When to book
Its a good idea to go around the 30 week mark, but it’s also never too late! Going a little earlier will give you plenty of time to consider your options- perhaps you assumed you’d be going straight to the labour ward, but seeing the midwife-led unit might encourage you to think about that option too.
What to expect
It’s a really good idea to go with your birth partner so they will know what to expect on the day too. Remember you’re a team and everyone ideally should be on the same page!
Tours are usually booked in groups of around 5 couples, but private tours are sometimes available if there are volunteers available. The tours are usually run by Midwives or volunteers, and take up to an hour. Some hospitals in busier areas only offer virtual tours which you can see on their website. They are usually very detailed- but I’d still encourage you and your birth partner to do a dry run to the hospital to familiarise yourself with the logistics before hand.
At a tour, you’ll get to look around the labour ward, in the rooms and the midwife-led birth centre if the hospital has one. The labour ward is where you have access to all pain relief and medical professionals. The birth centre is a home from home and the care is led by midwives. If pain relief is required, then you’d need to be transferred to the labour ward. This could be a simple 2 minute journey upstairs or it could be to another building if the two units are not located together. The environment in the birth centre is designed to relax you and some could be mistaken for spas! Feeling calm is really important when it comes to birthing your baby as the hormones you need to do this can only be produced if you’re feeling safe and relaxed. The NHS recognise this and that’s why so much has been invested into providing this option to birthing mums.
If planning an abdominal birth, it’s still a good idea to go on a tour- spontaneous labour CAN still happen (babies don’t have a diary to keep a note of their appointments in!) so go and check it out still. You’ll be able to get a gist of logistics and the postnatal ward too. Questions wise, you’ll have a number of 1:1 appointments with a consultant so you can ask everything you need to then if you’d like to.
Questions to ask
You will have the opportunity to ask questions on the tour, here are some to think about:
1. Can my partner stay overnight and what accommodation is available for them?
2. Will my baby stay with me in my room at all times after the birth?
3. Do you provide birth balls in the birth centre and the labour ward? (These are the same as exercise balls and great for mums to gently bounce on during labour for comfort)
4. (If using hypnobirthing techniques) Do you support hypnobirthing?
5. (If you plan to breastfeed) What is your policy on breastfeeding in recovery?
6. What is your c-section and induction rate compared to the national average? (This can give you an idea of how the hospital approaches intervention in birth, if this is important to you)
7. Can my partner take photos or video the birth?
8. What are your postnatal visiting hours?
9. Will I be able to leave the room while in labour to be active?
10. Will I be allowed to eat and drink during labour?
11. Can I take a plug in aromatherapy diffuser?
12. Can I choose to give birth in the position most comfortable for me or will I be told what position to be in?
13. What pain relief is available in each area of the hospital? (This is important so you can go home and research the benefits and considerations of each one. They will normally be
Epidural, Pethidine, Meptid).
Deciding where to birth your baby
After tour tour you may feel exactly the same or differently about where you’d like to birth your baby. Remember the very best place for your to birth your baby is where you are going to feel calmest and safe. Here is a link to the NHS Birth Place Decisions document which is a great resource to help you to see the stats behind the birth place options.