Are you coming up on your baby’s due date soon? … Yeah? Great! Are you planning a hospital labor and delivery? Then this post is for you!
This is such an exciting time! I can’t wait for you to experience some sweet baby cuddles and the joy of raising your little one!
But as you get closer and closer, you may also be feeling a little nervous. Especially if you’re a first time mom. Having a baby involves so many unknowns, from the earliest stages of pregnancy to adjustments in your “norm” after baby arrives.
Don’t worry, mama! You’ve got this, and I would love to support you in your journey!
Today I’m going to focus on some tips for your hospital labor and delivery stay. (These are the “what I wish I’d known” items. If you’re wondering what you should pack in your hospital bag, I’ll have another blog post on that soon!)
These are the things I would go back and tell my pre-mama self before labor started.
Instead of arriving to the hospital feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what awaits, I hope these tips give you a little boost of confidence! So, without further ado….
20 Hospital Labor and Delivery Tips for your Stay
*Overall, these tips are meant for a typical birth experience. If you are high-risk or facing special circumstances in your pregnancy and upcoming labor, feel free to read on and determine what will be helpful to you. But ultimately, consult your doctor and hospital for the best guidance.*
Before and During Labor
1. Take a hospital tour and/or birthing class
Okay, so technically, this should be done a few weeks before your labor.
If your hospital provides a tour of the maternity unit, I would definitely recommend it! Usually, they’ll walk you through every logistical part of your hospital stay – they’ll explain how to check in, show you one of the labor/recovery rooms, point out amenities, and answer any questions you have.
Many hospitals also offer a complimentary birthing class. My husband and I chose to take a birthing class during my first pregnancy, even though I’d already read multiple books and online posts to try and prepare myself. I figured the more information, the better.
Taking the class was great because my husband and I did it together. We felt like we were on the same page. We learned what signs to look for in early labor, techniques to manage the pain – including how hubby could offer support, tips for newborn care, strategies for breastfeeding, and more.
2. Bring your support crew (& no one else)
When you’re preparing for your hospital labor and delivery (or in the middle of it), you don’t need the added stress from lots of extra people.
(Including in-laws or kids. I know you love them, but really consider if they are helping the experience or if you just feel obligated to have them there. This isn’t a family potluck. If you do want to include them, maybe your husband can text them with occasional updates instead.)
I’d recommend you keep your support crew small and intimate.
For me, it would come down to my husband, possibly my mom, and a hired doula if I chose to have one (I haven’t personally had experience with a doula in either of my births, but some people swear by them). A birth photographer is also a consideration, but they usually are on-call and don’t arrive until the very last stage of labor.
3. Prioritize your comfort
Please do not neglect your comfort. Your natural inclination may be to stay silent because you’re worried about inconveniencing someone. But you are literally the star of the show. Your care is the most important thing right now.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for accommodations or set up the hospital room to meet your comfort needs.
There might be certain things the hospital doesn’t allow, but it wont hurt to ask. The worst they can say is no.
Dim the lights, turn on music or a sound machine, use essential oils, ask for or bring your own heat/ice pack for sore muscles and cramps, ask for an extra blanket or pillow, wear some comfy clothes to labor in.
Do whatever is necessary to create a relaxing environment and feel comfortable as you prepare to give birth.
4. Braid your hair (and don’t stress about makeup)
This tip is totally random and optional, but it deserves a place here because it’s something that would be easy to miss. You may want to braid your hair (or pull it up into a ponytail) before walking into the hospital, so it’s out of the way and you don’t have to worry about it during the intense moments of labor. (I didn’t during my first labor, and I wish I had!)
Think about a similar situation, when you’re doing something rigorous, like working out. Do you usually wear your hair down, or does it bother you to have hair in your face? Also, does your makeup hold-up during workouts, or does it end up not being worth the effort?
Labor can take a lot of energy and totally feel like a workout. So, just prep your hair (and makeup) based on that possibility.
