How To Manage Visitors In The Hospital When You’re Having A Baby
Having a new baby is one of the most exciting times in your life for you and your family. Everyone loves a good birth story, don't they? And I'm sure your family would love even more to be a part of your birth story by being one of your visitors in the hospital when you deliver.
Your friends and family have been looking forward to seeing your baby's angelic face since the moment they knew it existed and to them, the best time to meet your new baby is…now.
Many people close to you are going to ask when is the soonest they can visit? During labor? Immediately after the baby is born? The second you arrive at the hospital with your first contraction? The first step to answering these questions is to understand that the answer is completely up to you.
In order to help you figure out who's going to visit you in the hospital during labor and delivery, I've created this guide to everything you need to know and consider when you're trying to figure out who to welcome to your baby's birth.
Visitors In The Hospital
Although their intentions are usually good and come from love and care for you, the idea of having your family and friends present during your most precious and sensitive moments as a family unit might not be the best idea for you. You and your husband might prefer an environment a little different from what everyone else imagines for you.
Visitors In Labor and Delivery
Having a baby can be overwhelming for even the most veteran mother. Every new mom needs to figure out what their labor is going to look like and who's going to be there when it all goes down.
Things To Consider About Visitors In The Hospital
When you start to think about managing your visitors in the hospital during labor and delivery, you'll need to consider what you're going to need and what you are going to be able to handle when you are literally birthing a child. To get started with understanding exactly what you need in labor, go ahead and download my FREE Hospital Bag Checklist and my FREE Birth Plan Preparation Worksheet before moving on. You'll need these!
My hope for you is that you will quickly realize that your visitors are there for you and not the other way around. I hope that you don't feel like you have to entertain your visitors or make sure they are comfortable. Their job is to do that for you.
The following things are what you need to consider:
What You Want From Your Visitors
Since I was a labor and delivery nurse before I had my son, I had seen every labor situation possible before I had my own. I had helped moms deliver their babies with no one in the room but their husband. Sometimes mothers had the support of their husband and their mother. I even assisted the family that crowds in the room, rotating every family member in and out of the delivery room throughout the night.
Think about what you want. It matters. I know that it seems like everyone and their mother has an opinion about what your labor experience should look like, but what truly matters is what you want it to be like.
If you think that you will be most comfortable just you and your partner, then that is what you need to do. If you are sure that your mom will be the best person to support you during labor, then she should be there. And you know what? If you like having all eyes on you and want your friends in the room as much as possible, then that is your decision.
Just make sure that the visitors in the hospital when you are in labor and delivery are the people who you want to be there. Not the people that you feel obligated to have there.
- Related Read: The Day I Became A Mother: Our Birth Story
What Your Visitors Want From You
Yes, everyone loves a newborn baby and everyone enjoys a good labor story. We all want to be there for the people we love on the most important day of their life. But what is it that they really want?
If someone wants to be in the room to get a good picture for instagram, to talk non-stop about her own labor experience, or to criticize you for the decisions that you are making for yourself in labor, then you should feel good about restricting them from your labor room.
On the other hand, if someone wants to be in the room to help you, encourage you, motivate you, and make you feel good about the decisions that you are making for yourself during labor, then they are the quality visitor that you want in the room with you when you have your baby.
What You Need During Labor and Delivery
Labor and delivery is not all fun and games no matter how much you are looking forward to it. You are going to have needs during this time in the hospital and your visitors can help you meet these needs.
What you need most during labor and birth are these 6 things:
- bonding time
When you imagine your time with your visitors, can you see yourself getting all of these things? If the answer is “yes”, then you have made the right decisions about your hospital visitors. If the answer is “no” and you feel like any of those 6 things will be impossible to achieve with your list of visitors, then it's time you re-think what visitors you want in your labor room.
Labor is not a time that you should be thinking about what you might talk about, who's going to be the most fun, or who knows the most about labor and birth. Your goal in labor should always be taking care of yourself first and meeting your needs before anything else.
Another obvious thing to consider that, unfortunately, many families forget, is the fact that the hospital you deliver at will have it's own policy regarding visitors.
Before you go into labor, there is a laundry list of things that you need to make sure you know and get done. One of those things is to know what your hospital's policy is when it comes to visitors in labor and delivery.
I've worked in a hospital that allowed up to four visitors of any age in the room and I've worked in a hospital that allowed up to three visitors at a time as long as they are over 12 years old. Many hospitals don't even allow anyone under 18 years old. Hospital policies can range widely depending on where you live so don't assume you can invite the whole family before you check the policy.
Be sure to understand what limits the hospital sets for you before make your list of people you want as visitors in the hospital. Often times, you will be able to rotate your visitors in and out of the waiting room, but what fun is that? It's probably best to just keep it to your few select visitors that you want at a time.
- Related Read: The Ultimate Guide To Packing Your Hospital Bag: What To Bring When You're Having A Baby
- Related Read: 8 Things Your Labor and Delivery Nurse Wants You To Know About Having A Hospital Delivery
Your Partner's Role
If it is important to your partner to not fall into the shadows of other family members, then it should be important to you too. This is his baby being born too. He wants to be your supporter, your rock, and the person you want next to you most. He wants to know that he is your number one motivator and the one that you need more than anyone else.
