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Choosing the Right Hospital for Your Delivery

Many women have never been a patient in a hospital before the birth of their first baby, so they have absolutely no idea what to expect. The idea of even going to a hospital as a patient can be daunting. Fortunately, today's hospitals try to make the experience as "painless" as possible by offering all the comforts of home, and then some.

Should the Cart Come Before the Horse?
If you have insurance (and here's hoping you do), then you may not have a choice of hospitals. Chances are good that you are limited by a specific list of preferred providers as to which hospital and health care provider (i.e., doctor) you can choose. However, being limited doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have a choice. Even if you have only two hospitals to choose from, go visit them in advance to see what they have to offer. Sometimes, women fall in love with a particular hospital that their doctor doesn't deliver in, and they choose to switch doctors in order to go to the hospital of their choice. You are the consumer here. Make sure that you get what you want within your means. If you have multiple choices for your hospital, then visit them all. The differences might be subtle, but you should still make the decision as to what kind of environment makes you comfortable. And even if you only have one hospital in your area, thus negating a choice, you should still visit to see what you will get for your money.

What Makes Hospitals Different from One Another
The choices are endless in today's hospitals as they compete for your dollars in the marketplace. Here is what one local hospital in my area (St. Vincent Women's Hospital in Indianapolis) offered on their Web site, touting how they were different from all the others (I've put my comments in parentheses):

In addition, in-depth brochures from the same hospital highlighted their level IV neonatal unit, their extensive childbirth classes, and a new mother's support group that women can attend after their baby is born. This hospital offered tours twice a month for parents to attend and get the lay of the land. In fact, most hospitals today have similar programs.

So What Should Be Important to You
The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable with the staff and the environment of the hospital that you choose. Are the people friendly? Do you have confidence in their abilities? Some hospitals offer LDRP rooms, which translates to Labor Delivery Recovery Postpartum, meaning that you will be in the same room where you delivered until you go home. Other hospitals have a labor and delivery room, but then move you to a regular room on the maternity floor after you deliver. Do you want a private room (who doesn't want one?) or a semi-private room? Does the hospital even offer semi-private rooms at reduced costs? Previously, maternity rooms looked like any other hospital rooms. Today's maternity rooms often have carpeting and look more like luxury hotel rooms than anything remotely affiliated with a hospital. For example, all the oxygen outlets are hidden behind wooden cabinets. In fact, in some hospitals, the baby warmer in the mother's room folds down from the wall like an old-fashioned ironing board. There is a lot of effort that goes into designing labor and delivery rooms these days. Many hospitals, in an effort to compete, will go to great extent to offer the most positive experience when you have your baby.

The first step is to call the hospital and schedule an appointment or time to visit. Go in armed with a list of questions, like you had for your doctor. Here are some questions that you might pose:

These are some of the questions you might ask. If you think of any others, jot them down on a list. In all likelihood, many of these questions will be answered on your tour before you even ask them.

While you're taking your tour, look around at the facilities. Is everything neat and clean? Cleanliness is of paramount concern in a hospital where bacteria and germs are at a premium. You want to minimize yours and your baby's risk for getting an infection.

The Absolute Minimum
Don't be "wowed" by extras in a hospital if the actual facilities aren't up to your standards. The bottom line: The hospital might have to save your life or your baby's life. Make sure first and foremost that it is a good hospital with excellent medical facilities. All the rest is gravy....

Reproduced from Absolute Beginner's Guide to Pregnancy, by John Adams and Marta Justak, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing. Please visit Amazon to order your own copy.


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