Believe it or not, taking a hospital tour is an important step in preparing for childbirth. During your hospital or birthing center tour, you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions as you walk through the labor and delivery ward.
But, if you’re anything like me, in the moment it can be hard to think of all the critical questions you want to ask. Either they fly right out of your head, or you don’t think of them until after the fact. That’s why I’ve put together this complete list of questions to ask on your hospital tour.
With this list, you’ll know all your bases are covered — from the hospital’s C-section rates and newborn care procedures to food policies and visiting hours.
Why You Should Tour the Hospital Before Giving Birth
Much like writing a birth plan, taking a labor & delivery hospital tour is an important step in preparing for childbirth. Touring the hospital you’ll be giving birth in will help you visualize your birth experience and remove some of the unknowns surrounding labor and delivery.
Think about it like this: childbirth is an endurance event, and there can be a lot of unknowns. So, it’s smart to prepare yourself and do what you can to set yourself up for success…
Just like an athlete would visit a field, court, or track before a big competition, you’d want to gain comfort and familiarity in the location where you plan to give birth.
And, more importantly, taking a hospital or birthing center tour gives you a chance to have all of your questions answered. During your hospital tour, you can ask questions regarding the hospital’s policies, visitor rules, hospital statistics, and birthing logistics. You can also find out how well the hospital or birthing center can accommodate your birthing preferences and choices.
As if that weren’t enough reason to take a hospital tour before giving birth, arriving for your hospital tour is a chance to dry-run where to park, what hospital entrance to use, and how to get to the labor and delivery unit. This way, when it’s go-time, you and your partner know exactly where to head.
What You Can Expect During Your Hospital Tour
Most hospitals offer regularly scheduled tours of their Labor & Delivery units monthly or weekly. Generally, this information is listed on the hospital website, but you can also call the hospital and ask to speak to L&D and ask them over the phone.
If your hospital offers general tour times, you may be on the tour with a group of other expecting couples. It’s kind of nice to connect with other expectant mamas who are also close to giving birth, and learn from their questions in addition to your own.
Hospital tours usually take 30-60 minutes and are often led by a childbirth educator or L&D nurse.
Be prepared, because you will likely hear women in labor during your tour. For some mamas, the hospital tour is what makes birth feel suddenly more real!
Consider bringing a small notebook with your most pertinent questions (or a printout of this list) and taking notes on things that feel especially important.
Remember to cater your questions to your unique birth wishes and needs. No question is too small or silly! Hospital tours are a time to erase doubt and stress surrounding your birth so that you arrive prepared and relaxed to have the birth your desire.
When I went for my hospital tour, I was that mom asking tons of questions. I probably embarrassed my hubby a little, but I was there to learn and have my questions answered. And you know what? I’m 90% sure that the other couples on the tour benefitted from hearing the answers to my questions too.
3 Goals for Your Hospital Tour
When taking your hospital tour, keep these goals in mind:
- Take a hospital tour to get comfortable with where you’ll be giving birth. I want you to feel comfortable, confident, and at ease during labor and childbirth, and that goes double if you’re giving birth in a hospital. Yes, you’ll be touring the space, but also gaining comfort and familiarity with the hospital. Seeing the birthing rooms and walking the halls will help make the space slightly more familiar to you for when the day arrives.
- The hospital tour can give you the inside scoop. Getting to meet some of the Labor & Delivery nurses and getting your questions answered can give you insight to help you prepare for childbirth. Knowing small details like what’s provided to you, what kind of room you’ll birth in, and what to expect will go a long way in addressing any questions, concerns, and hesitations you might not even realize you have.
- Taking a hospital tour helps you work out the logistics for your birthing day. By driving to the hospital, parking, finding the entrance, and walking the halls, you’ll have a dry run under your belt for when it’s time to check in to the hospital.
So, be sure to keep these goals in mind as you go on your hospital tour. And whenever possible, take the tour in person and not online. We want you to physically be present and get to see the Labor & Delivery ward yourself.