If there is someone butting heads with your partner or someone who might cause problems in the delivery room due to issues between the two of them, then I would reconsider inviting them to the hospital.
- Related Read: Dads In The Delivery Room – What NOT To Do
Why You Should Manage Your Visitors In Labor and Delivery
For reasons ranging from the pain of labor to the level of exposure you'll be experiencing during your hospital stay, you might be uncomfortable allowing anyone bear witness other than the person you are closest to in the world…probably your partner.
Labor is not a spectator sport.
There are many reasons why you should limit and restrict your visitors to only the people you really need there. When you are making the final decisions whether or not to have your husband's brother in the room, consider these things before agreeing to anyone you aren't 100% comfortable in front of.
You're In pain
Everyone handles pain differently. When I am in pain, I don't like to talk and I don't like to be spoken to. Some people like to be touched and massaged in labor, others want to be left alone. You might not know exactly how you're going to react to labor pain until you're in it.
You need to manage your visitors in the hospital with the expectation that you will be uncomfortable at times. If you are not comfortable crying, moaning, groaning, or grimacing in front of your brother, father-in-law, or bff, then they probably shouldn't be on the list of visitors in the hospital during labor.
There is no getting around it. The people in your room during your labor and delivery experience are going to see something that typically doesn't see the light of day.
Modesty is not easy when you're having a baby. If you are imagining your husband behind the head of the bed, your mom holding your hand while only seeing your face, and your dad in the corner and no one seeing anything, you've got another thing coming. Anyone in the room long enough will see what you have to offer.
During labor, you will be turned side to side, frequently exposing your back side. When you start pushing, it's not like the movies where there is a big sheet covering everything and the doctor has to peak beneath it to catch the baby. You will be spread eagle with nothing covering you. Even someone at the head of the bed will likely be able to see more than you initially expected.
There will be a number of times that you will be unapologetically exposed such as during cervical exams, when you're getting your epidural, when you're getting a catheter after epidural placement, every time your nurse comes in for fetal monitoring, or when you're laboring naturally and lose all sense of reality and modesty completely goes out of the window.
You can ask your visitors to step out of the room every time the nurse comes in the room to assist you or you can have hospital visitors that you don't mind seeing everything. Those are your options.
Mentally and physically, you are worn out. You've likely been anticipating this day for weeks, you've been having contractions for days, and you have been painfully laboring for hours. The thought of talking to your Aunt Shelly or the like right now is not super appealing. It might sound nice to have people you love near you on this special day, but when you haven't slept in days, you might not feel the same way.
Labor and Delivery Is Not Pretty
Yes, childbirth is beautiful, but not so much “pretty”. You know what I mean? Labor and delivery can be very messy. When your water breaks, there will likely be a large puddle of fluid in your bed or on the floor of your delivery room that your nurse will have to clean up and then, to make it even messier, your water will continue to leak until the baby comes. The pads under you will frequently be soaked, your sheets will likely get wet, and there may even be puddles on the floor.
Is Aunt Suzie queasy when it comes to blood? Bloody show will appear when you are in active labor. It may end up on your sheets and blankets, and your gown. When you deliver, you can quite a bit of blood and it might not be neatly contained on a pad. It's going to look like a murder scene in there. If someone isn't good with blood, they may not be the best option when it comes to hospital visitors during labor and delivery.
By the way, I should mention that not only will there be things to see during labor and delivery, but there will also be smells that may not be the most pleasant. You have to acknowledge that things will be coming out of your body beyond your control. First, there will be amniotic fluid. Then, there will be blood. And last but not least, no one knows if they are going to be the one that poops during labor until it happens.
Moral of the story is, if you don't want your Dad smelling all of those bodily fluids (most of which are coming out of your hoo-ha) at once when he walks into your room, then he probably shouldn't be invited.
There is no time for privacy
In an emergency situation, or a time when your nurse needs to quickly intervene, your nurse will not have the time to make sure you are covered and modest before saving you or your baby.
In case of an emergency, there may be private information discussed in the room. Your charts will be occasionally opened and your private information may be openly discussed in your room.
It is not wise to have a visitor in the hospital that you wouldn't be comfortable with in an emergency situation.
How To Manage Your Visitors
Now that you know what kind of visitors that you need and want in your hospital room when you're having a baby, it's time to figure out how to go about getting what you want.
I understand that it can be easier said than done when it comes to keeping your family out of a room that they are insistent on being in. Not to worry, mama, because these are some important methods for making your decisions known and keeping your labor and delivery process as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Make A List Of Approved Visitors
Once you have considered all of the above mentions, and you have a list in mind of the people who would help you the most, the people who would cause the least amount of drama, and the people who could handle the reality of labor and delivery, make a list and don't stray from it.
Discuss the list of people invited to your labor room and share it with your partner. Make sure you are on the same page and discuss when and why these people will be with you during your labor.
