Heard this question before?
Or perhaps you're more familiar with the slew of questions and comments which precede (or succeed) the one I've mentioned:
"Do you have a price list? What's the breakdown of costs like?"
"I heard they have a welcome gift...what's in it ah?"
"What kind of food do they serve? I heard the soup is to die for!"
I assure you (pregnant mamas, anxious daddies and parents looking forward to having a child), this question is a popular one - even among confident mamas who are able to reiterate their birth plan backwards.
Okay, okay, I know no one memorizes their birth plan to that extent but...you get my drift.
While lying on my side, late into the night (all Netflix-ed out, no doubt), breastfeeding my two-year-old who is usually in deep slumber by then, I like to scroll through parent forums. Personally, it serves as great research for someone who needs to understand the general anxieties and concerns of all whom I work with. What strikes me is that, from the comments and questions posted, the reason for the choice of hospital was somewhat of an afterthought. Given that the choice of obstetrician/gynae largely influences this decision, please do not misunderstand me; I am not at all saying that the selection of your doctor is unimportant. However, what I do come across are comments of regret and frustration. Some mothers express how distraught they were that the hospital did not support their decision to breastfeed, insisting that supplementing with formula was the only way to go since her milk hadn't come in and the baby was 'starving'. Fathers mention they'd witnessed their wives filled with anxiety when feeling the urge to push because the nurses on duty were applying fundal pressure and mama seemed extremely uncomfortable with the procedure. Some parents were even mentioning how they had to demand that their baby be roomed in with them and not be taken away at the first chance the nurses got!
Now, some parts of this definitely have to do with whether a birth plan was communicated and if personal boundaries were thought of or explored. I'd also like to suggest that there is a chance that when we are on the hunt for a hospital to deliver our precious little ones at, we may not be asking the right questions. During the hospital tour, one could ask:
(Concerning procedures upon arriving at the hospital)
"What will happen when I first arrive at the delivery suite? Will any procedures be performed?"
Rationale: Procedures may include administering an enema and shaving the pubic area, just to name a few, all of which may not go down well with you.
(Concerning staying active during labour)
"Will I be allowed to move about during labour or will my movements be restricted? If I would like to walk, where can I do so? Can you show me the areas and places I can go to?"
"How often do you do fetal monitoring during labour?"
Rationale: Most fetal monitoring machines come with wires attached and this would restrict your movement. There are wireless ones but hospitals don't have many of them.
(Concerning coping with labour & delivery)
"How long will I have to wait until an epidural is administered?" OR "Is there an anesthesiologist present around the clock in the hospital?"
"Is there a birth ball / birth stool / gym mat that I can use?"
"What is the hospital policy on eating and drinking during labour?"
"What is the hospitals' policy regarding episiotomy?"
Note: This is a question which you should ask your gynae as well.
"What positions can I give birth in?"
Note: Another one that is important to address with your gynae except you could phrase it as - "Would you encourage me to give birth lying on my back? Or do you have other positions which you would recommend?"
Alternatively, you could ask an open-ended question like, "Which positions do you generally recommend your patients give birth in?"
(Others concerning comfort measures, etc)
"Can I wear my own pyjamas or dressing gown?"
Rationale: Mamas, for birth hormones to keep flowing and do their important work aka have labour progress smoothly and beautifully, being in familiar and comfortable home clothing could make a difference and have you feeling more relaxed.
"Is this a teaching hospital? If so, should I be expecting interns or students to be present during labour or my delivery?"
Rationale: Most government hospitals in Singapore also serve as teaching institutions. If you're comfortable with students being present as this also provides future doctors with the opportunity to learn, then that's okay. But for some, this may be a little disconcerting.
I'd also like to commend all parents out there who have the habit of asking for opinions from other parents and their experiences with the relevant hospitals because this is good and important data to collect for your own reference. Do be mindful however, that perspectives are subjective, objective and will vary from your own so do provide some buffer for that and ask yourselves if you would be comfortable with that same decision when you're making it and, if, there are other considerations that you have.
Now, as mentioned earlier, I am well aware that the choice of hospital largely depends on the choice of your doctor too. This brings me to this phrase:
Choosing your hospital is part of the process when forming your birth team - this includes the nurses, anesthetist...even the kind aunties who serve your hot Milo after delivery! As with any project or task, we gather those who are like-minded, those who fan our flames and have similar objectives so as to achieve the best possible outcome. It is the same with your birth! Your voice is key in finding out what works and what doesn't for you. Ask the questions - and if you can't seem to get them from the hospitals, ask your doctor or even your doula! Your list of questions may be crafted from your reflections when writing your birth plan or they could simply arise from an anxiety which you have about your labour and birth. I would like to propose that you write them down somewhere so that you remember to address them. The more we know about the unknown, the less fear we harbour and the more relaxed we are when we move into a realm of vulnerability such as labour and birth.
I know that in our society, it may seem daunting to ask these questions sometimes. But if we don't ask, we'll never know and neither will we understand. A birth, in my eyes, is more than an event - it's a story we tell from one generation to another. Hence, I see so much value in delving into the details.
I hope to write another article soon on choosing a doctor so do look out for it.
In the meantime, do ask the questions that matter to you, okay? :)
Stay safe, stay strong and stay healthy!!!
All my love,