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Today, most women give birth at the hospital where their doctor or midwife has admitting privileges. Keep in mind that when you choose a doctor or midwife, in most cases you're choosing the place of birth. In large cities with several hospitals, chances are that the caregiver will have privileges at more than one hospital. In this case, you may be able to choose the hospital where you would prefer to have your baby. If you live in a small town, there may only be one hospital available.

When it comes to labor and delivery all hospitals are not created equal. This is one area of healthcare where hospitals vigorously compete to set themselves apart from the competition. Many offer different room amenities and childbirth and education classes for family members, including grandparents and siblings.

When comparing the labor and delivery departments of different hospitals don't forget to ask these questions:

  • How many support people are allowed to be present for the labor and delivery? Birthing partners and husbands will certainly be welcomed in any labor and delivery department, but what if a mother wants her best friend, a sister, a doula or anyone else present? Make sure early in pregnancy that the setting will meet your needs.

  • Does the hospital offer birthing rooms or can labor and delivery take place in the same room?

  • What is the hospital's policy on sibling visitation? Can siblings be present at the birth?

  • What is the visitation policy for other relatives and friends?

  • Does the hospital offer "rooming in," when the baby can stay in the mother's room rather than being taken to the nursery?

  • Are rooms in the labor and delivery unit private or semi-private? Are private rooms available? Some insurance policies only allow for a semi-private room so check before it's time to go to the hospital.

  • Does the hospital offer in-house support such as a lactation consultant?

Once upon a time, having a baby involved moving the laboring mother to and from many different rooms. She would labor in a labor room, deliver in a sterile surgical-style delivery room, and then recover in a postpartum room as her newborn baby was whisked off to the nursery for several hours. Today, the availability of birthing rooms in many hospitals makes it possible for mothers to stay in the same bed from labor through recovery, in some instances for their entire hospital stay, and for their babies to undergo any post-delivery care in the room with them until both are discharged to go home.

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