Ten Questions for Hospitals

4. If a cesarean becomes necessary, can my partner stay with me in the operating room? If the hospital says yes, ask which doctors, including anesthesiologists, arrange for partners or other helpers in the cesarean operating room. Though the presence of the partner is more common than it once was, that arrangement is not automatic, especially if you are one of the more than 30 percent of new mothers who is a single mom.

5. How many other people can I have with me? Can my doula, a helper or labor assistant, stay with me during my labor and come with me to the operating room as well if a cesarean is necessary? Some hospitals are willing for you to have two people, your partner and a doula, with you during labor. They are usually less enthusiastic about two people with you in the operating room, but it is possible to arrange this.

6. What is your epidural rate? In some hospitals, the rate is 90 percent or more. If you want to avoid this drug, it's best to avoid hospitals where its use is standard, because that's what the staff is used to offering you for pain relief.

7. Do you have a lactation consultant on staff? This is a popular option with many women, and more and more hospitals have a person like this on staff. If they do, ask if she is accredited, and whether she's full-time or part-time. (It's possible that a part-time IBCLC wouldn't even be in the hospital the days you're there.)

8. Can my baby remain with me at all times from the moment of birth?
When can my partner and other children visit me? Let them explain to you when your baby can't stay, rather than when he can, for a clearer understanding of hospital rules. In some hospitals partners can remain with you 24 hours a day, and others have special visiting times for your other children to come and see you.

9. What is the average cost? Costs vary, and often your choice of hospital is determined by your insurance coverage. There is some evidence, however, that investor-owned or for-profit hospitals charge 15 to 20 percent more than other hospitals. Be sure and check your insurance coverage, as it's common now for individuals to pay a higher percentage of maternity costs than they once did.

10. Does your hospital have a policy regarding required use of the EFM during labor? Most hospitals do for malpractice reasons. If yours does, ask what is the required length of time. It's usually between 20 and 30 minutes, although if you're using Pitocin, have an epidural, or are labeled high risk, EFM use is usually required for your whole labor.

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