What You Need to Know About Giving Birth at a Hospital for the First Time

Birth is a natural and ancient process that runs on its own time line. Although many women today see it as an emergency waiting to happen, for the majority of about-to-be moms labor and delivery will be completed without incident.

However, it’s always a good idea to prepared in advance in order to make the experience go as easily as possible. Whether you’re a first time mom or one that has decided to have her next baby in the hospital, knowing what to expect before and during delivery can ease fears and make it one of the most exciting events in your life.

The Importance of Sonograms

With the increased use of technology during the pregnancy, it’s not a surprise that ultrasounds (aka sonograms) are the most commonly used diagnostic tool in obstetrics. Sonography technicians—professionals who have been trained and gotten their medical sonography degree—utilize equipment that emits high-frequency sound waves to capture images of the baby as well as the mother’s reproductive organs. It is used to ensure the fetus is growing in the womb rather than the Fallopian tubes, determine the due date, assess the risk of genetically transmitted conditions such as Downs Syndrome, exclude the presence of abnormalities and determine the rate of fetal growth as well as gender.

The most important benefit is that it begins the bonding process between mother and child. The newer forms of sonograms can provide 3 and 4-D images of the unborn child that can even capture pictures of the baby yawning, smiling or sucking its thumb. The greatest benefit of the sonogram, however, is that a doctor can detect any potential problems or anomalies prior to birth so the parents, doctors and hospitals are prepared at the time of delivery.

Select a Hospital

Preparing for the birth of your baby is the one time when you actually get to shop for a hospital just as you would for your doctor. There must be a good match in order to ensure a positive birthing experience. Today many hospitals are responding to the needs of patients and embracing cutting edge technology by injecting more money into changes in their infrastructure and operations. Their goal is to improve the patient experience, enhance operational efficiency and improve safety for both patients and caregivers.

If a private room, family-friendly environment and antimicrobial surfaces top your list of things you need to feel reassured, then as a patient you’re allowed to find out in advance if those things are available. Many hospital maternity wards today offer tours that will allow you to see for yourself the amenities available, deportment of the staff and ambiance of the environment. It is strongly recommended you tour several facilities and talk to patients prior to making a commitment. It will be one less thing to worry about when it’s time to have your baby.

Prepare for Labor

Labor does not always begin with a gush of water. In fact, many women never experience their water breaking or will only get a dribbling sensation that just goes on and on. Rather than pain that hits you like a freight train and doubles you over, labor is more like an ocean tide coming in. The waves of labor build and finally crest then ebb away for a time. As the tide comes in, the waves crest with more intensity and are closer together but continue to cease for a time before they build again.

Due to the sensation, it’s hard for many women, especially first time moms, to know when it’s time to go to the hospital. The recommendation of many obstetricians is to wait until the most intense part of the labor lasts one minute with a five minute space in-between contractions. It should last for at least one hour before you worry because there will be many days when you have “practice” labor pains prior to the time they become the real thing.

Of course, if you live some distance from the hospital it wouldn’t hurt to head that way a little early. The worse that could happen is that they’ll stop while on the road and you can grab your favorite snack to eat on the ride home. The rule is if contractions get longer, stronger and closer together then take it seriously. If you’re still unsure then take a shower, double check your hospital bag, watch a good movie and do the things that take your mind off of it for a while. They’ll either get stronger or stop. If they continue then head for the hospital and don’t forget your bag.

What to Expect When you Arrive at the Hospital

Once you’ve selected a hospital you will be preregistered. All the paperwork will already be done and your preferred birth plan will be on file. Hospitals began doing this step in advance in order to reduce the mother’s stress on the day she arrives to deliver the baby.

Once checked in you will be hooked up to monitors. One will go around your abdomen in order to monitor the baby’s vital signs during contractions and you will be hooked up to an IV and blood pressure cuff to monitor your vital signs as well as keep you hydrated and provide easy access through which medications can be administered. If your membrane has yet to break, the doctor may break it for you so you can enter active labor.

Even for new mom’s that wanted to deliver medication-free, when in the throes of labor all that may go out the window. There’s nothing wrong with accepting pain medication and no one will think less of you just because you opted to use it. You need to do what’s best for you as well as your baby.

The goal is to end up with a positive experience that ensures you and your baby arrive home happy and healthy. Whether you’re a first time mother or one that has decided to have her next baby in a hospital, by preparing properly the experience of delivering your new baby in a hospital will be the culmination of a lifetime of expectations that will bring you nothing but great joy.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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