The moment you find out you are pregnant, a lifetime of decisions begins.
Immediately, you have to make some decisions about your medical care for the next nine months – and I assure you, it’s not a decision you want to take lightly.
And with that comes the decision of where to have your baby.
In some situations, you don’t have a lot of control – sometimes your insurance dictates this, or your doctor only delivers at a certain hospital.
However, in my experience, I’ve always had the option of at least two hospitals to choose from.
Today I’m excited to be partnering with UCHealth to share some of the factors you should consider when deciding which hospital to deliver at.
I recently did an interview at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital with an OBGYN and Midwife, and we talked a lot about the basics of delivering at a hospital and things to consider when selecting one. If you are in Colorado, this might help you decide if it’s the right hospital for you. But even if you aren’t anywhere near Colorado, I think it provides helpful information for any mom-to-be!
This is the first thing you should check before getting your heart set on a particular hospital – what will your insurance cover?
In fact, I would check this before you even pick a practice to go to. You need to make sure your insurance is accepted there as well – and that your provider of choice even delivers at the hospitals you can go to.
Some insurances are accepted everywhere – others are connected to just specific hospitals. Your insurance company should be able to help you navigate this.
Because I use a Christian Healthshare, I am fortunate to be able to deliver wherever I want – so for me, it comes down to where my practice of choice delivered. There are several excellent hospitals near me, and luckily, my practice delivered at my top two choices.
Where Your Practice Delivers
I have already mentioned this, but before selecting a provider – check and see what hospitals they are able to deliver at.
Doctors and midwives have to have privileges at a hospital in order to deliver there, and most are associated with just a couple of hospitals. If you have a hospital that you really want to deliver at, you can check and see what practices deliver there.
My practice delivers at two hospitals, but they definitely preferred one over the other because they are right next to it. I took that into account as I was trying to decide where to deliver. They didn’t pressure me either way – I was told I should select whatever hospital I felt most comfortable with.
However, it is a good conversation to have – if they deliver at multiple hospitals, you can ask your provider different questions about their experience there and which one they would select – and why!
Pain Management Options
Most hospitals are going to offer typical pain management options such as epidural anesthesia, pain medication, etc.
However, there are increasingly more options available that are appealing to mothers who may not want to give birth totally naturally – but would like to avoid an epidural.
Some of these include water births, essential oils, massage, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), and more.
This is one of the things that impressed me so much about UCHealth University of Colorado. They have so many great options – I feel like they make it so easy to have the birthing experience you desire and be involved.
They have been offering water births since the 1990s, and they are one of the only hospitals in the Denver Metro area that offers it.
Hospitals can have different philosophies on medical interventions and pain management, so this is something that you could definitely talk about with your provider or during a hospital tour.
Other Delivery Options
When people think of giving birth, many just think of laying in a hospital bed on your back.
The truth is – there are many ways to give birth. Knowing what your hospital allows or offers can be helpful.
As I mentioned, UCHealth offers birthing tubs, which not a lot of hospitals do. Some hospitals may allow you to labor in a tub or shower, but they require you to give birth outside of the tub.
Proximity to Your Home
Honestly, when it comes down to being in labor – time is of the essence. I lived about 30 minutes away from the hospital I delivered at last time (due to insurance – I had two other hospitals within five minutes of my house!), and it was the LONGEST 30 minutes of my life driving there while I was in active labor.
Not everyone has the luxury of being near a hospital with a maternity unit – and sometimes, you may choose to drive further for a better hospital. But if you have good hospitals nearby – definitely consider those first.
No one wants to have their baby in the NICU, but it’s a reality for many parents.
I recommend making sure your hospital has some kind of NICU available – and, if necessary, have the resources available to quickly transport your child to another hospital quickly and safely if needed.
If you know your child will have to spend some time in the NICU, delivering at a hospital with a Level III or Level IV NICU may be a top priority for you (UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital has a Level III NICU, which routinely cares for infants born at 23 weeks gestation and later).
It can also be helpful to know what the NICU is like. Do they have rooms for parents? What types of support are offered while you are there? All NICU units are there to help your child, but they aren’t all run the same.
When I was trying to decide which hospital to deliver at, I asked friends on Facebook – and even turned to a local Facebook group for experiences.
