How to Choose a Hospital to Have Your Baby
Although most deliveries are safe and uneventful, the health and safety of both mother and child should be the top priority of every expectant couple. As you choose a maternity hospital, here are some important factors to consider. Is your pregnancy high- or low-risk? Existing health issues-like diabetes, heart disease, multiple births, the mother's age (under 18 or over 35), or previous birth complications-can make a pregnancy high-risk from the beginning. Moreover, a normal pregnancy can become a high-risk situation if problems develop like high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. Large, regional academic medical centers like Erlanger are best equipped to deal with high-risk pregnancies and deliveries. In fact, low-risk patients often choose hospitals that specialize in high-risk care. That's because peace of mind comes from knowing highly-trained physicians are available, 24/7, to deal with unanticipated medical emergencies. Many expectant parents also find comfort in knowing a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is only steps away from the delivery room in case of complications.
Are all NICUs or nurseries the same?
No. In Tennessee, NICUs offer various levels of care and receive designations according to their services:
- Level I units provide basic care for maternity patients without complications whose labor occurs on or after the 35th week of pregnancy and for babies with birth weights over 2,000 grams (about 4 pounds, 4 ounces).
- Level II-A units, like Erlanger's East campus, provide care for deliveries and babies born at 34 weeks gestation or above. The facility must provide assisted neonatal ventilation pending transfer to the Baroness Campus for more specialized care.
- Level II-B units can manage more complex maternal and neonatal abnormalities than Level II-A units, but do not offer immediate access to pediatric subspecialists.
- Level III-the highest designation-means the hospital has the equipment and staff to manage the most complex and severe maternal and neonatal illnesses. Pediatric subspecialists are available on-site, 24/7. Level III institutions, like Erlanger's Baroness campus, also have the equipment and qualified staff to transport sick infants from other hospitals.
What about making the birth a family experience?
If you would like family members present at the birth, check the hospital's policies and your obstetrician's preferences. Erlanger's Baroness and East campuses offer attractive, comfortable birthing suites designed so labor, delivery, and recovery can take place in one room, often with family members or friends on hand. Even women who have C-sections can return from the delivery room to enjoy the comfortable atmosphere in a birthing suite decorated to look like "home."