Pre-registering and Paperwork
Most hospitals recommend preregistering well in advance of your due date. This gets all of the paperwork out of the way so when the time comes, you’re not distracted by forms. The paperwork generally consists of:
- Consent forms
- Insurance information
- Personal information (i.e., your address, Social Security number, emergency contacts)
In addition to processing papers, many hospitals offer regular tours of the maternity ward. If you have time, it’s a good idea to take advantage of this so you have a sense of what’s around you when you are having the baby.
Some maternity centers have monthly open houses where expectant mothers can mingle, fill out preregistration forms, and get used to the labor and delivery area.
WHN TIP – In the Know: Be familiar with the parking, how to access the maternity ward, and where to go if you arrive after hours. At many hospitals, you’ll need to enter through the emergency room entrance.
What If You Don’t Pre-register?
Most hospitals will allow you to take care of paperwork after the baby is born. Your birthing partner, spouse or family member can take care of any forms that need immediate attention.
WHN TIP – Your Hospital Stay: For more advice on what to do before you go to the hospital, what to take with you, and the details of the admitting process, visit our Hospital section under HEALTH.
After the Birth
After your baby is born, ID bands with matching numbers are placed on mom, baby and one other person of mom’s choice.
- These ID bands are checked every time your baby goes to and from the nursery.
- Only authorized staff with hospital IDs will transfer your baby.
An ointment is placed in your baby’s eyes shortly after birth to treat any bacteria present in the eyes that could lead to blindness. The law requires this preventive step.
Tests After Birth
Testing requirements vary by state, though all states require newborn metabolic screening for phenylketonuria (PKU) and hypothyroidism. States or hospitals may also require more tests such as sickle cell anemia, galactosemia and homocystinuria.
WHN TIP – Get Info Ahead of Time: Read 4 Tips About Newborn Screening Tests for information about the possible vaccines and tests beforehand. It may feel overwhelming to learn about these tests after the birth.
Ask your doctor what tests your state and the hospital run – they may differ, so ask about both. Sometimes hospitals run a few more tests than the state requires. Below is a list of the most commonly performed tests:
Apgar is an acronym for Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance, and Respiration (APGAR). Your baby’s Apgar is scored at birth, and again five minutes after birth, using an Apgar scoring method of 1-10, 10 being a perfect score. Registered nurses assess the baby’s heart rate, respiration rate, color and other factors.
Blood is taken from the umbilical cord to check the baby’s blood type and to screen for syphilis, which is required by law.
Some states also test for:
- Sickle cell anemia
Most newborns will receive at least one and possibly two screening tests to determine if he or she has a moderate to severe hearing loss. You and your pediatrician will receive formal reports of your baby’s hearing results.
- Otoacoustic emission (OAE) screenings are conducted in the nursery. A soft earphone is placed in your baby’s ear canal. Sounds emitted through the earphone stimulate the ear and cause a measurable echo. If an echo is not detected, an additional screening test may be performed.
- Automated auditory brainstem evoked response (AABR) screening involves placing electrodes on the infant’s head, neck and shoulders stimulating the hearing through earphones and measuring the electrical activity generated by the ear in response to sound. If additional information is required after these two screenings, you will be referred to your pediatrician for follow-up.
Your baby may have her/his first of three hepatitis B vaccines while in the hospital. Discuss the need for all immunizations with your pediatrician or pediatric nurse practitioner.
This blood test is a screening measure for possible phenylketonuria, a problem with the metabolism that could lead to mental retardation if not addressed. The test is done shortly after birth; talk with the doctor about additional test schedules.
- The blood is usually drawn from the heel and it may help if the feet are warm at the time.
Your baby receives an injection of vitamin K shortly after birth to help the blood clot properly.
Birth Certificates and Social Security Numbers
Birth Certificates: Recording Your Child’s Birth
The hospital will ask you to provide information for your child’s birth certificate. They will provide this information to the agency in charge of recording births (usually the state health department).
You can request one or more birth certificate copies. They will be mailed to you when the birth has been recorded (usually within a few weeks).
When you get your copy, check it for errors. If you find an error, contact the agency about correcting the birth certificate. You may need to contact the hospital, or fill out an application for change and provide accompanying paperwork to the agency.
If you’re not married, there are many paternity choices. These are starter ideas; if you have questions, contact a legal advisor.
- If you aren’t married and want the father’s name on the birth certificate:
You and the father must sign a paternity affidavit in the presence of a notary public. The hospital submits this affidavit to the state with the birth certificate.
- You may leave the father’s information blank on the birth certificate. (You are not required to give any information regarding the baby’s father.)
- You may add the father’s name at any time in the future if the father is willing to sign a paternity affidavit.
- You may give the baby any last name you wish, but you are the baby’s only legal guardian.
For more information on the paternity options, contact a legal advisor.
Social Security Number: Getting One for Your Child
It’s important to apply for a Social Security number for your child soon after birth, because the Internal Revenue Service now requires you report all children’s Social Security numbers if you claim them as exemptions on your income tax return.
You may be able to apply for your child’s Social Security number through the hospital when applying for a copy of the birth certificate. If not, contact your local Social Security office (check your local telephone directory) or call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at (800) 772-1213 for information. Ask for a Form SS-5, or download it at the SSA website.
Birth Announcements in the Newspaper
Read our 6 Tips for Putting a Birth Announcement in the Newspaper article to learn what’s needed to place an announcement in the newspaper.
WHN TIP – Think Ahead! It’s never too early to start planning for your new baby’s care and safety. Need help finding a nanny, babysitter, or child care facility in the coming months or years? Check out our Child Care section under LIFE.
The information here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a lawyer, doctor or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal or healthcare-related decisions.
Thank You …
A special thank you to the industry professionals, doctors, nurses, midwives, moms, dads, and families who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.