This was so helpful to me! First off, I was able to see that I wasn’t going to make a bad choice either way. Secondly, I was able to ask questions about things that were important to me (such as the availability of donor milk, which this UCHealth hospital offers).
So much of the birthing experience comes down to your provider and the nurse you have during labor – everyone has different experiences. However, hearing that most people loved a hospital is much better than hearing tons and tons of people saying it was horrible. The most important thing is finding a hospital whose goal is to keep mom and baby safe.
Is the hospital you are going to deliver at part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)? I recommend reading up on what this is and determining if that’s important to you.
When I had Oliver, several hospitals in the area had this designation – but I discovered several of these no longer do, which I was surprised by.
If breastfeeding is important to you, this may be a designation you look for when deciding on a hospital. UCHealth University of Colorado is BFHI certified, which means you’ll get top-notch breastfeeding support. They also offer breastfeeding support groups, which can be crucial after giving birth.
As someone who is very passionate about breastfeeding – and see many mothers struggle because of advice given to them soon after birth – I am a fan of having all the breastfeeding resources available.
Even if a hospital doesn’t have the BFHI certification, knowing what lactation support they offer is crucial. If they don’t have an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) on staff, I would highly recommend seeking one out before birth that you can have on call.
Just like no one wants to have a child in the NICU, no one wants to have complications with their pregnancies or their child either.
While it’s not always necessary to select a hospital that has specialists on staff, it can give you peace of mind knowing all your care is in the same place.
If you know that you or your child has some issue that needs to be managed during or after pregnancy, selecting a hospital that has the specialists nearby can be crucial.
Postnatal and Postpartum Care Options
Some hospitals have you stay in the same room from the moment you check in until you leave – others have you move floors.
Some hospitals offer nicer amenities, brighter rooms, and even better food than others.
Many hospitals have done away with baby care nurseries, but not all.
Knowing what your hospital offers in terms of helping you and baby recover after birth can make or break the experience!
After I was done doing my interview at UCHealth, I have to admit, I was wishing I was giving birth there. It just seemed like the rooms were so bright, and they take great care of postpartum moms. I mean – not many hospitals offer a luxurious “first meal” after birth that gives you a choice of lobster or steak!
Also, while it may not be a make-or-break thing, knowing what they provide for moms and babies after birth can be helpful (such as postpartum recovery supplies, socks, toiletries, etc.) so you know what to bring!
I think it’s also nice to know the accommodations available for your spouse or birthing partner – is there a place for them to sleep? Do they have snacks available for them? Do they have any meals offered after birth? Is there a waiting room for family and friends?
Complications do happen during labor and delivery – some hospitals have better reputations than others. Knowing how the hospital handles certain situations can be helpful.
Things like c-section rate, episiotomy rate, forceps or vacuum-assisted births can also be something to check for a hospital – though often this comes down to the specific provider. You can ask them about that as well!
What type of C-sections are offered
The thought of a c-section can be a little bit scary to some. Moms worry about not being able to bond with their baby right away and not feeling part of the experience.
While there are emergencies and this can happen – more and more hospitals are offering family-centered c-sections, which include things like immediate skin-to-skin (barring any complications), a clear drape, etc. I think it’s amazing – and if you know you’ll be having a c-section, finding a hospital that offers this might be important.
This was something that was important to me since we are considered self-pay. Our health share pays for everything, but there’s a 90-120 window for that…so I wanted to make sure we were getting the best price.
It ended up being the deciding factor for us, as the hospital I am delivering at is less than half what the other hospital quoted us at. It was a no brainer since both have great reputations.
UCHealth has a cost estimator tool that can price procedures with and without insurance. You can do this online or call 877.349.8520, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
I think taking a hospital tour is essential – even if you’ve had other children. After this baby is born, I will have given birth at three different hospitals – and I do think they all are different.
It’s nice to get a feel for how to check-in, where to park your car, and what the rooms look like. If you are deciding between multiple hospitals, definitely take a tour of both and go with that mother’s intuition!
Not all hospitals offer hospital tours due to safety concerns, including UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, but they do offer a virtual tour. This is a nice option for people to get an idea of what the hospital looks like from the comfort of their home.
What factors did you consider when selecting a hospital to give birth at?
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.