What to Look For On a Hospital Tour

All of the years that I spent leading hospital tours, I took my job to give those tours seriously. I recognized that the tour often was the big tipping point for any family shopping around for birthplace options.  There were certain things I knew they would like to see, and a few things that I would cringe at if I had to bring my tour through and they were happening.  So, while a hospital might try to wow you or end up underwhelming you with decor and room size, these are the things you want to notice and questions you should ask, but won’t see on any list.

1) Where are the nurses and care providers?

Every hospital has the main nurse station laid out a little differently, but if you see a large number of staff sitting around at the desk, chatting, ask yourself, “Who is taking care of the moms?” If you want to be a little more forthright, you can ask the tour guide (in front of the desk if possible), “Do the labor nurses spend much time in the room while mom is laboring?”  And if you don’t see any doctors or midwives there (though it may be hard to tell just at a glance), ask if any care providers are on the floor 24/7 and what kind.

2) Do you see large monitors with full screens of moms being continuously monitored?

If you see what looks like every room being continuously monitored, this means that either a) All patients get continuously monitored (a routine intervention that does not improve outcomes for babies and only raises the chances for other interventions) or b) everyone has gotten an epidural. And, in some cases, in might be indicative of not have enough staff to care for the patients.

3) Do staff smile when they see your tour coming?

It should be obvious, but if you’re not welcomed when you’re trying to decide on care for your birth, you might not get the nicest treatment when you’re having your baby.

4) Are there a lot of babies in the nursery (if they have one)?

The evidence is clear: Babies who are in nurseries are exposed to more germs and moms have a harder time getting breastfeeding established.  Oh, and moms don’t end up getting more sleep. I used to tell tours this:  While you are in the hospital, take the time to learn how to take care of your baby, and not have someone else do the work.  When you get home, you won’t have help at the push of a button.  Keep your baby with you and enjoy your baby.

5) If they do waterbirths and you are remotely interested in having one, ask questions

With the recent expansion in number of places that offer waterbirths, it’s important to ask how often moms actually get waterbirths.  Ask them for numbers per week. Ask when moms are allowed in the tub. Ask about the restrictions, as they do vary from place to place. And ask what they do if more than one mom is in labor at once and want to use the tub.  Some places only have portable tubs, some have plumbed in tubs with back up portable tubs, and some only have one tub of either kind.

6) Do you see birth balls and squat bars?

Birth balls and squat bars are very important tools in Healthy Birth Practice #2 and Healthy Birth Practice #5. If you don’t see any, ask where they are kept. If the tour guide doesn’t know, make sure she finds out. If the nurses don’t know…

Well, you might want to cross that option off your list.

7) Don’t be afraid to ask ALL of your questions!

Listen. This is your chance to kick the tires. I loved questions. It meant the parents were doing a good job of making a very conscientious choice about where to give birth. I was lucky to work for places that were very open about their stats and made sure I had them. And if I didn’t know the answer, I worked hard to find the answer while they were on the tour.  So ask your questions, and if the tour guide doesn’t know, ask him or her to find out or ask who you can talk to to find out.

With some planning, positive births can happen in hospitals, at home, or at birth centers. My hope for every birthing mother is that she finds a respectful, caring place with good, quality care providers. A baby is only born once, and no matter what other choices are made during the birth, a caring environment is non-negotiable.

Those are my thoughts. Are there things you would add? Was there something on your tour that either sealed the deal or made you run for the hills? Share in the comments below!

Warmly,

Veronica

 

 

 

 

 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

Why You Need a Birth Plan

Image via Flickr by Jason Lander used under a creative Commons Lisence
Image via Flickr by Jason Lander used under a Creative Commons License

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birth Plan, or Birth Preferences, originally seen as an important tool for families to communicate their ideas about birth, often comes under fire from the nurses, OBs, and midwives who end up having to read them.  Parents tell me all the time that they get told specifically NOT to write a birth plan. I say that’s crazy and horrible advice.  Birth plans are useful for everyone.  A well-written and well thought-out plan can serve many purposes. Granted, they can be very poorly done as well. So before I explain why birth plans are a crucial part of planning for birth, let me first explain why they can be so hated, too.

