Taking A Hospital (Or Birthing Center) Tour During Pregnancy
Whether you’re months out or weeks away from your due date, it’s normal to be excited (and a bit nervous!) about what goes down once labor starts. What’s more, if you’re not used to hospitals, staying in one might seem mysterious or even intimidating. The good news is you can calm some (or a lot!) of your pre-birth jitters by touring the place you plan to deliver.
A hospital or birthing center tour during pregnancy pays off in a number of ways. First, you’ll have to figure out the best way to get where you need to go — which means you’ll be on auto-pilot when it’s time for the real deal (no worries about a GPS failure). A tour also gives you a chance to clear up other small details you may not have considered, like where to park and which entrances are open (if your baby decides to come in the middle of the night, for example). You’ll also get the chance to meet some of the staff who will be helping you during your hospital stay — and many women find it comforting to see a familiar face when contractions are intensifying. The biggest benefit of the pre-delivery hospital tour, though, is it gives you a sneak peek of exactly what will happen on D-day.
RELATED: Delivering in a Hospital
Making the arrangements
A good time to tour the hospital is between week 30 and week 34 of pregnancy — but if you’re considering several options it’s best to schedule your first tour a few weeks earlier. Hospital tours are free, and setting one up is easy: Call the hospital or birthing center (or check its website to find the dates and times of upcoming tours) and reserve your spot. Some places even offer virtual tours on its website — but it’s best to opt for an in-person visit if you can swing it.
What you'll learn
Tours usually last 30 minutes to an hour max. A labor and delivery nurse or hospital educator will walk you through the whole delivery process, from admission to discharge. The first stop will be the registration office. If you haven’t pre-registered already, circle back and do so after the tour — getting all of the paperwork out of the way will make your admission process faster.
The other spots you may see (though you may not get to enter) along the tour include the triage area (that’s the pre-delivery area you’ll visit when you’re admitted, where a nurse will monitor your vitals and assess whether delivery is imminent), the family waiting rooms, a labor and delivery suite and a postpartum room (if the center has private and semi-private rooms, ask to see both). Know that delivery wards can be intense places: There are tears, nervous spouses, well-meaning grandparents and actual screams sometimes. It can be a lot to process — but remember, it's all in the excitement of bringing a new life into the world, so don’t be scared! You’ll also get to see the newborn nursery, so get ready to ooh and ahh over the little cuties.
SEE ALSO: Delivering in a Birth Center
Questions to ask
The nurse or hospital educator will provide lots of valuable information, but don’t be afraid to ask your own questions. Some questions to consider during your hospital tour:
- Of course insurance plans vary, but what are the fees for private rooms, special birthing facilities, etc. (so you can discuss with insurance)?
- What should I pack in my hospital bag?
- What pain management options are available?
- What special services are available (if you have a high risk pregnancy)?
- What special birthing amenities does the hospital offer (such as a birth ball, birthing tub, squat bar, etc.)?
- Who can be in the room during the delivery? Is there a limit on the number of people?
- Are recording devices (like a video camera and tripod, cell phone, or digital camera) allowed in the delivery room?
- Do you work with a cord blood bank (if you’re considering banking your baby’s cord blood)? If not how can I arrange to transfer baby’s cord blood?
- When are visiting hours?
- Can children visit?
- Is my partner allowed to stay with me overnight?
- Can the baby be in the room with me during our stay instead of in the nursery?
- What other security policies are in place?
- Do you offer breastfeeding support services?
- What kind of information will I go home with?
If you have other questions, your doctor or the hospital staff will be more than glad to address them. Remember, everyone has the same goal: to make sure your baby has a healthy entrance into the world!