Ten Questions for Hospitals

Some of these questions can be answered by nurses in the maternity unit. For the others, call the hospital or nursing administrator's office and ask who could help you.

1.Do you have a one-room option in which I can labor, give birth and recover? Is this room always staffed? If this hospital mostly offers multiple-use rooms, they will always be staffed.

2. What is the nurse-patient ratio? Ideally, according to ACOG, there should be one nurse for every two women in early labor, and one nurse to one woman who is in the pushing stage. No one knows what the national average is, but reports suggest the typical ratio is not ideal. A nursing shortage makes it likely that many hospitals will be understaffed, particularly if there are several women in labor at one time. If the hospital you're considering has a shortage of OB nurses, but in every other respect is the right hospital for you, you might want to consider hiring a private-duty nurse, or a monitrice, for your labor.

3. What is your cesarean rate? Nationally nearly one in four women have cesareans, but the rate at which they're performed at hospitals varies enormously. Government research shows laboring women will usually get whatever is typical care at an individual hospital, so that's why it's important to match up your preferences with their routine.

Massachusetts, for instance, requires that hospitals provide you with the cesarean rate, so that consumers have a basis for comparison. For information about some of the other states, see the "Public Citizen Health Research Group" listing in Your List of Helpers at the back of the book.

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