The day you find out you’re going to be a parent can be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. This thrilling news means you have about nine months to make important decisions about your little one’s birth.

Choosing a hospital for labor and delivery is a major decision, as the facility and staff can significantly impact your and your baby’s experience. The following are several essential factors to consider when choosing the best hospital for giving birth.

Quality of Care

The labor, delivery and recovery processes require skilled health care professionals. You’ll have a team of nurses and doctors caring for you and your little one. It may happen that your obstetrician (OB) is not on call when your baby decides to arrive. Choose a hospital where your OB has admitting privileges and where you feel confident in the staff if your OB is unavailable.

There are several ways you can assess a hospital’s quality of care to the best of your ability:

  • Hospitals are rated on a scale of one to five stars. Compare the ratings of the hospitals you’re considering and choose one with five stars, if possible. Look at other factors, such as rates of complications and infections as well.
  • Visit the hospital in person and speak with the staff. Take a maternity tour of the hospital’s birth center. Labor and delivery can be stressful, and you want a team of professional and friendly nurses on your side.
  • Ask friends or check online forums to hear first-hand experiences about giving birth at potential hospitals.

Hospital accommodations can impact your, your loved ones’ and your baby’s experience. The following are some questions to ask regarding hospital accommodations and policies:

  • Will I be in a shared or private postpartum room?
  • Will my baby be taken to a nursery or remain with me?
  • How close is the nursery to the postpartum room?
  • Are there any special supplies I need to bring for my stay?
  • What security measures does the hospital use to protect infants? Do you have an infant alarm system?

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Ask as many questions as possible while on your maternity tour or when contacting potential hospitals for labor and delivery. No question is a bad question, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Insurance Coverage

Your insurance coverage will play a significant role in your decision. You likely want to pay as little out of pocket as possible while enjoying the most insurance benefits. Labor and delivery can become more expensive if you have a C-section or your baby needs intensive care. Remember to choose a hospital where your obstetrician has admitting privileges and your insurance is accepted.

Distance From Home

Choosing a hospital before giving birth is essential because the nearest one may not have a maternity center. You don’t want to be racing around checking hospitals while in labor. Instead, choose a hospital a reasonable distance from your home long before you plan to give birth.

Visit your preferred hospital ahead of time, so you know how to get there and where you and your loved ones can park. Find out where to check in and if you can register before you go.

Executing Your Birth Plan

Not everyone has the same childbirth philosophy, so you’ll want to choose a facility and OB or midwife with views that align with yours. You may want to inquire about natural birth options (including birthing tubs), epidurals, c-section rates, lactation consultants and more.

Hospitals have varying rules. It’s critical to understand the facility’s practices, so you’re not caught off guard during the already stressful labor and delivery processes. Find out the hospital’s regulations on who can be in the room during delivery and once the baby is born. Ask about other rules, such as whether the baby will be monitored intermittently or throughout the entire labor and delivery.

High-Risk Pregnancy Facilities

Many expecting mothers fall into the high-risk pregnancy category. It includes women over 35 and those who are very young, underweight or overweight. Women with previous pregnancy complications and health concerns such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders are also considered high-risk.

If you fall into this category, choose a hospital experienced with high-risk births and worst-case scenarios. Find out if there’s an intensive care unit (ICU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), blood bank and other services for birth complications. Only about 8% of pregnancies have complications. You probably won’t need the NICU and other emergency services, but mothers with high-risk pregnancies must have them available.

Knowing that NICU and other emergency services are available can also provide peace of mind for expecting mothers whose pregnancies are not considered high-risk. Visit the hospital’s NICU during your maternity tour.

Planning for your little one’s birth doesn’t have to be stressful. There’s plenty of time to consider nearby hospitals, take tours, and discuss options with family and friends. Familiarizing yourself with your labor and delivery hospital can help put your mind at ease, allowing you to focus on all the excitement ahead.

View the accompanying resource to learn more about choosing the best hospital for your labor and delivery needs.

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