Parentalk: Questions you should ask your Birthing team
Pregnancy is one of the most exciting phases of your life but also one that is associated with a lot of confusion. If you are pregnant for the first time, you are possibly drowning in pools of information coming from all directions. Everyone has advice to offer and new-parent groups are abundant with information. 687 google searches later, you are still confused and probably have some questions for your birth team. When I was at that stage, I’d have many doubts only to forget them when I was at the doctor’s office. Also, while many of us ask the right questions about diet, workout, medication, etc., we forget to discuss birth.
Are you also worried about filtering information and still equipping yourself with all that you need? Working in close sync with your birth team will help you stay informed, avoid unpleasant surprises during birth, and have a pleasant birthing experience.
Here is everything you need to ask your birth team before delivery:
About birth and labor
- Childbirth classes and details: Hypnobirthing, breathing exercises, and other best practices when you are in labor are some things that childbirth classes focus on. Ask your birthing team/ hospital if they have such an arrangement. Also, enquire if they include it in the package or if there are additional costs involved.
- Contact details at the time of labor: Labor cannot read the clock. Ask the hospital about what you need to do when you go into labor, who should you call and what should you do if it is late in the night? Many of us think we can rush to the hospital, but many times an experience doctor or midwife is not available and it can be risky.
- Paperwork requirements: When I delivered my little one, I wanted my husband to hold my hand through the excruciating pain, but he had to fill out long forms. By the time he came up to the labor room, the child was out. Ask about paperwork requirements and if you can complete it before labor.
- Things to carry when you are in labor: This is one of the most important questions because all hospitals have different requirements with respect to what you need to carry. Some may need you to carry your file, whereas others have digital copies in their systems. Even with clothes and personal requirements, all birthing centers are different.
- Arrangements you need to make for home birth: If you are choosing home birth, ask your midwife and birth team about the arrangements you need to make at home. This will include clean sheets, hot water, etc.
- Who is allowed to accompany me during labor: Many birthing centers still do not allow men in the labor room, whereas an increasing number are now allowing children too. Decide what you want and check with the birth team regarding their rules around labor companions.
- Facilities in the labor room: Birth balls, calming music, hot tub and shower, dedicated nurses, etc. are some facilities available in modern labor rooms. Check with your birthing center about their arrangements. These are not essentials, but it is good to know what all will be available.
- Pain management options: Epidural anesthesia, special massages for pain relief, water soak, etc. are some pain management options that birth teams use based on the requirement. Ask about the availability well in advance. You can also ask if anesthesiologists are available round the clock.
- Labor filming rules: Ask if your birth companion can film the birthing process or capture it on camera. My friend’s hospital allows this and she regrets not knowing about it earlier.
- Arrangements available if all labor rooms are occupied: This is a major concern in small birthing centers. Check with them beforehand about an alternate plan if all the birthing rooms are full.
- Expected mode of birth: Many times, your doctor will be able to tell if a c-section is the only way to ensure a safe birth. Check with them about the likelihood of vaginal birth. Having an idea about the mode of birth will help you to prepare better and organize help accordingly.
- Thoughts on VBAC: If you are birthing for the second time and the first child was delivered using a c-section, ask if they are supportive of a Vaginal Birth After C-section. Also, check about the possibility of a VBAC keeping in mind your pregnancy and its unique needs.
- Thoughts about a birth plan: Preparing a birth plan is a great way to prepare for the final day. It contains all big and small details like your birthing partner, the kind of intervention you prefer, if you allow medication, and other big and small aspects. However, many hospitals are still not so receptive to birth plans. Check with them beforehand and also ask whom to send the birth plan, who to get it signed from, etc.
- How many vaginal checks to expect during labor and if I can opt-out of them: You may not be comfortable with vaginal checks and they are totally optional. Check with your birth team about how often do they check internally and if you can opt out.
About Cesarean Birth
- Permission for a partner to be available during surgery: Hospitals differ in their policies about allowing a partner to stay during a c-section. Ask for your hospital’s policy.
- Curtain down or clear drape c-section: This kind of surgery allows the mother to see her child coming into the world and offers an early bonding experience. Ask if your birthing team has such a provision.
- Admission procedure for planned c-section: Many health conditions, pre-birth complications, or personal choices may lead to a planned c-section. You will likely be jittery on the day and it makes sense to ask about the admission procedure and stay prepared.
About the time after the baby is born:
- If delayed cord clamping is possible: Delayed cord clamping involves not cutting the cord immediately after the child is born. It helps to improve iron levels in the child and also ensures better future development and safety from diseases. However, not all hospitals do this. Ask your healthcare practitioner about their common practice and if they’d do it.
- Possibility of skin to skin after birth: A baby born without any birth complications if placed belly down directly on the chest of the mother is termed skin to skin after birth. This practice ensures a better breastfeeding relationship and healthier weight gain.
- Time difference between delivery and first nursing session: Breastfeeding in the first hour after birth is beneficial for the baby. It ensures that the child gets colostrum and also ensures better development outcomes for the child. Ask your hospital if they bring the child for nursing in the first hour.
- Availability of a lactation consultant: Early breastfeeding issues like poor latch, improper feeding position, etc. can be resolved by a lactation consultant. Ask about the availability of a certified lactation consultant at your birthing center.
- Availability of pediatrician at the birthing center: You will need a pediatrician for an early check-up, initial vaccinations, hearing tests, etc.
- NICU facilities for babies who need it: Premature babies, babies that experience fetal distress or other birth complications will need to stay at the NICU initially. It makes sense to know about the facilities that your hospital offers.
- Visitor rules: Visitor rules and guidelines have changed significantly after the pandemic. Check how many visitors are allowed and what are the visiting hours. Also, check if children are allowed to visit their new siblings.
- Discharge rules: Ask about the number of days you will have to stay for both types of birth and if an early discharge is possible.
Some other questions you can ask
- Are you comfortable working with a doula?
- How much is the bill expected to be?
- What to do if I cross my due date?
- What to do if my water breaks?
- Do you encourage vaginal birth in twin pregnancies?
- How do you monitor fetal progress during labor?
We all deserve a positive birth experience. Do not shy away from asking questions to your birth team. If you are uncomfortable with their stance on a particular point or if you think they are not supportive of your wishes, you can discuss with them or look for a more supportive team.
All the best!
Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.