Hospital Visiting Policies After Labor

Family visit postpartum

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Every hospital and birth center have their very own rules about when you can and can't have visitors. These policies are very important to know about before you give birth. In fact, these policies might influence where you choose to give birth. You should be sure to ask about the visiting hours and rules when you take a hospital tour.

So here are some of the things you’ll want to ask about.

Labor and Delivery Visitation Policy

Many hospitals have rules about how many people you can have in the room. This may also vary depending on if you have had epidural anesthesia, a birthing suite, a cesarean section or other rules, so be sure to ask if there are exceptions to this policy. (An example of an exemption might be that a hospital has a three person limit during the actual birth, but a certified doula will not be counted in that number, meaning you get your doula, plus three more people in the room.) There may also be age limits to the visitation during labor and delivery. One I have heard a lot is that you can’t have visitors under 14 unless they are siblings. (Be sure to ask if siblings need to have a special class or clearance before you are in labor.)

Waiting Room Visitation Policy

It might be important to note that some hospitals or birth centers will restrict the number of people that you can have in the waiting room, regardless of whether or not they come to visit you in the labor room. This is usually for the hospital or facilities’ space requirements.

Postpartum Visitation Policy

There are so many varied policies on visitation after the baby, it is important to ask these questions as well. You might assume that they are the same as the general hospital’s visiting hours but you might be wrong. Many hospitals are going to policies that have restricted hours for even the postpartum floor. The goal here is not to restrict you from having guests, but to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. It’s hard to learn to breastfeed or care for your baby if you have a parade of visitors.

Spouse/Partner Visitation

It is important to note that the vast majority of hospitals have no visitation restriction on your spouse or partner. They can usually stay in your room 24 hours a day, even after you’ve had the baby.

Rooming in Rules

While not specifically about visitation, the policy about rooming in is important to mention here. You may be restricted depending on whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean. You might be able to have unlimited access to your baby only if you have 24-hour support from your partner or another adult.

This list is not a complete list of questions to ask about having a visitor while recovering from having a baby. There might be rules about a recent or current illness. You should also try to set your own boundaries if you feel overwhelmed with visitors. It is perfectly acceptable to have the nurse hang a sign on your door that says you aren’t having visiting hours at the moment.

If you are thinking about visiting someone immediately after they have had a baby consider some of the following:

  • Do not visit if you are sick. This includes fever, coughing, sneezing, etc. Call and send your love via the phone or email, promising to catch up as soon as you are well.
  • Call before you visit, even if you previously set the time up the day before. This gives the family a chance to say that life isn’t exactly where they thought it would be and need to reschedule or even gives them a chance to say you could bring something on your way.
  • Do not stay long. Smile at the baby. Ask about their health. Offer to help. Get out the door. 15 minutes is a good length for a visit in the hospital or birth center and only a few more minutes if it’s a visit in their home.

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