Navigating a Hospital Visit for Childbirth: A Step-by-Step Guide for Expectant Parents
The idea of driving to the hospital to have your first child haunts new parents, almost from the moment they learn they are expecting. It is a daunting process, and— as you will soon see— not at all an easy one.
And yet it’s also an overwhelmingly common feature of life. In this article, we take a look at everything you need to know about what will go down at the hospital after you arrive to deliver your first child. Read on for everything you need to know about your visit from admission to discharge.
It’s *Usually* Not Urgent
In movies and TV shows, pregnant women are rushed to the hospital in the greatest haste. The scenes always play out in a photo-finish fashion, with the viewer left to wonder if the new child will take their first breaths in the back of a New York taxi cab.
In real life, it seldom plays out that way. Women having their first baby can spend up to twenty hours in labor. This is a good thing as you get ready at the house, and a bad thing for— well… the next nineteen hours.
When you go feel the early signs of labor, calmly get yourself ready. You really don’t need to get to the hospital at all until your contractions are strong and separated by about three or four minutes. Things are a bit different if you are located somewhere with limited access to healthcare services, in which case move as quickly but safely as possible.
Get Your Things Ready
It is a good idea to have a hospital bag prepacked. This isn’t because you might need to leave in haste, but because packing may not be the first thing on your mind as you experience labor. First-time parents spend two days in the hospital on average.
The mother will be changed promptly into a hospital gown upon arrival, and this is what she will wear for the duration of the stay. If a partner will be accompanying her, they are of course free to wear their own clothes.
Moms will want to pack something to change into for the day they get to take their baby home. They may also want to pack their hospital papers, slippers, lotions, massage oil, a written birth plan (if you have one) and any items that are necessary to help you carry out said birth plan.
For example, some parents have playlists they wish to use in the birthing room. There is a decent chance you’ll find at the end of your hospital stay that you overpacked. During labor, you’re often occupied with the—
Daunting idea that a person is squeezing their way out of me?
We were going to say “miracle of childbirth.” But yes. And then once the kid comes along, they don’t exactly give you a lot of free time. Hey, get used to it.
This will be a constant aspect of your time at the hospital. When you arrive, the nurses will assess your health and that of the baby. Note that it may be many hours before the doctor arrives. Remember that 20 hours of labor we mentioned earlier?
Well, the doc knows the lay of the land. They may come into chat shortly after your admission for a meet and greet, and they will certainly be on call, but you won’t see much of them until the moment of truth. It’s the nurses who will hook you up to monitors, and so on.
As long as you and the baby are doing well, the labor hours will pass without much medical intervention. At this point, you and the hospital are just waiting for the baby to be ready to come.
Know Your Options
During your assessments, the people taking care of your delivery will be able to help you understand your options. Some new moms like to take walks around the floor, get massages from their partners, or even take a bath.
Usually, there is no reason not to do these things. If there are limitations placed on your activity, the hospital will let you know, but always feel free to ask.
At some point in your labor, you will be asked if you would like an epidural. Up to 70% of women choose to get one. However, timing is important. Studies have shown that getting your epidural too early can prolong labor and increase the chances of getting a c-section.
Don’t panic too much. It usually works out just fine. Keep the line of communication open with your caregivers. They will be able to help coach you on if and when you should have the epidural administered.
Ok, here’s the hard part.
The hard part?!
Sorry, mom. Now that you’ve gone through labor, you’ve gotten your epidural, and an unopened hospital bag sits next to your bed (funny enough but the contractions kept you occupied enough without it) it is time to get ready to push.
If you haven’t seen your doctor yet, this is when they will make their debut. Some moms will be taken to a delivery room. Newer hospital rooms convert seamlessly (and with alarming speed) into delivery rooms.
Either way, it’s time to push.
Sometimes this part of the process unfolds quickly. Other times—
Right. The average first-time mother spends about two hours pushing. It’s hard, but it will be ok. You can do it, mom!
Meet Your Child
After your child is born, they will be cleaned up and evaluated many times by nurses and doctors. There will be a constant stream of healthcare workers filtering in and out of your room for the next day or so. The rest of your hospital stay probably won’t be the restful experience you need— spoilers, it only gets a little better once you come home— but it will all be worth it. Congratulations!