After 5 years of trying for baby number 2, it finally happened! After experiencing what I thought were pre-menstrual symptoms but not getting my period, my husband asked "Do you thing you might be pregnant?" I actually hadn't thought about the possibility since that hadn't been the case in the years of testing before. I hesitantly took one of the many tests I kept on hand for "just in case moments " like this one and was deliriously excited at the positive result. The next day, as soon as the doctor's office opened, I called to schedule an appointment so I could begin to see someone right away. I had established a relationship with an OB/Gyn office for my well-woman care and decided to stay with them during pregnancy, especially since they had midwives and supported births at the hospital that everyone had told me to go to.
I never questioned whether it was the best or even if there was another option. I had lived in the Atlanta area for 5 years and anyone I asked about having babies said to go to this one facility. It’s known as the baby factory and at one point in time they delivered more babies there than anywhere in the country! In my hometown, which seemed so small compared to Atlanta, just about everyone had their baby at one local hospital. As a matter of fact, it’s where I had my firstborn.
I thought having one baby hospital in the area was just the norm.
What I would find out after beginning my doula journey was that in the Atlanta Metro Area there were over a dozen or more facilities that you could give birth in. Although I was not aware that I had different options, I am happy to see many newly expectant parents asking about theirs and not just accepting the first one they hear about.
But with so many options, how do you determine which Atlanta hospital should you choose for birth? Which one should you trust to help bring your baby into the world and be supportive of the way you would like to do it?
I have observed that the most common ways people decide on a care provider and hospital are:
Location – trying to find an office and hospital that is not too far away.
Insurance – insurance coverage dictates where you go unless you’re paying out-of-pocket, and we know having babies is not cheap!
Friends and Family – asking for the opinion of friends who have had babies and experience with the providers and the nurses and other staff at the hospital can be a huge determining factor.
Social Media – crowd sourcing on social medical has become a method to get many opinions in one place. Also, sometimes the facilities themselves will have content that my persuade a person one way or the other.
When choosing a hospital, in addition to getting the advice from your friends, family, and fellow consumers on the internet, there are a few more things I would advise you to do in order to have the best chance of having the best experience possible.
Take a tour of the facility. Since the pandemic some in-person tours have not been reinstated or you only get access by taking a hospital class. If these options are not available, check the hospital’s website. There may be a virtual tour option.
Research the hospital’s policies and protocols. Hospitals have policies surrounding admission in labor and protocols for procedures that will be offered once you arrive. Note that the way they are offered usually makes it sound like you don’t have a choice in the matter. You always have a choice. Knowing what may be requested of you upon arrival before you get there can help you determine whether or not the facility aligns with your birth philosophy. If you have questions about the policies and/or protocols, give the Labor & Delivery unit a call and ask to speak to the nurse manager or charge nurse to see if you can gain additional insight.
Research the hospital’s patient’s bill of rights. As a patient in a medical establishment you are entitled to certain rights. Some are dictated from a federal level and some from the state level. Each hospital has their own version and you can find out what they are ahead of time. They can usually be found on the hospital’s website and a copy should be able to be found in every patient room and/or admission packet.
Learn how to be your best advocate. While you should be able to trust your provider and nursing staff, gone are the days of just following instructions blindly. If there is something you don’t understand or makes you uncomfortable ask questions for clarity so you can make the best decision in the moment.
Hire a Doula. Doulas have the opportunity to support families in different facilities over and over again with many different providers, nurses and staff members. They can give you inside information about the culture of the different hospitals in your area so you can choose one that best aligns with your goals and desires for your experience.
No matter how you come to your decision, this one thing will ring true. No one place will be overwhelmingly amazing and no one place will be overwhelmingly horrible. You will definitely get mixed reviews on every choice you have out there. Take a moment to determine what your needs are and which local facility can provide that for you. You’ll find that most of them offer the same options with the exception of things like water birth or availability of nitrous oxide for pain management. Build a birth team that includes your spouse, partner, or a friend who supports your birth philosophy and has your best interests in mind, a medical provider (obstetrician or midwife) you trust, and a knowledgeable doula who affirms and encourages you to explore all your options.
Here at Atlanta Family Doulas, we understand that the things that matter to you are the things that matter most. We’d love to get to know you, learn about what matters most to you, and give you the support you need and deserve to achieve your birth goals. Contact us today and let us help you continue to write your family’s story, one that you will enjoy retelling time after time!