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The summer baby boom: what to do when Labor and Delivery is full

If you think that all you are hearing about nowadays are the announcements of babies being born by what seems like the bucketful, rest assured you are not hallucinating. It turns out that in the United States, most births occur in the late summer months: July, August, and September. That means right now it’s baby season! 

Wonder why these months are so popular? Well, it turns out that these months are 40 weeks after the coldest, darkest part of the year. Seems many couples are taking advantage of, *ahem,* some snuggle time to keep warm during the long winter season.

In all seriousness, though, any OB/GYN or midwife will tell you that summer brings a whole new meaning to the word “busy” in Labor and Delivery. Besides long winters, many future parents try to plan a delivery in the summer for other practical reasons, too: the warmth and extra sunlight makes it a nice time to bring home a new baby, and for many jobs such as teaching, the seasonal break is a great time to give birth.

These variations in birthrates are not limited to just seasonal differences, however. Ask most OB/GYNs in New Jersey or New York if they noticed an increase in deliveries nine months after Hurricane Sandy hit, and most will agree 100 percent that the “Sandy babies” were for sure a real phenomenon. Hey, when you don’t have any distractions like your smartphone or computer because the power is out, sometimes other ways of passing the time fill that gap … and some of those activities result in babies!

So what happens if you are due to deliver during one of these busy times? Is it possible that Labor and Delivery will be too full and have no room for you? You might have never thought of this, but it is true that this situation could happen and occasionally does. What do you do in this scenario?

First of all, don’t freak out.

If you do show up to the hospital in active labor, know that you legally can’t be turned away. If every room is full with patients this might mean you end up in a less-than-glamorous room (such as in triage, a shared room, or even the hallway while better accommodations are arranged!). Things might seem a little hectic as you might be sharing a nurse and your doctor or midwife might be simultaneously managing multiple patients, but you will be cared for!

What can you do to try to avoid this chaotic scenario (other than being psychic and only going into labor when all is calm at the hospital)? The best thing you can do may seem simple, but it can help: call before just showing up to the hospital.

Calling to let your obstetric provider know you are on your way in does help out. First, some concerns may actually be handled over the phone and save you a visit, for example.

If you are told to come in, giving your doctor or midwife the heads up will mean they can look at your chart ahead of time and be ready for you. The same can be said for your nurses, who can start learning about your medical history and preparing your room for your arrival. All this preparation can make your arrival go as smoothly as possible.

But what if you call and all the rooms are full? In this situation, you may be asked to go to a different hospital. This is not because the staff doesn’t want to see you, but rather because at this point having more patients would be considered unsafe. When this happens, your hospital will usually direct you to another preferred hospital, call that hospital’s Labor and Delivery to make them aware you are on the way, and will send your records over.

While this might not seem like a nice thing to do to a pregnant woman (and you might be thinking, Forget calling – I’ll just show up so they can’t turn me away!), it is truly done with your best interest at heart. If there are no available rooms or nurses, chances are your care — and your entire experience — won’t be ideal. And don’t you want the best delivery and all the attention you deserve for you and your baby? Thankfully this is a pretty rare occurrence, but if it happens to you, try to stay calm and go with the flow.

 

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Bundoo OB/GYN

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery and has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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