are offered.