If you’re really worried about pictures, let you hair down later. But I can almost guarantee that your mind is not going to be on glamorous photos when you’re in the middle of active labor.
5. Nobody cares about modesty
Truly, the doctors and nurses have seen it all. They have women of all body types and grooming habits come through on a regular basis. Even though this hospital labor and delivery thing isn’t a frequent experience for you, it’s an everyday occurrence for them.
So, don’t stress or feel embarrassed about your level of modesty. Remember to prioritize your comfort. If that means laboring completely in the nude, go for it mama! If it means covering up until the last possible moment or for quick dilation checks, that’s fine too!
Just remember that you’re probably more self-conscious about your level of modesty than the nurses or doctors. They probably won’t even bat an eyelash.
6. Ask all the questions
Remember that the doctor and nurses are working for you. They may have more experience in this field, and it can feel intimidating to ask for help, but their job is literally to serve you during this process.
Obviously, don’t act rude or entitled, but please also don’t shy away from asking whatever questions are on your mind. If you genuinely don’t know or are unsure about the answer, just ask!
There’s no need to hold back because you’re worried about the question sounding dumb or inconveniencing the staff. And if you need to ask the same question over and over again for clarification, there’s no harm in that either.
7. Ask for ice chips
Some hospitals wont let you eat during the later stages of labor. (Make sure you ask about this policy when you arrive, or during your hospital tour.) But every hospital will encourage you to stay hydrated.
I know, ice chips are not going to solve your hunger. But they can be a helpful distraction or a welcome change from plain old bottled water. And some hospitals will even offer flavored ice chips. If that’s an option, take advantage of it. Think of it like a slushie or snow cone. I definitely consider those flavored ice chips a little treat.
8. Before active labor, get some rest
When you get checked into your room at the hospital, you will probably be full of adrenaline. Excited, maybe a bit nervous, and ready to finally do this labor thing!
If you’re in the earlier stages of labor or have received an epidural, you may not be feeling much (if any) pain.
And your natural adrenline-fueled instinct could be to chat excitedly with your husband, play games to pass the time, or even record a TikTok challenge.
But in this situation, my advice is to sleep. Seriously. If you can manage it, just take a nap. Or at least try to rest.
Save up all of that energy for the final stages of labor. The last thing you want is to get to the point when doctor says to push, but now you’re overly exhausted and regretting having a little party earlier.
9. Ask for labor supplies
Most hospitals will carry supplies for labor such as exercise balls, support bands, and heating packs. Some hospitals even provide the use of large tubs, for the soothing effects of laboring in water. Or you can labor in the shower.
If there’s something you’re hoping for during your hospital labor and delivery experience, just ask. (Are you seeing a trend here?) The worst they can say is no, they don’t provide it. But the best that can happen is you get another method for working through labor!
10. Speak up if something isn’t working out
When you arrive at the hospital, you may be eager to share your birth plan with the staff. And that’s great. But if you find yourself in the middle of labor and something just isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to say so.
Even if you arrived to the hospital with a very specific vision, you’re entitled to change your mind. Trust your intuition.
When I was in labor with my first baby, I was determined to try every technique and form of pain control available before resorting to the epidural. But when it came down to it, I asked for the epidural pretty early on. The nurses were respectful of my birth plan and encouraged me to try something else (because I’d originally asked for that). But I’m so grateful that they were also respectful of my choice in the moment. Because at that point, I was done. I needed my epidural.
Trusting your intuition may also look like: asking someone in your support group to leave, speaking up if you’re uncomfortable with what your doctor or nurse is doing, changing the position you’re laboring in, taking a break when possible, etc.
11. Don’t be embarrassed about normal bodily functions
Again, the doctors and nurses have seen it all. That means if you have some unexpected fluids or poo make an appearance, there’s no need to get upset and embarrassed. As awkward as it feels, it’s natural.
Most of the time, the nurses will wipe it away before you even register that it was there. If you’re worried about it, you can always specifically request that no one says a word about it. My husband is very well informed that I don’t want to EVER know.
