With the big day about to arrive, it’s natural for you and your partner to have all sorts of questions about what you can expect when you step foot inside the hospital
Flipping through baby books might have given you an idea about what you can expect through pregnancy and new parenthood, but still leave you with questions about what will happen on your due date.
That’s why you should familiarize yourself with the labor and delivery room of the hospital you choose to deliver your baby in.
It’ll ease your nerves and help you feel more at ease when “it all” starts happening!
In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you can find in a labor and delivery room to make your big day at the hospital as smooth as possible.
The main parts of a labor and delivery room are:
- Hospital bed
- IV pole
- Fetal monitor
- Infant warmer
- Bathroom and shower
- Partner chair
Let’s take a closer look at each one, discuss delivery room layout, and figure out what you need to know before arriving at labor and delivery.
What to do before your due date
Your gynecologist might have already advised you to pack a hospital bag and be ready whenever your baby comes calling.
But what should you even pack ahead?
You have to include things for you and your new baby. Think about any toiletries or extra clothes you might need, like dry shampoo and nursing bras. You’ll also want your important documents and baby accessories in a safe and accessible place to take with you to the hospital.
(For a detailed list of what dads should bring to the hospital, click here!)
We also advise having a birth plan ready so your wishes are known and respected by your birth team.
Many couples neglect this, but creating a birth plan can be very helpful to put things into perspective.
Lastly, make sure you schedule a hospital tour about a month or two in advance of your due date.
In fact, many hospitals recommend taking a tour at about 32 weeks. Doing this will help you get a better idea of what to expect on the day of the delivery.
The little details make a big difference the day of: a tour helps you learn where to park your car, where to check in when you arrive, and of course, what the delivery room looks like.
You can also finalize your labor and delivery plans and check out the postpartum or recovery rooms.
Taking the time to plan ahead for your delivery and scope out the hospital will make your delivery day a lot less hectic for both you and your partner.
What can you expect in the delivery room? (Equipment list, layout & more)
Once you’re in active labor, your doctor will admit you into a labor and delivery room.
Depending on the hospital you choose, you might have an all-in-one room known as the LDRP room, which stands for labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum room.
These combination rooms keep you in one spot from labor to recovery, until you’re ready to go home. Other hospitals have separate delivery and recover rooms.
That said, here are some of the features and equipment you can expect to find in your room.
Hospital beds are designed differently from normal beds.
They have large industrial wheels for easy transports, and have permanent built-in side rails for your safety.
They can be broken down in the middle to convert into birthing beds and have stirrups and a birthing bar to make delivery easier.
According to Nikki Shaheed, a renowned birth doula, the hospital bed is designed to make birthing easier.
She explains, “While the back can be adjusted up and down like an ordinary hospital bed, the end of the bed can also drop down to support squatting, or removed to make it easier for the provider to access the birthing person during pushing.”
Even stirrups are a crucial part of the beds to support the mother’s feet.
“The beds have stirrups which can hold up the birthing person’s feet while they’re pushing but can also support a leg for a birthing parent as they lie on their side. Many hospital beds can also have a squat bar inserted into them, which can be a great help when it comes time to push,” adds Shaheed.
After giving birth, these beds are pushed back into place, making them appear like your usual bed. “A kick bucket for underneath the baby as it is birthing—to collect blood and amniotic fluid,” added Dr. Kim Langdon from Medzino.
An IV pole is always a common feature in a labor and delivery room, and also one of the items that we expect to see in a hospital room.
But not every expecting mother may need, or want, it.
“Ordinarily, there will be an IV pole present in the room, whether the birthing person is attached to it or not. This pole will hold IV fluids if they need to be used and may also be used to hold and administer IV medications like Pitocin or antibiotics,” explains Shaheed.
Dr. Langdon also mentions how an IV pole and IV infusion machine can regulate the flow of IV fluid and drugs to keep both the mother and the baby safe.
If you’re opting for a medication-free birth, don’t worry when you see the IV pole.
It’s there just in case, but won’t be used if it’s not necessary and against your birth plan.
