What You Should Know Before Giving Birth

Hospitals are generally associated with caring for sick or injured people, yet they also have a small wing or floor designated for labor and delivery. Is the cleanliness of your local hospital a concern when you think about the birth and first few days of your newborn baby’s life? We found out more about common hospital-acquired illnesses and infections and asked some moms about their concerns related to birthing in a hospital environment.

Pregnant woman in hospital

Who is at risk?

According to the World Health Organization, the people who fall in the high-risk category include newborns, the elderly, people with weak or weakened immune systems and people with underlying diseases or diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Not just patients are at risk either — hospital staff members and visitors (especially infants and the elderly) are among those associated with a decreased resistance to infection.

Does hospital cleanliness concern pregnant mothers?

Cheryl Rosenberg, a mother of three, says, "I personally believe it's safer — and more comfortable — to have the baby at home." Karli Argus is a mother of two and chose to deliver her second son at a birth center — but not because of the uncleanliness of the hospital. For Karli, it was "a laundry list of other reasons." Christine is a mother of three and has a family member who works in a well-known U.S. hospital: "If I were to have another baby, knowing what I now know from my sister, I would definitely explore other options — a birthing center or even at home with a certified midwife."

Hospital settings can provide a sense of security and safety no matter what hospital germs may be lurking. Kate Tobin didn't fear the uncleanliness of the hospital where she delivered her first daughter. Instead, the setting made her feel more secure. She says, "I fear a home birth in case the baby needs immediate medical attention."

Home birth: Is it right for you? >>

Common hospital infections and how they spread

The World Health Organization reports that the most common infections that patients get from hospitals include infections of surgical wounds (like those of a cesarean), urinary tract infections and lower respiratory tract infections. But other organisms can be and are transmitted through discharged patients, staff and visitors and are all over the hospital grounds — on elevators, door handles, bathroom surfaces and more.

The World Health Organization warns that crowded hospital conditions, frequent transfers of patients from one unit to another and a concentration of highly susceptible patients (e.g., newborns, intensive care patients and burn patients) further increase the probability of a hospital-acquired infection.

Health care: Does your local hospital measure up? >>

What can you do?

  • Use the hand sanitizer provided by the hospitals.
  • Wash your hands properly before, during and after visiting a hospital.
  • Avoid visiting a hospital when you have an illness — your immune system is weakened during illnesses and you risk infecting others.
  • If you are planning a natural birth and the cleanliness of your hospital concerns you, look into other options — a birth center or a home birth.
  • Breastfeed your newborn.

More about birth and hospitals

What birth is really like: The naked truth
Top 10 U.S. hospitals
Birth center vs. hospital

Tags: hospital stay

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