12. Take pictures with YOU too
This tip is less about the logistics of getting through a hospital labor and delivery, but I need to mention it!
Please, please make sure that someone takes pictures of you on that special day. Even if you are self conscious or don’t feel glamorous. Even if you don’t have a high-quality camera. (Almost every single one of my labor/postpartum pics turned out low-quality because I had a terrible phone camera at the time, but it’s better than nothing!) You don’t have to ever share these pictures with anyone else.
But often, new moms will remember to take a million photos of their sweet little baby, and they’ll completely miss the opportunity to document themselves too.
And if you do that, it’s possible in 2, 3, 20 years, you’ll regret having nothing that shows YOU in this incredible experience.
Some of the sweetest photos from my baby’s birth day are moments after she was born, when I was holding her. You can see how I am utterly exhausted, relieved, and proud of the accomplishment of bringing this precious life into the world.
So, ask someone in your support group to take photos. Assign them that job, and make sure you specify that in addition to baby pics, there should be some pictures of you too.
After baby is born
13. If it’s offered at the hospital, take a sitz bath
This tip is not really for cleanliness sake. You’ll definitely get the opportunity to shower as soon as you’re ready after childbirth. And you can return to the shower as often as you feel the need. So, don’t stress about cleanliness.
The reason I recommend you take a postpartum bath is because it can be extremely relaxing and soothing! Many hospitals offer large tubs for this purpose. After giving birth, when everything is tender down there, a sitz bath can aid in the healing process, and temporarily relieve pain or itching.
Also, taking a calm relaxing bath can provide the perfect opportunity to reflect and have a true moment of privacy after all of the excitement of childbirth. Let your husband stay with the baby, and go take your much-deserved bath!
14. Get all of the support with breastfeeding (if that’s what you choose)
If you choose to breastfeed your baby, the hospital should be well-equipped to help!
Schedule a time for the lactation specialist to stop by. They will be your absolute best resource for breastfeeding. And don’t be embarrassed if nurses offer to help too. Also, remember, this isn’t their first rodeo. The lactation specialist, and even the nurses, may have no problem with personal space and jump right in to offer support.
(They may even grab your boob to assist. It can be a bit alarming if they do it without much warning, but they’re likely just trying to help. If you’re uncomfortable, make sure to clearly communicate your expectations when you ask for breastfeeding tips and support.)
Advocate for yourself and your newborn. Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to every mother or to every baby. So, there’s nothing to be ashamed about if it’s proving to be a struggle. And if you do choose to switch to a nipple shield or bottle feed your newborn, there’s no shame in that either. You do whatever is going to work best for your family!
15. Let daddy participate
Often, new dads can feel lost about their part in the birth experience.
After baby is born, consider letting your husband take over a few special roles with baby. Maybe he’ll participate in baby’s first bath or take baby to their newborn tests (such as Apgar, hearing tests, or any vaccinations you may choose for your newborn). Let him watch over and accompany baby, especially if it’s in the middle of the night when you could use the extra sleep.
Not only will it allow you even more opportunity to rest and recover, but it’ll involve him in the experience in a really intimate way.
16. Make sure everything is working properly down there
Before you leave the hospital, your nurses will frequently ask about your bodily functions- specifically if you’ve been able to pee or poop, and how much bleeding you’re experiencing. As awkward as it is, it’s their job. They have to make sure everything is working properly before you head home.
Now, I know it’s personal, but please don’t shy away from voicing any and all concerns you may have.
After having my first baby, I was struggling a little bit to pee. I assumed it was because of the swelling. I was able to answer the nurses’ inquiry with a simple “Yep! I’ve peed,” but a tiny part of me wondered if it was normal that I had to muster all of my effort to do the bare minimum.
When I went home, I was still struggling, and about two days later, I was so incredibly uncomfortable. I knew my bladder was full, but I just could not do anything about it.
When I went back to my doctor, they used a catheter and it was the biggest relief. But, to my shock, they said if I’d waited much longer, I could have burst my bladder. Yikes!