First, I don’t think parents truly expect that they can dictate things like how long their labor will last, how long they plan on pushing, the size of the baby, or any of those things that clearly can’t be changed by anyone.  Secondly, I do realize that a lot of families will go online and find some of the “Birth Plan Generators” where they can just check off a bunch of things without giving much thought to whether or not those things even apply to the place where they are planning to give birth. Finally, some birth plans can end up being really long and full of useless information.  The worst birth plan I ever saw was about 11 pages long, filled with information such as the names, ages and personalities of the mom’s 3 dogs, complete with pictures of the dogs and her entire family.  The irony with this was that the only actual mention of birth was one line:”I want an epidural.” As anyone who has taken a good childbirth class knows, an epidural doesn’t mean you don;t have to think about your birth.

So then, what are the good reasons to write a birth plan?

The process of writing a birth plan can help families frame their expectations for how they’d like others to respect their personal birth experience.  Things like the lighting, what mom would like to wear, perhaps certain religious preferences, and music all are appropriate to list. No matter what happens, if interventions are used, ALL of these preferences can and should be respected. If a caregiver balks at any of them, I’d suggest that the family consider finding a more respectful place in which to give birth.

Also, the process of actually writing a birth plan can be a great exercise for the families to start thinking more about the actual day of birth.  Thinking through all of the choices and options is a wonderful way to actually focus on birth, and not just the baby.  I’ve found that the process of writing a birth plan helps parents mentally place themselves at the birth place, imagining who will be there, and even thinking about certain logistics, like what to bring and who to notify.  Many families (especially if they haven’t taken any childbirth classes, or took really awful scary ones) find that they’d rather avoid the birth plan process so they don’t have to start thinking about the actual birth. The answer then is to find some help- hire a doula, take classes, or seek out a therapist to get good, confidence-building information, get support, or to get to the root of any fears.

If there are special religious preferences that your families has and there are specific traditions or rituals that are very important to you, a birth plans can be the way these are explained to and communicated to everyone involved in the birth.  Hospitals are required by law to respect and make allowances for cultural and religious preferences. And while I’d usually say that birth plans should be one page maximum, if there are extensive rituals and traditions that need to be explained, then the birth plan should be as long as it needs to be.

Finally, a well-written birth plan is just a great tool for setting a tone, expectations on the level of respect, and for explaining any specific details that may be pertinent to an individual’s situation.  Things like previous births, who is allowed into the birth room, and any medical conditions should go in the introduction.  These details paint picture of who you are and will help good staff do a better job of taking care of you. If you have a care provider who talks you out of even the most reasonable requests, then you really need to rethink your choice of a care provider.

At BabyLove, we have a workshop to help you write a good birth plan. Held every other month, it’s time to learn what can go into a plan, and we give families to to work on crafting and refining a helpful, positive birth plan with our help. Find out more about the class and register for workshop by visiting our website.

Have you found a birth plan to be useful? Share in the comments below!

 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

9 Things About Veronica

About Veronica

 

 

 

 

 

1) I started playing the tuba when she was in 5th grade and continued throughout high school.

2) When I was a Sophomore, I submitted my art portfolio to Minneapolis College of Arts and Design. I ultimately decided that I didn’t want to go to art school. I don’t remember why.

3) I have my B.A. in English from St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. They are most famous for hosting presidential debates during the 2008 and 2012 elections.

4) My husband and I spent the summer binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix. We are currently seeking new shows to binge-watch.

5) I accidentally sewed through my sister’s finger with the sewing machine when she was 2 or 3 years old.

