Pregnancy and birth advice rarely focuses on the logistics of what happens when you get to the hospital, what you can expect there as labor progresses, and what happens in the hours and days following birth. But these seemingly minor details matter—you’re about to have your baby! Here’s a heads-up on what you can generally expect upon admitting and thereafter.
Parking and Entrance Your hospital may have several entrances used for different times of the day. Ideally, before you arrive in labor you’ll want to ask about those entrances as well as parking details. It always helps to take a tour (a dry-run of sorts) to make sure you know exactly where to go when you arrive on the big day. If you take a hospital-affiliated childbirth education course, your instructor will likely inform you of hospital logistics, but if you don’t, these details can easily become buried in a packet of documents your healthcare provider gives you.
BONUS TIP: Don’t forget to look into places like StarMed that provide Family Care which give services like annual checkups and flu jabs.
Registration and Payment Unless you’re about to deliver, you probably won’t be admitted directly to a labor room. You will first have to stop at the Obstetrical/Maternity Registration desk. Many hospitals now allow you to preregister, but there are usually one or two steps you’ll need to take when you arrive regardless, so be sure to ask ahead of time. On a similar note, the last thing you want is added stress while in labor. Check with your hospital and insurance company at least a month in advance to see if you’ll have a copay upon admitting, how much it will be and when you’ll be required to pay it.
Don’t Over-pack Once your baby is born you won’t have any time—or energy—to watch movies or catch up on reading. Don’t pack these things—instead, pack your favorite skin care products and body lotion (containing no harsh chemicals or fragrances of course!). Remember that your hospital will most likely have shampoo and soap for you but if you like using moisturizers or hair conditioners bring them from home. One small labor bag and one postpartum bag with the basics will get you through your stay. You won’t have much room to put things and on discharge day you’ll have plenty else to worry about without having to make several unnecessary trips to the car. But even if you pack light, sometimes the build-up of congratulatory bouquets may just warrant a trip or two home by your partner before you’re actually discharged (which can be a huge help!). Ideally though, ask your friends and family to either have flowers delivered to your house, or even better—send a fruit basket or home-cooked meal instead!
During Labor The hospital staff will be there to support both mom and dad/partner 100 percent throughout your labor. Be sure to speak up about your wants and needs, but otherwise, keep your focus on birthing your baby. If you have specific hopes for your birth (such as an unmedicated or water birth), or are looking to develop a birth plan, be sure to ask questions about your hospital resources and protocol at least a few months ahead of time. After Birth Don’t stress—just enjoy! Once your baby is born, the hospital staff will help you achieve any goals you may have whether that be breastfeeding or skin-to-skin bonding. But keep in mind that if, for whatever reason, that doesn’t happen right away it’s ok, common and there’s plenty of time and resources to help you and your baby enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin in the hours and days that follow.
Postpartum Hospital Care Expect to have a nurse come in your room at least once every eight hours to check your blood pressure, heart rate temperature and vaginal bleeding. They will also check your fundus too (top of your uterus) to make sure it is hard and contracted. This may be slightly uncomfortable. Your care providers will provide you with appropriate postpartum medications, which you should take to stay ahead of any birth or c-section-related discomfort. And don’t worry—they won’t affect breastfeeding!
Hospital Education You’ll only be in the hospital for two to four nights depending on the type of delivery you have so learn as much as you can about baby care and feeding from your care providers while you’re there. Try to limit visitors and adhere to visiting hours so that you’ll have time not only to rest and bond with your baby, but to absorb all of the new information. Many hospitals offer classes and teaching in the morning hours and it will be difficult for you to learn these newborn essentials with a room full of visitors. And don’t hesitate to ask questions, no matter who repetitive or basic they may seem to you.