A fetal monitor helps your doctor keep tabs on your baby both during the delivery and after.
Shaheen explains, “Next to the bed there is a monitoring machine that reads information from the two bands that may be wrapped around the birthing person’s belly. It plays audio of the baby’s heartbeat and shows the contraction pattern of the birthing parent.”
Generally, there are two types of fetal monitoring:
- Intermittent auscultation: The doctor uses a special stethoscope (also known as the Doppler device) to listen to the baby’s heartbeat at set times throughout the boarding process. In case you face any complications while giving birth, the doctor may check the baby’s heartbeat more frequently.
- Electronic fetal monitoring: Here, special equipment is used to continuously monitor how your baby’s heartbeat responds to contractions, allowing your doctor to determine how well your baby is handling labor.
Basically, fetal monitoring helps find out whether your baby is doing well or not during labor. The set up may look complicated, but it really isn’t.
At the hospital, you can ask your doctor or nurse to explain the data on the screen. Different colored lines may measure baby’s heartbeat or contractions, so you can track them yourself while you’re waiting.
Heated bassinet or infant warmer
Most labor and delivery rooms also have a heated bassinet for the baby complete with baby blankets.
This is an easy way to keep your little one warm and comfortable to closely mimic the conditions of a mother’s womb.
Dr. Langdon refers to this as “the newborn station”, where the baby is weighed and gets its first exam.
It can include heat lamps for warming and emergency equipment for intubation or resuscitation if needed.
Typically right after delivery, a team will bring your baby over to this station and take basic measurements and deliver health checks.
Bathroom and shower
Shaheed emphasizes the fact that every labor and delivery room should have its own bathroom, preferably one that includes a shower.
After all, some really delicate matters take place in this room after labor.
You‘ll find a shower chair to help you in case you feel a bit dizzy and a hat that’s fitted on your toilet seat to aid with urine collection.
If you‘re interested in having a water birth, you can find hospitals that are equipped with a specialty room and tub to accommodate that. Not all do, though, so you’ll need to check ahead of time.
That said, we would highly recommend you ensure your hospital has all the necessary medical services required to ensure a safe water birth. It should have clean birthing tubs, IVs, medication, oxygen, as well as infant resuscitation equipment.
Partner chair or foldout couch
If you want your partner right by your side, you’ll be pleased to know that most rooms have a chair that can be unfolded into a bed.
While this may not be very comfortable, it does enough to give your partner a semi-comfy place to rest and have a place to sleep — not that you two will be getting much of it at the hospital, anyway!
Dr. Langdon also mentions most rooms have a recliner chair and other areas to sit for family and guests.
You can, of course, ask the nurse to provide you with extra blankets and pillows if needed.
If loved ones want to visit you, make sure they know the visitation hours. Typically (during normal times!), two visitors are allowed to enter your room at a time, so try to limit your guests’ arrival to an hour only.
Make a point to check the rules with your hospital beforehand so your friends and family don’t make an unnecessary trip to visit.
An equipment table that has all the instruments for the delivery like towels, sutures, clamps, and suturing forceps that your doctor needs for a safe delivery.
You’ll also find scissors, gauze pads, forceps, vacuums, an umbilical cord clip, a suction bulb, and even a catheter.
This doesn’t mean your doctor will need to use all of these tools on you necessarily, but they’re there just in case.
Labor and delivery can be a very unpredictable process, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare yourself for it both mentally and physically.
In addition to talking to other mothers to learn about their experiences, you should also take the necessary steps to familiarize yourself with the labor and delivery room at your hospital.
Make sure you prepare a hospital bag and take the initiative to create a birthing plan to make the whole process less mysterious.
Moreover, taking a tour of the delivery hospital ahead of time is another important factor you shouldn’t forget.
The goal is always to have a healthy baby, but taking some extra time to prepare for your visit to the delivery room can make the whole experience a positive one for you, too.
Before you go, check out some more must-read guides for new parents like:
- What are your parenting instincts and when do they kick in?
- What are some alternatives to cigars for celebrating a new baby?
Hope this helps!