(BPT) - As you get closer to your delivery date, many decisions lie ahead, all centered around care, maternity leave and even decorating the baby's room. But one question may rise to the top: Where will you give birth?
If you are like most expectant mothers, you will be giving birth in a hospital. In spite of the rising popularity of home births, most moms choose hospitals to have their babies. The most recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that fewer than 2 percent of babies born in the U.S. are born in a home setting.
When you're looking at where to give birth, expectant parents should consider the following while choosing a hospital, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).
- Where does your doctor go?
The place to begin is with your doctor. Most women go to the hospital where their physician has admitting privileges. So when you choose your doctor, the hospital where your baby will be born is tied into that. Discuss your birth plan in detail with your physician and make sure you both are at an understanding. If you have specific preferences, ask your doctor if they can be accommodated. For example, if this is not your first child, and you want to try a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), have that discussion in detail with your physician. And while doctors are on call after office hours, it's always a possibility that your doctor cannot attend your birth. Know who would take the place of your doctor if those circumstances arise.
- What's the rate of C-section?
If you're proceeding along in a healthy pregnancy, you may be planning a vaginal delivery. But a cesarean section is something to be aware of because one third of U.S. births are delivered by C-section, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report. It turns out that the city you live in can have a big impact on how you give birth. Some cities see rates as high as 50 percent, however, cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico, have rates as low as 22 percent. It's important for patients to be aware of this because C-sections raise complications for both babies and mothers, and experts say these should be used only when medically necessary. In addition, vaginal births cost $4,000 less than surgical births.
- How does your hospital stack up?
The Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care program evaluates hospitals on several quality measures, including the percentage of newborns that fall into the category of early elective delivery, an ongoing concern in the medical community. The program is meant to identify facilities that offer maternity care safely and affordably. The maternity programs also must offer family centered care, such as promotion of breastfeeding.
If you're interested in a list of hospitals that deliver quality maternity care, visit bcbs.com/healthcare-partners/blue-distinction-for-providers/ and select 'maternity care.'
- Which amenities are available at the hospital?
Not all hospitals are alike, so take time to review what it has to offer. Some maternity centers offer birthing tubs and fold-out couches. Knowing whether the hospital has a newborn intensive care unit may be a consideration, depending on the circumstances of your delivery and birth. If the hospital does not have a neonatal intensive care unit, ask your physician how these newborns are evaluated and transferred to other facilities. If you are interested in breastfeeding, ask if lactation consultants are available and how and when you can seek assistance.