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What to Expect at the Labor and Delivery Ward

You're having a baby! How to prepare ahead of the big day.

A pregnant woman folds clothes and places them in to a brown leather bag.
Photo credit: Getty Images
A doctor in a lab coat uses a tongue depressor to look into the open mouth of an eight year old girl in a bright pink shirt.

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As a parent, there are going to be trips to the hospital that you can't prepare for (read: your kid lodged something up his nose … again). But the birth of a new baby is that rare exception when you're allotted plenty of time to make a plan of action for your hospital visit. You have time to scope out the facility you’re planning to deliver at and ask questions so you feel prepared when the big day comes.

For Lisa Schavrien, a registered nurse at Northwell Health’s Lenox Hill Hospital, giving expectant parents the grand tour is all in a day's work. Schavrien started The Lenox Hill Hospital Childbirth Experience five years ago in response to the common questions and concerns she often heard from soon-to-be parents who planned on delivering at the hospital. “As a labor and delivery nurse, I always felt strongly that we should have a personal approach to care,” says Schavrien. Especially since, in this scenario, patients have months to prepare. “We created this tour not really knowing what kind of turnout we’d get, but when over 40 people started showing up each time, we decided to formalize the program.”

Based on Schavrien’s experience with expectant parents, here’s what she thinks you need to know about labor and delivery—from what to get done ahead of time, to what will happen in your baby’s first hours of life.

1. Share any special needs with us

Coordinating arrangements for patients whose needs range from high risk pregnancies to surrogacy and adoption are all part of Schavrien’s role. “Any kind of special circumstance that we can prepare for, we like to do that,” she explains. “This runs the gamut from clinical to personal needs. We streamline the patient here from the outside to the inside to make sure their needs are met—so if you’re using an alias because you don’t want certain visitors here, let us know ahead of time,” Schavrien says (mostly) in jest.

2. Leave the car seat in the car

It may sound like something out of a romantic comedy, but Schavrien has seen eager dads lug car seats in while their partner is in labor. “Prior to discharge you need a car seat before you come home,” says Schavrien, “but leave it in the car when you arrive.”

3. Pack what you want, not what you need

Aside from your ID and insurance card, the hospital you’re staying at should have your needs covered. So Schavrien suggests packing items that will make you feel completely comfortable. “If that means slippers, or music to play during labor, a device to distract you, knitting materials, whatever, bring it along,” Schavrien says. “Bring an outfit for you and your baby to go home in, and pack phone chargers with an extra-long wire for ease of use.”

4. Know exactly where to park

Proximity becomes extremely important when you’re in labor, because sometimes labor moves faster than expected. Make sure you’re aware ahead of time of which entrance to use, the closest parking option to that entrance, and the floor you should head to. “At Lenox Hill, babies are born on the sixth floor…or on their way to the six floor,” Schavrien jokes.

“The birth of a new baby is that rare exception where you're allotted plenty of time to make a plan of action for your hospital visit.”

5. Find out your hospital’s visitor policy

While visitor policies vary, Lenox Hill doesn’t designate specific hours. “Because we feel strongly about a family-centered care model, every patient is entitled to have someone at their bedside 24 hours a day,” Schavrien explains. “There’s no such thing as visiting hours. If people walk in at 3am, they're allowed in,” she says. That is if you want them—no visitors are allowed in without patient approval. Be sure to check the protocol of the hospital you plan on delivering at ahead of time, and spread the word to family and friends.

6. Expect plenty of bonding time with your baby

After they’re born, what babies need most is skin to skin contact—which is why everything that’s not essential gets put on hold during this time. “During the first hour of life we do very little with babies because they need very little,” Schavrien explains. “What they do need is to hang out with their family, so that's what they get. We’ll give them antibiotic ointment in their eyes, and an injection that helps with blood clotting. Everybody wants to know the length and weight right away, but we wait until they’ve had some time with their family before we take their stats.”

7. Take comfort in the ID and security procedures

There are a few decades-old news stories of babies who were misidentified after birth. Don’t worry: Today’s technology and procedures have made these mix-ups a thing of the past. “There are four preprinted ID bracelets—the baby will get two, the mother will get one and the mother can designate another person to get the fourth,” Schavrien explains. “Those bracelets all match, and allow the baby to be released to the family.” There are also security measures in place to ensure that babies stay in designated areas. “We put a security system on the baby’s ankle, so babies cannot get near an elevator or stairwell,” Schavrien continues. “If a baby is accidentally taken near an exit, the institution is put in lockdown—meaning there’s no way in or out of the building until a security member identifies that the baby belongs to you by your bracelets.”

8. Take advantage of the bedside teaching plan

“Our job is to prepare you to go home, your job is to tell us how to do that,” says Schavrien. The hospital’s teaching plan for new parents covers everything from swaddling and diapering to breastfeeding (if the mother chooses to do so). So tell the staff what you need so they can get you up and running before you’re discharged.

“We will come to your bedside to do the teaching,” Schavrien continues. “Communicate your needs—everything should be done on your schedule. If we show up and say we’re here to teach you how to bathe your baby and you haven’t slept yet, let us know that it’s not a good time.”

9. Head home with your new family member

At discharge, new parents are provided with a packet of medical information to be shared with your pediatrician, as well as forms for the baby’s birth certificate—which you’ll want to take extra care with when filling out. “When you submit the birth certificate worksheet we read it back to you, since it takes four to six weeks to correct if it’s wrong,” says Schavrien. A state-issued blood test will be done on your new baby, and once you’ve closed out with financial services, you’re free to head home—as long as you have that car seat.

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Published October 9th, 2018
A doctor in a lab coat uses a tongue depressor to look into the open mouth of an eight year old girl in a bright pink shirt.

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