Questions to Ask on Your Labor & Delivery Hospital Tour
Here is a comprehensive list of things to look for and questions to ask on your hospital tour. Many of these questions will likely be answered during the tour presentation, and you might get some of these questions answered on the hospital’s website or through your medical provider.
And some of these questions relate more to your birth plan and preferences than anything, so feel free to add your preferences to your birth plan and be respectfully vocal about them. Whether you get these questions answered on your hospital tour or otherwise, this list of questions will help you prepare for birth.
Questions about hospital policies, logistics, and stats
- Where is the best place to park for the duration of our stay? Is parking free? Are there parking vouchers? Where should visitors park?
- What entrance should we use when we arrive? Is there a different entrance for after-hours?
- How do we get a wheelchair when we arrive, if needed?
- What are the check-in policies? Is check-in different during regular hospital hours vs. after hours? Can I pre-register online to save time before the big day?
- What identification, medical information, or other paperwork should we have with us when we arrive?
- How is the cell service and WiFi in the hospital/L&D rooms?
- What is the visitor policy? Is there a visitor waiting area? What is the policy for other children/siblings?
- Does the hospital offer childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes or other newborn education classes I should know about?
- At this hospital, what is the:
- Rate of C-Sections at the hospital?
- Epidural rate among births?
- Rate of induction?
- Episiotomy rate?
- VBAC rate?
- Forceps/vacuum rates?
- Rate of augmentation during labor?
- What level NICU does this hospital have? What could this mean in the event of an emergency for baby after birth? Read more about NICU levels and why they matter
- What are the hospital’s philosophies and attitude towards pain intervention, newborn care and breastfeeding? Do you emphasize patient/family-centered care?
- Can I bring in outside food and drinks? (Think, food for labor and afterwards for you and your partner/family.)
Questions about labor and birth rooms and experience
- What non-medical pain-coping supplies and comfort measures are available/will I find in the labor room? Look for and ask specifically about:
- Birthing ball
- Hydrotherapy showers
- Laboring tub
- Labor bar
- Dimmable lights
- Control of thermostat
- Access to linens (extra towels, sheets, pillows)
- Heating pads/hot water bottles
- Ice packs
- If there are laboring tubs, how long do you allow women to labor in the water? What are the safety policies surrounding labor tubs? Do you offer water births?
- Are the hydrotherapy showers large enough for your partner or doula to join you and provide additional support? What are policies surrounding this?
- Is movement encouraged and supported during labor?
- What are the policies surrounding eating and drinking during labor? What does the hospital provide (ice chips, broth, jell-O, popsicles, crackers)?
- Are there plenty of outlets for things like chargers, heating pads, speakers, sound machine? (You can probably observe this yourself as you walk through the labor and birthing rooms.)
- Are there different types of labor rooms? Can I see the various options/possibilities to help me better visualize my birth? (Note: this will depend on what rooms are available/not occupied by a birthing mama.)
- Does the hospital require routine IVs or are they only given when medically necessary? If they are required, is a saline lock possible instead?
- Do you require electronic fetal monitoring, and is it intermittent? How many minutes in an hour does it need to be worn during labor?
- Are cervical checks standard care in this hospital? Can I opt out of cervical checks or limit them if I choose?
- In the event that constant fetal monitoring is deemed necessary, do you have monitors that allow movement and can be worn in the shower?
- In the event of a necessary IV, do you have mobile poles to promote movement?
- Does the hospital offer Nitrous Oxide as a less-invasive pain intervention option? (Note: one should not opt for laughing gas/nitrous oxide if they have or suspect they have the MTHFR gene variation.)
- Are visitor policies different for labor vs. recovery?
- Are cameras and filming allowed? What about professional photographers and videographers?
- Does the hospital have a doula network or offer low-cost doula or doula-assistance?
- What would happen in the event that all of the labor and birth rooms are filled? How likely is this? (Note: at some large hospitals, women have had to labor and birth in hospital hallways. It happens.)
- Do you encourage/allow birthing mothers to push in any position?
