Hospital Pre-Registration Prior to Labor

Pregnant woman in wheelchair and man at hospital check-in desk

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Hospital pre-registration is where you turn over certain information about you, your pregnancy, and your insurance or payment information to the hospital, prior to your labor. The goal of hospital registration depends on who you ask.

For hospitals, the biggest benefit is the ability to plan resources. Knowing that they have a larger than normal (or smaller than normal) set of mothers due at any given time, they can plan services, everything from hospital birth classes to OB anesthesia coverage, during a given time period.

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 would 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 Pre-Registration

  • First Trimester: Ask your doctor (obstetrician or family practitioner) or midwife what hospitals they go to for birth services. Take hospital tours and ask questions about hospital policies, etc.
  • Second Trimester: Choose a hospital. This choice is noted in your medical records.
  • Second or Third 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.
  • Third Trimester: You wait for labor. You may be asked to bring a copy of your pre-registration information sheet in your labor bag.

It's usually a minor process once you've done the hard work of choosing the best hospital for your needs.

Your Medical Records

Your practitioner will send a copy of your medical records to the hospital, usually around 36 weeks gestation. This is separate from pre-registration and you don't need to do anything— though you may want to verify that it has happened at your later prenatal appointments. A delay in getting your medical records may mean a delay in treatment or testing you don't need.

How Registration Works

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 a while 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.

Be insistent that your support team stay with you. Many hospitals have the ability to do mobile registration if need be.

If this is something that you're concerned about, be sure to ask up front what the process is for the hospitals you're considering. 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?"

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.