March 09, 2020
What It's Like to Give Birth at a Hospital
By: Cara Terreri, LCCE, CD(DONA) | 0 Comments
In the United States, the majority of people give birth in a hospital. If you are planning or considering a hospital birth in your future, it helps to learn what you can expect out of the environment, staff, and routines and procedures.
Later this week, we will talk about how to choose a hospital that best suits your preferences for birth.
What to Know About the Environment at a Hospital Birth
- At check in, you will be required to fill out lengthy amounts of paperwork. Some can be reduced if you preregister, but expect to fill out and sign multiple forms. This will take place even if you are in active labor.
- Often, you will be assessed in an are referred to as "triage." Nurses will determine, usually through monitoring, questions, and a vaginal check, if you are far enough along in labor to be admitted to stay in the hospital.
- If you are admitted, you will be assigned a room for labor and birth. In many U.S. hospitals, private rooms are the norm, but some may have only shared rooms. Your room may have a shower or a shower/tub combo. If you want a room with a tub, you should be able to get one, as long as it's available.
- Rooms are equipped with a bed with fresh linens and towels, and usually, a chair or sometimes a small couch. Extra linens and towels are available, but you may have to ask.
- During your time in labor and birth, you will have access to the hospital's available food and drinks, unless your hospital does not allow eating and drinking during labor, which is a common, though outdated and harmful, policy. It's a good idea to bring drinks and snacks from home if you have special preferences.
- Fresh water and ice is typically available in a station down the hall from your room.
- Hospitals allow and encourage you to bring personal items that help you feel more comfortable. However, there may be some items (like candles and pets) that aren't allowed.
- Hospital rooms usually have multiple sets of lights that can be turned off and on in various parts of the room to help control the lighting.
- You will labor and give birth in the same room (unless you have a cesarean), and be transferred to a postpartum room after giving birth.
- If you don't have an epidural, you may be able to labor in the shower or tub. If the hospital has telemetry (wireless) units for monitoring, it will be easier to labor in the shower or tub for longer periods of time.
- You will stay in the hospital between 2 and 4 days, depending on your birth recovery needs and any complications you experience.
- Taking a hospital tour before or during your pregnancy lets you familiarize yourself with the environment and their particular policies, as well as answer any questions.
What to Know About the Staff at a Hospital Birth
- You will be assigned a nurse upon arrival. Nurses change shifts at 7am and 7pm. Generally, you will have the same nurse throughout their shift, but a different nurse may pop in to help if your assigned nurse is with another patient.
- Nurses can be tremendously helpful throughout your labor -- be sure to ask them for support and assistance when needed.
- You can request a different nurse if you feel that your nurse is not a good fit.
- Your doctor or midwife will not be with you throughout your labor, and in fact, you will likely only see her a handful of times prior to birth.
- There are several other possible staff members responsible for you and your baby's care during your stay, including a nursery nurse, neonatologist, nurse tech, postpartum nurse, lactation consultant, and anesthesiologist.
What to Know About Routines and Procedures at a Hospital Birth
- All hospitals have policies and protocols (rules) in place, mostly for safety and liability reasons. Not all hospital policies align with the best evidence for a safe and healthy birth.
- Your nursing staff must adhere to hospital protocol. Your doctor or midwife can make special requests for your care outside of protocol, based on your needs and preferences. Be sure to check with your midwife or doctor prior to birth about what types of requests can be accommodated.
- Routine procedures in a hospital during labor and birth include (but are not limited to) cervical (vaginal) exams, IV placement, IV fluids, continuous fetal monitoring, directed pushing, artificial rupture of membranes (breaking your water), and cord clamping immediately after birth.
- All staff are required to inform you of all procedures as well as get your consent (permission) prior to doing a procedure. This does not always happen; it's important to ask questions and speak up.
- You have the right to be informed about and accept or refuse a procedure or intervention.
- Get informed about the routines in place at your chosen hospital by taking a hospital tour before or during your pregnancy. Ask questions!
Ways to Make Your Hospital Birth Uniquely Your Own
- Bring items from home that help you feel comfortable, including a favorite pillow or blanket, your own clothes to labor and recover in, a framed picture, or anything that can help you focus and brings peace.
- Diffuse your favorite essential oil to promote comfort and relaxation.
- Adjust the lighting and keep your room door closed to encourage a sense of privacy and peace -- the perfect task for your partner or doula!
- Use of the tub or shower for laboring -- water is a great relaxation tool!
- Use the bed as a prop for helpful positions rather than lying flat on your back.
- Ask your nurse for the squat bar, which attaches to the bed and can be used to make pushing easier.
- Bring your favorite snacks and drinks to keep you nourished with the foods you like.
- Create a birth plan to outline your preferences for birth. Make sure to discuss these in advance with your provider to ensure that what you prefer is likely to be granted at your hospital. Or if not, prepare yourself and your birth partner to be more assertive during labor and birth.
More Hospital Birth Resources from Lamaze
Lamaze has several different resources to help inform and prepare you for birth in a hospital. Check them out:
What to Pack in Your Labor Bag
5 Questions to Help You Get the Birth You Want
How to Communicate Your Birth Preferences at the Hospital
Having a Baby in the Hospital: What to Expect During Your Stay After Birth
When to Head to the Hospital in Labor
Create a Comfortable Laboring Environment in the Hospital
Do I Need to Take a Hospital Tour?
TagsBirth Hospital Birth All About Birth Settings Series