6) We recently adopted a Chihuahua/Basenji mix named Molly. She had been rescued by a local organization from a high-kill shelter in Missouri. We have no clue about her previous life except that she had given birth to 5 puppies earlier this summer. She’s a smart, sweet girl, though.

7) I was born in Wyoming.

8) I had my tonsils out when I was 20. It was awful. I wish I had it done when I was younger.

9) My car seat usage is almost perfect, except for one thing: I have a lot of stuff in the back of my minivan. If we were in a crash today, my kids would get hit with a bunch of stacking chairs. So there you go.

 

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.

9 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Lamaze

 

Image via Flickr by nateone, used with permission under Creative Commons License.  And Nate? We don't only teach breathing, FYI. But thanks for the picture! Nice belly.
Image via Flickr by nateone, used with permission under Creative Commons License. And Nate? We don’t only teach breathing, FYI. But thanks for the picture! Nice belly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you hear Lamaze, what do you think of?  Do you think of moms lined up on the floor with a “coach”, practicing breathing?  Do you think of something really outdated and out of touch?  Well, perhaps, but Lamaze International’s history and the evolution of Lamaze childbirth classes might surprise you.  Here are 9 things you might be surprised to learn:

1) The organization now known as Lamaze International originally was called ASPO/ Lamaze.  “ASPO” stands for American Society of Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics. It started in 1960 with a focus on moving away from childbirth where moms didn’t learn about the process of birth. At the time, birthing mothers were given heavy sedation and restrained during the birth process. ASPO/ Lamaze worked instead to offer moms a way to be prepared for childbirth and to create a more humane atmosphere.

2) In the 1980s, Lamaze International, to recognize the changing maternity care practices, moved away from breathing as the only coping strategy for birth.  The focus is now on helping families understand the inherent ability of a mother to give birth, and teaches families a variety of strategies for birth.

3) Lamaze is NOT a method, and that’s a good thing! At the heart of every Lamaze class is the six Healthy Birth Practices.  They are all based on the best scientific evidence and most of them correspond with guidelines from the World Health Organization.

4) Lamaze has requirements for what can be called a Lamaze class.  It must be taught by a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. The classes must be comprehensive and a minimum of 12 hours total.  BabyLove’s Evening Series are 15 hours long and our Weekend Series are 12 hours long.

5) Lamaze classes can have up to 12 families in a class.  Very large classes lead to an environment that’s detrimental to learning.

6) Lamaze’s Fundamentals of Birth support women giving birth at home, in hospitals, or in birth centers.

7) In 2012, Lamaze International launched the “Push for Your Baby” campaign to help parents understand and navigate the realities of the US maternity care system.

8) As Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators, we don’t think it’s OK to promote a “success rate” with regards to our class content. Lamaze classes aren’t anti-medication or anti-intervention.  Instead, we, promote informed use of medications, discuss both risks and tradeoffs of any procedure. However, routine use of procedures or medications without medical need or true informed consent often can lead to unwanted outcomes.

9) Even though we don’t teach breathing patterns, we do talk about the need to breathe! It’s the one thing you don’t have a choice about in life.  We’l help you learn how to identify ways to breathe in a positive, helpful way, both during labor and birth and as a life skill.

We think Lamaze is the Gold Standard for childbirth education, and we know that parents who are in our classes find the benefits immeasurable.  Find a full schedule of our classes here.

Veronica Jacobsen, BA, CD(DONA), CLC, CPST, LCCE, FACCE

DONA-Certified Birth Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Child Passenger Safety Technician, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators

Opening BabyLove in September of 2011 has allowed me to build a space where all families can come to get good information in a caring, welcoming environment. I have found that not only do I love teaching more than ever, but I also really love running a business. Hopefully my passion for every aspect of BabyLove shines through.
I live in Richfield with my husband, and I am a mother of a two great children. When I can steal a few free moments, I love to go on adventures with my family, cook, garden, thrift, can, and craft.