Questions for Your Birthplace

Here are some questions to consider as you tour or talk with staff at potential birthplaces:

Support for holistic childbirth

  • Do the nurses at the birthplace provide labor support? Have they attended doula workshops?
  • Are the nurses interested in holistic childbirth?
  • If my nurse is not skilled at providing labor support, can I switch nurses?
  • Are any complementary therapies available, for example massage or other bodywork?
  • Are doulas available at the hospital?
  • May I bring my own doula?

Facility policies

  • Are there any policies about the number of family or friends who can attend my birth?
  • What procedures take place upon admission to the birthplace?
  • Are there any procedures that all laboring women must adhere to, such as having an IV in place? What would happen if I declined such a procedure?
  • Are there any policies or recommendations about eating or drinking?  Do these policies change if I have an epidural?
  • Does the facility offer vaginal birth after a cesarean section (VBAC)?
  • How is my progress monitored during labor?
  • How is my baby's wellbeing monitored during labor?  
  • If applicable: English is not my first language. How rapidly can I get an interpreter? (Even if you are proficient in English, might be easier for you to have an interpreter while coping with labor, especially when medical terminology is used.)

Facility statistics

  • What is the epidural rate at your facility?
  • What is the cesarean section rate?
  • How quickly can a cesarean section be done in an emergency?
  • What percentage of women at this birthplace have continuous monitoring during labor?

Available childbirth aids

  • Is telemetry monitoring available? The last time you wanted to use it, was it working?
  • Do you have birthing balls? A birthing stool? Birthing bars?
  • Are there bathtubs? What limitations do you have about who can labor in the water?
  • Do you offer waterbirth? What limitations do you have about who can give birth in the water?

Postpartum and babycare practices

  • Is your birth center a "Baby-Friendly" facility?  (*See note.)
  • Do most women at your facility keep their babies with them or send them to the nursery at night?
  • Does the birthplace have lactation consultants on staff?

You can also keep in mind the questions developed by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS).

After you have asked the above questions, you should be able to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will I feel comfortable giving birth here?
  • Will I feel supported in my plans for birth, or does the staff give the impression that my plan would be inconvenient or unrealistic?

*Baby-Friendly Facilities:

The World Health Organization and UNICEF have joined to sponsor the worldwide Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to promote breastfeeding. Hospitals and birth centers may make application with the BFHI, certifying that they meet ten standards outlined by the Initiative that have been shown to be effective in increasing successful breastfeeding.