"...be as prepared as possible and as educated because labor and delivery is an unpredictable journey..."
Published: October 1, 2018
By: Emily Reed
Deciding on the best place to deliver your baby can be one of the most important decisions to make prior to going into labor. Many hospitals offer hospital tours and birth classes, which allow parents to make the best decisions regarding where to deliver.
“It is very important to be as prepared as possible and as educated because labor and delivery is an unpredictable journey,” says Courtney M. Dodd with Women’s Services at Brookwood Baptist Health. “The most common question I hear is, ‘what amenities do we offer?’ Most expectant parents like to know what special treats they can look forward to getting before they deliver, and while they are at the hospital.”
Dodd says most women have established a relationship with their obstetrician prior to pregnancy, which alleviates a lot of the decision regarding where a woman will deliver her baby.
“While at their annual appointment with their OBGYN, it is a great time to talk with their provider and have pre-conception counseling. It would be great for parents to start out their pregnancy experience at the hospital where they plan to deliver. Most women, with a normal pregnancy, will see their OBGYN for their first appointment around eight weeks pregnant,” Dodd says.
Sandy King, a registered nurse and birth designer with St. Vincent’s Health System in Birmingham, says it is also good for parents to spend time at the hospital or birthing center where they are considering delivering the baby.
“It is good to set up interviews with a few OB/GYNS to ensure you find the right physician to support you in the wishes you have for your experience,” King says. “Attend early pregnancy programs to evaluate your fit with the hospital you are choosing and get to know the nursing staff prior to committing to a hospital to ensure you feel comfortable with them, as they will be part of your birth story for the rest of your life.”
King says early prenatal care is important, so it is best to decide where to deliver within the first few weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Frances Burgan, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist with UAB, says it is important for women giving birth to make sure they feel safe and comfortable in the environment where they plan to deliver. She also suggests as it gets closer to the delivery to ask friends for advice about their birth experiences, tour multiple places and trust your instincts.
While many moms might have questions specific to her pregnancy when deciding where to deliver, Dr. Emily Mills, an obstetrician with Grandview Medical Group OBGYN, says the patient should think about what is most important to her.
“She might want to consider asking if the hospital has 24-hour, in-house anesthesia, which helps facilitate fast, and safe epidural placement, and would be needed for unplanned cesareans,” Mills says. “Some moms will want to ask about support for women choosing not to have an epidural. Looking for a staffed NICU also increases the chance that baby will be well taken care of if unexpected complications occur.
“Women desiring to breastfeed will also want to look for hospitals that offer lactation consultants or specially trained nursing staff,” Mills adds. “Other things to consider include whether a mom wants immediate skin-to-skin or postpartum rooming in for baby.”
Some of the most common questions Mills receives from women looking to deliver at Grandview Medical Center centers around epidurals and breastfeeding.
“Many people also want to know who and how many family members may be present for the birth of their little one,” Mills says. “The best place to deliver is the place where mom and baby have the best chance of a healthy and safe delivery, as well as a peaceful and supportive environment for the first days of bonding. Touring facilities and asking friends about their experiences will help you identify a place that is right for you.”
Amenities and Classes
St. Vincent’s offers a monthly event called “Beautiful Beginnings” for couples who are considering having a baby or who might be interested in learning more about the hospital’s maternity services.
The event is the first Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. and guests are invited to join the group for dinner, while being introduced to the health care team, which could include an OBGYN, pediatrician, labor and delivery nurse, lactation specialist, birth designer, and an educator from the hospital’s childbirth education department.
“They (the parents) will be invited to ask questions and mingle with the team,” King says. “They are given a tour of the birth suites and an overview of all of our support services offered to families who choose to deliver at St. Vincent’s Birmingham.”
Those wishing to participate in the Beautiful Beginnings classes are encouraged to RSVP by calling 205-212-6667. Other amenities offered at St. Vincent’s Birmingham include birth design, which is offered at about 34-36 weeks of pregnancy to help moms think through their hospital experience. A birth designer is available to support moms throughout the remainder of her pregnancy, and are available to answer questions. The birth designer also stops by to check in with the mom after she delivers, and can be contacted even after the mother goes home. St. Vincent’s also has a Baby Cafe, which provides breastfeeding support to new moms and their babies.
Certified Lactation Consultants are present at the Baby Cafe to provide professional support, as well as other moms. In addition, certified lactation consultants are also available to meet with moms as needed, after delivery. For information, visit stvhs.com/monogrammaternity.
Grandview Medical Center provides many classes, including “The Gift of Motherhood,” “Breastfeeding, a Great Start,” “Infant CPR,” “Daddy Boot Camp,” and hospital tours, which provide an idea of the layout, policies and information to help make it a positive experience for those delivering at the hospital. Classes at Grandview are available to anyone interested, and not just those planning to deliver at Grandview. For more information, contact 844-462-3627.
UAB Women and Infants Center provides many prenatal classes including baby basics, breastfeeding, breathing and relaxation, infant CPR and a new life refresher course. There also are classes for siblings who are welcoming a new addition to the family. For more information, visit uabmedicine.org/women/classes.
Brookwood Baptist Health offers a variety of prenatal education classes and program to help parents, siblings and even grandparents feel prepared, according to Amy Ferguson, marketing manager with the hospital. “From breastfeeding to unmedicated childbirth to infant CPR and more, our classes are designed to help make this beginning a happy one,” Ferguson says. “We even offer private (and free) birth navigator appointments, where mom and her support person can meet one-on-one to discuss her labor options and birth preferences for the big day.” To sign up for a birth navigator session or any of the hospital’s prenatal classes, visit ichooseb.com.
Note: All area hospitals were contacted for this story. Not all responded by deadline.
Emily Reed is a freelance journalist residing in Alabaster. She is currently a stay-at-home- mom to her two children, Tobias and Lucy.