As an expectant parent, you're probably doing it for convenience. When you show up in labor, you want to skip to the fast lane. You've given all the basic info, you'd like to not sit in the waiting room having contractions and move on to triage or the labor and delivery area. Many mothers believe that pre-registration will afford them this benefit. The problem is that this doesn't always happen.
The typical way it works is this:
- You ask your doctor (obstetrician or family practitioner) or midwife what hospitals they go to for birth services. (1st Trimester)
- Your take hospital tours and ask questions about the hospital policies, etc.. (1st Trimester)
- You choose a hospital. This choice is noted in your medical records. (2nd Trimester)
- You are given a card to fill out to return by mail or fax, sent to an online pre-registration form or are called by the hospital of your choice. (2nd or 3rd Trimester)
- You wait for labor. (You may be asked to bring a copy of your pre-registration information sheet in your labor bag.) (3rd Trimester)
It's usually a very minor process once you've done the hard work of choosing the best hospital for your needs. Your practitioner will also send a copy of your medical records over to the hospital electronically or via fax, usually around 36 weeks gestation. This is a separate process from pre-registration and has nothing to do with that process, nor do you need to do anything to trigger this release of records.
Once you're in labor, you go to the hospital. (Where you go depends on what day, what time and your hospital's protocol. Most people proceed directly to labor and delivery.) This is where reality and expectations differ. The vast majority of moms expect that it works like a hotel, you give your name and reservation info and immediately are seen. Nope. Basically, you do the whole registration process over. You pull out your insurance card. You give your name. Your address. Your due date. Your practitioner's name... You might even find that you have to wait awhile to give this information depending on who is at the desk and how well staffed they are at that time.
If you are in advanced labor, this may mean that you are having contractions in the waiting room with lots of other families watching. Some hospitals do allow you to go to triage for a bit more privacy. But if your labor is advanced enough, there are plenty of stories of moms and dads being separated while dad registers mom and she goes off to have a baby alone.
If this is something that you're concerned about, be sure to ask up front, what the process is for the hospitals you're interviewing. Remember the hospital is typically your choice. Hospital policy of this nature can also be driven by what consumer demand is, so be sure to speak up about the pre-registration process and don't get caught asking, "Why did I even bother to pre-register?"