how to prepare for a hospital birth

thinking about giving birth in hospital

Believe it or not, you do not have to be a parent to work in the mothercare office. I don’t have a child of my own yet, but being here has given me a lot more insight to perineal tearing, Braxton Hicks and pelvic girdle pain than I probably would like to have. When I hear that yet another colleague has gone into labour, I can’t help but imagine giving birth myself. Cue mental image of me sweating, screaming and grunting in a hospital bed (inspired by too many tv shows and films). It was during one of these episodes that I realised that I have no idea what’s involved in giving birth in hospital.

If you’re expecting your first precious bundle, you might also be a bit clueless about what it takes to get yourself ready to bring them into the world. Many women opt for giving birth in a hospital, so I did some digging and made this guide on how to prepare for a hospital birth.

why choose a hospital birth?

Believe it or not, you do actually have a choice about where you give birth (within reason). Most women choose to give birth in hospital because they’ll have easy access to medical care, should they need it. It’s recommended that if you’re welcoming your first little one into the world, or have had any complications with your pregnancy, that you have a hospital birth.

It’s important that you are as relaxed and calm as possible when you go into labour. For some women, being surrounded by healthcare professionals gives them peace of mind that they are in the best possible hands. At a hospital, you’ll have direct access to midwives, anaesthetists to give you an epidural if you wish, a specialist baby care unit if needed, and obstetricians (doctors who specialise in pregnancy and childbirth). This team of people will coach you through your delivery, intervene if needed and be able to respond much quicker should any complications arise.

If you want more information about the choices available in your area, find your local children’s centre who can give you some friendly and helpful advice.

how to arrange a hospital birth

Anyone who’s switched on the telly in the middle of the day will know that it’s all about location, location, location. You don’t have to give birth at the hospital closest to you. Try to find out as much as you can about the options around you so that you’re happy with your choice.

making the decision to give birth in hospital

You should take a look at your local maternity services and compare which ones are available to find a hospital that’s best for you. Different people will be looking for different things, such as the availability of a birth pool, TENs machine or TV. You can also look at statistics about the types of births in each hospital, to see how common intervention is. Which? have a really helpful search tool that gives you plenty of information about each hospital, as well as numbers for you to call about booking or enquiries.

For a more personal touch, talk to the mums in your life. Those who’ve had a hospital birth recently will be able to give an honest account of their experience and offer you some insights that only mothers know. You can also have a chat with your midwife. They’ll give you an idea of which hospital they think is best suited to your birth plan.

Once you’ve shortlisted your choices, it’s time to go look at your options in person. Many maternity services offer tours to look around the unit, so you can get a better idea of the environment you’ll be delivering in. Once you’ve chosen where you’d like to give birth, you can call them up to book. Don’t worry if you change your mind though; you’re free to switch your plan at any stage of your pregnancy.

getting your partner ready for a hospital birth

You may feel that much of the preparation for a hospital birth lies with you as a mother, but you should absolutely include your birth partner as much as possible! It’s important that they feel involved so they can start to bond with your baby, especially as they aren’t the one carrying your little bundle.

Having a well-prepared partner can also help you to stay calm, especially when you go into labour. Making sure they know where your hospital bag is helps you to get out the door quicker, and getting them involved with packing means they’ll know exactly where that sneaky hair tie is when you’re shouting for it. Knowing the quickest route to the hospital is very important, and keeping some alternative routes in mind comes in handy when there’s heavy traffic (especially if your hospital is near a football stadium and your water breaks on game day!). They should also practise getting the car seat in and out safely so you’re ready for when you bring your new passenger home!

After completing all my research, I decided to speak to some actual real-life mums about what they think is most important when preparing for a hospital birth. Aside from the top tip of bringing good snacks, the second most common piece of advice was to go with the flow. Labour can be a very slow process, and a lot can change once everything actually gets going! Pay attention to what you feel you need in the moment – even if you were dead set on gas and air only, you might find yourself wanting an epidural, and that’s ok! Do what you need to do - none of it will matter once you have your new little baby in your arms!


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