Many women have never been a patient in a hospital before the birth of their first baby, so they have absolutely no idea what to expect. The idea of even going to a hospital as a patient can be daunting. Fortunately, today's hospitals try to make the experience as "painless" as possible by offering all the comforts of home, and then some.
Should the Cart Come Before the Horse?
If you have insurance (and here's hoping you do), then you may not have a choice of hospitals. Chances are good that you are limited by a specific list of preferred providers as to which hospital and health care provider (i.e., doctor) you can choose. However, being limited doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have a choice. Even if you have only two hospitals to choose from, go visit them in advance to see what they have to offer. Sometimes, women fall in love with a particular hospital that their doctor doesn't deliver in, and they choose to switch doctors in order to go to the hospital of their choice. You are the consumer here. Make sure that you get what you want within your means. If you have multiple choices for your hospital, then visit them all. The differences might be subtle, but you should still make the decision as to what kind of environment makes you comfortable. And even if you only have one hospital in your area, thus negating a choice, you should still visit to see what you will get for your money.
What Makes Hospitals Different from One Another
The choices are endless in today's hospitals as they compete for your dollars in the marketplace. Here is what one local hospital in my area (St. Vincent Women's Hospital in Indianapolis) offered on their Web site, touting how they were different from all the others (I've put my comments in parentheses):
- Free parking (This feature is always a good thing; parking can get expensive for your family and friends who visit.)
- Easy in and out for services and visiting (I think this means that it's easy for people to visit you sometimes a good thing, but not always.)
- Conveniently located near the interstate (It depends on where you're coming from whether or not this matters to you; however, it might be convenient for your visitors. Of course, if you're in labor, you want the hospital that is closest to your location and to heck with everyone else's needs.)
- 24-hour room service meals at your request (I would have killed for this because after you deliver, you will be very, very hungry, and in the "old" days, you simply had to wait for the regular meals at regular times. This sole concept would move the hospital to the head of the list in my book, but then "hotel service" when you're in a hospital sounds simply decadent and wonderful to me.)
- Complimentary massages (A "to-die-for" idea, even if they only last 15 minutes you can schedule them for longer and pay for them.)
- Free daily newspaper (Who has time to read or wants to waste time on a newspaper after having a baby a negligible service in my estimation, although one the father might like.)
- Exclusive new baby portrait photography is available at your option (Most hospitals have some kind of photography service; in the past, the nurses took the pictures. The difference at this hospital is that you have a professional photographer available who will do unusual shots, rather than the standard ones of course, expect to pay more.)
- All private rooms for obstetrical patients (I like this idea as well. I shared a room once and only once because it was an abysmal experience since my roommate cried the whole time because her baby was jaundiced.)