Hospital tours for first-time mums

Tonight is our sightseeing Grand Tour – of our chosen hospita’s delivery suite and birthing centre. I exited our two hour NHS antenatal class last week miserable and terrified, having decided that everyone who’d opted for a home birth was very clever indeed, if only to avoid the didn’t-anyone-tell-you-they’re-actually-compulsory drugs and knives. Birthing had morphed into an 18 Cert video game, minus the car theft. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the option of pharmaceuticals and well trained medical professionals. But the stress is on “option” here.

I was surprised at how the community midwife painted everything in the bleakest terms possible in the main, firmly endorsing epidurals and surgical intervention, although when directly asked she said thought waterbirths were fantastic1. But she was reluctant to discuss anything like active labour, how the birthing centre compared to the labour ward, or the sort of advice I’d associated in my mind with a midwifery-led approach.

Frankly, she might as well have stood there bellowing “THERE WILL BE NOTHING BUT UNBEARABLE PAIN!” Yes, yes, fine. We all got that memo (and from oh so many people) but I was looking for some practical words of wisdom too, thanks. While I understand that there are all sorts of possible complications, it’s also feasible to come out of hospital without a Level Three tear and paralysis after epidural. I wonder which mental image most women at the session took away with them…

Thoughts of a calm birth went out the window for a few days but I’m hoping the tour tonight will allow me to unwind and be confident once more about choosing the birthing centre. Seems I should be grateful to actually have it booked at all (via our midwife) as other mums I met said they haven’t been able to get through.

What we know about our hospital

  • Our hospital has a birthing centre, including two rooms with water pools which we’re hoping to use, as well as the labour ward
  • parking is exorbitant and we need to bring the GDP of an emerging nation in small coinage
  • after delivery I’ll go into a four-bedded bay, wherever I give birth, though we can pay extra for a private room (if available)
  • it’s only 1.5 miles away although depending on when he deigns to arrive, that might be during Olympic rush hour. Yay. Um.

I have some questions.2

Questions we need to ask on our hospital tour

  • where I should actually be dropped, when Mr D parks the car. The place is a huge maze.
  • what the security arrangements are like, for baby and for anyone coming into the unit
  • what’s the usage rate like for the birthing centre and the water pools, compared to women going straight to the labour ward?
  • what’s the minimum time I need to stay in either delivery or the birthing centre, and how long could Mr D stay with me?
  • what are the visiting times?
  • how much space is there for bags? SIL was in a tiny room and everything had to be put under the bed and retrieved as necessary, do we need to unpack the steamer trunk?
  • is there any paperwork that you have to complete on arrival that could be filled out ahead of time?

  • waterbirths: how many of the midwives are trained for and regularly attend waterbirths? What’s the likelihood of being able to use the pool? Can the pool be used for labour only if a waterbirth isn’t going to be possible? Do the midwives assist with waterbirthing or only supervise?
  • are there birthing balls available, or could I bring my own and do they have a pump there?
  • what am I allowed to do during labour: use a ball, walk around, walk the corridors?
  • when do shifts change i.e. how many different midwives might we meet during labour?
  • can we bring food?
  • can we control the lighting?
  • can we use mobile phones, are there plugs for charging our battery-hungry iPhones, can we bring our own music?

  • after birth, is the baby in the room with me?
  • is there always someone available to help with breastfeeding: lactation consultant, midwife, maternity assistant?
  • is there a shop for necessities we forget, and what are its opening hours?

It transpires that different hospitals, even within the same catchment area, can have vastly different policies on things so also ask about:
– formula: some provide it, some like ours only endorse breastfeeding so don’t
– nappies: best to bring your own, and wipes, and check if the hospital supports using reusables if that’s what you’re planning
– visiting times: seems rare for dads to be able to say overnight even in private rooms and visiting hours can start anywhere from 8:00 to 11:00am

Now, wish me luck. And remind me of anything else I’ve forgotten!

*Photo “Rocket View” from Charlie North’s Flickr stream under a Creative Commons licence


  1. and I immediately thought “Feck off out of MY pool, the lot of ye” 

  2. because at this point, there really aren’t any dumb questions. At all. 

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