Set Specific Time Frames
Before you get to the hospital, it might seem silly to set rigid visiting hours for yourself but you will be glad you did after it is all said and done. Sometimes, when you are in the hospital, you lose all sense of time. Trust me, somehow it's going to seem appropriate to have visitors at 2am when you are in labor. That's just not realistic when you're trying to sleep or when you are in pain and unable to socialize.
The reality is, even though it is hard to sleep in the hospital (and even harder to sleep when you're in labor), it is extremely important that you get your rest. You are about to have a brand new baby keeping you up at all hours of the night and day. There is no shame in making sure that you get your rest without visitors during specific times or stages of labor.
Setting time frames for your visitors in the hospital will allow you to get rest, have quality time with your spouse, and give you some structure that will help manage your stress while in the hospital.
Set visiting hours based on logical times of day, how dilated you are, or determined by what stage of the process you are in.
For example, you can make these simple rules, or any variation that works for you:
- I will welcome visitors when I am between 4 and 8 cms dilated
- Visitors are welcome only after I have my epidural
- I will welcome visitors between the hours of 8am and 11pm
- I will welcome visitors after the golden hour after birth
Give Your Visitors Purpose
Your close family and friends want to be there for you when you are in the hospital having a baby but sometimes, they just don't know how they can help. Unfortunately, a visitor that doesn't have purpose often ends up sitting there staring at you like some kind of circus animal.
Instead of having your visitors sitting in the corner of your hospital room watching you awkwardly, not knowing how to help, give them purpose by assigning them with tasks related to your birth plan.
Is your sister in the room? Make her in charge of making you comfortable, adjusting your pillows, getting you extra socks, and wetting the washcloth for your forehead in between contractions. Does your mother-in-law want to be in the room at some point? Have her bring you food after delivery or help you with ice chips in labor.
There are lots of things that your visitors can do to help you during labor. You don't have to do this alone. Just make sure the people you have around you have purpose.
- Related Read: The Best Way To Make Your Birth Plan Your Reality
Have A Code Word
Assign a code word or phrase known between you, your partner, and your nurse. Make sure everyone is aware of this code just in case you need assistance in getting your visitors out of your room. Let other people play the bad cop so that you don't have to worry about it.
Communicate with family before hand
You can communicate your wishes by sending out quick group texts to family and friends, a general email to people who might want to be there, or even a sign on the door to your labor room stating that you aren't accepting any more visitors.
If you choose not to send out the memo early, make sure you stand your ground when people contact you day-of. If someone calls asking to come visit or shows up to your room unexpectedly, make sure that you are able to tell them clearly to their face that you would prefer they wait at home until you're ready.
Whatever way that you decided to communicate it, just make sure that you and your spouse know what you want and you are able to get the message across to your family and friends when the time comes.
Let Your Nurse Know Your Wishes
Once you do decide who you want in your room, let your nurse know that you don't want any extra visitors so we can do our best to screen them. But the best way to prevent unwanted visitors is to refrain from posting on social media or announcing where you are to people who you don't want involved.
- Related Read: Stop Worrying, We've Got it Covered: The 6 Things Labor and Delivery Nurses Wish You'd Let Go Of
Visitors In The Hospital When You're Having A Baby
This is not the time to entertain your family in the room. You have purpose in this time. Your focus and your goal should be getting your baby out. Do only what facilitates that goal. Encourage labor by walking, or get rest by sleeping while you still can. When it comes time to push and you say you're too tired, remember what you were doing when you could have been sleeping.
Remember that this is your day, your experience, your labor, and your baby. The things that can be your decision, should be. Let this be one of them. Good luck, mama! You're going to do great!
Who did you have in your labor room? Do you have any regrets? Let me know in the comments!
What To Read Next:
- Dads In The Delivery Room – What NOT To Do
- The Ultimate Guide To Packing Your Hospital Bag: What To Bring When You're Having A Baby
- 8 Things Your Labor and Delivery Nurse Wants You To Know About Having A Hospital Delivery
- Stop Worrying, We've Got it Covered: The 6 Things Labor and Delivery Nurses Wish You'd Let Go Of
- The Best Way To Make Your Birth Plan Your Reality
- 16 Indispensable Pregnancy and Labor Tips from A Labor and Delivery Nurse
- The Day I Became A Mother: Our Birth Story
I really enjoyed reading this post. It was encouraging, informative, and gave me some things to think about. I hadn’t considered actually needing to discuss visitors during labor with my husband or my family. I guess I just took it for granted people would assume to know to wait until after delivery, but I’m glad to be thinking about it now.
I also really appreciate the consideration given to the Dads-to-be in the post. He is very important in playing a role and shouldn’t be put aside. Thank you for making that point.
I know this is somewhat seperate, but it also causes one to think about being comfortable with the provider they have chosen to deliver the baby. Of course in emergency situations that can’t be helped, but if during prenatal visits you aren’t comfortable with or are not seeing eye to eye with your provider, it might be a good idea to switch before they are the one you have to face/deal with in the delivery room.
Again, really enjoyed the post and considering this overlooked aspect of labor/the birth plan.