Now, this isn’t to scare you, because that kind of case is rare. But my point is, please voice your concerns! Even if it seems personal or small or awkward to mention, please speak up and take care of your body!
A benefit to having a hospital labor and delivery is that the nurses are always checking in and sincerely want to help in your recovery. So, don’t let them walk in and out of your room without soliciting their service. Just ask.
17. Sleep as much as possible before going home
I know I mentioned this for the beginning of your hospital stay. But I’ve got to say it again, because it applies here too.
After childbirth, your adrenaline is probably going to be high again. You’ve just accomplished something incredible, and you’re excited to get acquainted with baby.
All I wanted to do after having my first baby was stay awake, to watch her little chest move up and down and stare at her perfect baby features.
And, I know, the hospital visit is sort of a surreal experience. Everything is new and exciting and interesting. You may not feel that tired at all.
Buuuuut… try to sleep.
When you get home, reality hits. And the reality is that you’re going to be exhausted. Try to catch up on sleep immediately after childbirth, while you’re in the hospital, so that you’re a bit more rested for those first nights at home.
18. Record your experience
It’s possible that you’ll forget the details of your birth experience faster than you realize.
And maybe that’s great if you want to forget about pain or trauma.
But it’s sad if you forget about the beautiful and empowering parts.
And the tender moments, like meeting your sweet newborn baby for the first time and becoming acquainted.
So, before you leave the hospital and get caught up in the new daily routine at home, take a few moments to reflect.
Jot down some quick notes about your experience in a journal, dictate to your husband for him to write it down, or use a voice recorder to share your raw impressions and emotions.
19. Take advantage of the hospital help
Again, this goes back to the idea that once you get home and life with a newborn really begins, you’ll probably be tired. And that’s okay. That’s very normal. But, while you’re in the hospital, try to take advantage of any help that’s offered.
In the hospital, you have a whole staff at your beck and call, willing to help you. (And if for whatever reason they’re not, ask for a new nurse!) They want you to be comfortable and rested and recovering. They want you to feel successful as a new mom. They are experienced with newborn care and will give you their wealth of knowledge in tips and support. (I had a nurse who taught me how to do the perfect newborn swaddle!)
Yes, you’re a strong woman. But there’s nothing weak about asking for help. Seize the opportunity of your hospital labor and delivery stay!
If you’re able, consider staying the full time that is allowed in the hospital. If you’re comfortable with it, let the nurses take baby to the nursery for an hour or two. Don’t be too quick to dismiss offers and suggestions during your stay. Ask for advice and clarification. Remember that the hospital stay is only a short time and then you’ll be on your own, for the most part.
If you’re in a rush to get home, that’s alright too. But really try to make the most of your hospital care, whether it’s for 6 hours or 72 hours.
20. Soak in the moment before announcing baby’s birth
After baby is born, you may want to immediately announce their presence to the world. To shout it from the rooftops (or at least make a post on social media). Fair enough, since you’re probably bursting with pride.
However, consider waiting. Wait to publish the announcement on your Instagram or hop on a video call with all of your extended family. They will survive without the immediate update. Maybe send a quick text to say that baby arrived and reassure others that mom and baby are healthy. But then, leave it at that for a few hours (or even longer).
Enjoy the time with your husband and baby. Breathe in those peaceful moments. And give yourself some time to recuperate before jumping on a call or social media. Allow that time to be reserved just for your immediate family. It may be some of the sweetest memories you get from your hospital stay.
As you get closer to the birth experience and your hospital labor and delivery stay, remember mama, you’ve got this!
You will get through this. And it will probably be one of the most impactful experiences of your life! People care about you and want to support you as a mother. So, just take a deep breath, and know that it will be okay. I can’t wait for you to meet your little one soon!
Best of luck! Let me know if you have other questions or thoughts about the hospital labor and delivery stay. Or if there’s a related topic you want to explore in a future post. Feel free to drop your comments down below! I’d love to support you in your journey of motherhood.