- Do you offer warm compresses to be used between pushes to prevent tearing? Can this be arranged? Should I bring my own supplies to make this happen? (Note: this is one of the only research-proven ways to reduce your risk of serious tearing during birth – source)
- Is delayed cord clamping considered standard care at this hospital?
- Can you save my placenta for me to bring home? Do you offer encapsulation services?
- What is the standard of care in this hospital surrounding immediate skin-to-skin bonding and breastfeeding within the first hour?
- Can I delay all newborn care procedures until after the first feeding/for 1-2 hours after birth?
- Will I recover in the same room where I labored and birthed? If not, what will the switch to a recovery room look like?
- In the event of a C-Section:
- Does my partner accompany me?
- Do you offer clear drapes, lowered drapes, or a mirror for me to watch?
- Can I still do immediate skin-to-skin bonding after birth?
- If baby needs medical care, does my partner go with baby?
- When can I begin breastfeeding after a C-Section?
Questions about newborn care and recovery
- Are recovery rooms different for vaginal births vs. C-Section births?
- Can I expect a private recovery room or shared room? What would determine my eligibility or likelihood of each?
- Are recovery rooms equipped with:
- A place for my partner to sleep (double bed, pull-out chair or couch, couch)
- Nursing chair
- Bedside bassinet or easily accessed sleep space for baby
- Baby care supplies
- Postpartum care supplies
- Breastfeeding support pillows
- Showers, tubs, sitz baths?
- Will I have access to Lactation Consultants during my hospital stay? Do they make routine visits to all patients or do I need to sign up? Are they on staff 7 days a week?
- How long do I have to stay at the hospital after birth? Can I make arrangements for an early discharge? What do I need to do ahead of time to make this a reality? (ie: home visit from nurse, midwife, pediatrician, etc.)
- What is the average length of stay for a vaginal birth and C-Section birth?
- What meals are provided to me during my recovery?
- What can I expect in terms of pediatric care for my newborn during our hospital stay? How often will I see the pediatrician and be able to ask questions? (Note: you will need to select a pediatrician and contact them once your baby is born.)
- What kind of support do you offer to new mothers after discharge? Breastfeeding support groups, drop-in breastfeeding support, postpartum support groups, etc.
Questions to ask yourself and discuss with your partner after your hospital tour
After your hospital tour, it’s important to do some self-reflection and have an intentional discussion with your partner. This could be in the car on the way home or at a coffee shop immediately after; it doesn’t matter as long as you have a debrief with your partner.
Discuss what you learned, saw and heard. Share your general impressions with each other and discuss any concerns now.
Remember that it’s never too late to switch providers or even hospitals if you have more than one option available to you. If there aren’t multiple hospital options, what can you do to make the best of birthing at this hospital? For example, hiring a doula to support you during birth and be an additional advocate during your birth can make a big difference.
What’s most important is that you will feel comfortable, safe and well-cared for when it’s time to give birth!
Here are some questions and topics to discuss with your hubby after your hospital tour.
- What was your general impression after the hospital tour?
- How busy did the Labor and Delivery unit seem?
- Did the floor seem warm and homey or more clinical? Do we perceive that as a good or bad thing?
- Was there a strong sense of communication and community on the floor and between the staff?
- Did things feel organized and like they were running smoothly?
- Based on what we saw in the labor/birth rooms and recovery rooms, what do we need to add to our hospital bag list?
- Will I feel supported and honored in my birth wishes at this hospital?
Prepare for Your Hospital Tour
Now that you’ve read this complete list of questions to ask on your hospital tour, your wheels are probably turning. Take some time to decide what questions are most important to you and your birth wishes.
If there were topics on this list that you were unfamiliar with, do some research and better understand what it is you want out of your birth experience and newborn care. Having a strong sense of your own birth plan and non-negotiables can make your hospital tour questions more productive.
My Guide to Creating a Natural Birth Plan with Free Printable Template is a great resource to help you! And be sure to check out the Natural Labor Playbook, a quick reference guide for what to do in labor.
From there, you can create your own list of questions for your hospital tour that is as unique as your birth and baby!
If you found this list of questions to ask on your hospital tour useful, pin it for later!
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