Patients at the Family Birth Place get the comforts of home with the medical care of a hospital.
By Deborah Skolnik
When Krista DiBlanca found out last year she was pregnant, she didn’t have many questions about childbirth, as she was already the mother of two. But the news that she was expecting again filled her with a different type of uncertainty: Where should she deliver?
Her previous childbirth experiences couldn’t have been more different. Annabelle, her first baby, was delivered in a hospital, but “I disliked the overall ‘hospital feel,’” says DiBlanca, 30, of Kingston. Her son, Jack, was delivered at home, with the aid of midwives, but she experienced complications shortly afterward and was transferred to the hospital. For baby number three, DiBlanca figured she’d have no choice but to return to that strict, institutional-feeling hospital setting.
Then, several months into the pregnancy, DiBlanca heard an exciting announcement: Kingston’s HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, now a Member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), was partnering with two midwifery practices, including Hudson Valley Midwifery, the practice that had supervised Jack’s birth. Going forward, DiBlanca’s previous midwives would be able to deliver babies at the Kingston hospital’s Family Birth Place. It was great news for DiBlanca and many other expectant mothers — and the hospital, as well. “We wanted to show the community that we support all kinds of care,” says Dominique Delma, MD, Chairperson of the OB-GYN department.
In fact, when DiBlanca toured The Family Birth Place, she saw at once how warmly supportive it was designed to be. “I met the nurses, who were so wonderful, and I got to see everything,” she shares. “They showed me the tub I could use and what the rooms were like: They were very nice, with plenty of space for a partner. I knew I would be comfortable there.”
The Family Birth Place’s commitment to patient comfort goes far beyond its cozy facilities. Its advanced, streamlined care means that expectant mothers aren’t shuttled from one area of the building to the next (e.g., a labor floor followed by a delivery unit) as they move through the phases of childbirth. “From pain-care procedures to labor, delivery and pediatric care, we do it all in the same place,” explains Dr. Delma, adding, “and your baby stays with you.” Meanwhile, should the need for a C-section arise, it can be done in an adjacent area, as the hospital also has a Level 1 neonatal intensive-care unit.
Patients who opt to receive prenatal care through the hospital also benefit from a unique and thoughtfully structured program. “We offer something called Centering, which is prenatal care in a group setting,” Dr. Delma says. “Instead of just coming in, waiting for the doctor, and then spending just 10 to 15 minutes with the physician, you can come to an educational meeting with a resident and other couples,” she explains. “You get your care at the same time, while learning.”
DiBlanca, for her part, opted to receive her prenatal care at Hudson Valley Midwifery. “It was like visiting with old friends, since they were the ones who had delivered Jack at home,” she explains. But she was equally reassured to know she’d be giving birth at The Family Birth Place, where medical help, including a resident and an OB-GYN, would be close at hand if any complications were to arise.
This time around, fortunately, DiBlanca had no unexpected problems. The most tense part, she says, was the drive to the hospital on the evening of August 27: “I didn’t mind having a home birth, but I didn’t want to have a car birth!” she jokes. Once she arrived at The Family Birth Place, close to midnight: “Everyone was wonderful. The nurses were really great — and as soon as we finished the check-in process, I was able to go to the tub room and get into the water.” DiBlanca refused pain medication, just as she’d done during her two previous labors, so the warm water of the facility’s large, walk-in tub “was just amazing for pain relief,” she remembers.
Shortly before 5 a.m. on August 28, Ella DiBlanca, weighing a little more than seven pounds, arrived. DiBlanca gave birth to her while still in the tub: The midwives “lifted her right out [of the water] and put her right on my chest,” she recalls. All of Ella’s newborn procedures were done in that very same room, she adds: “They were even able to weigh her and check her vitals.”
Soon, Krista and Ella were snuggled back in their own room, with the newborn in a bassinet. Krista is still awed at how their bonding time was respected: Ella was almost always with her. Hospital personnel “were also very supportive of my breastfeeding Ella and would check in to make sure we were all right,” she says.
This marvelous experience is the norm, not the exception, among The Family Birth Place’s patients. “We are working on getting our designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital from the World Health Organization,” Dr. Delma shares. “We’re the first one in the Hudson Valley to have applied for it and are further along than any other hospital.” This coveted honor singles out for distinction those hospitals that rank among the very best in their arrangements for and care of laboring women.
And if a testimonial is required, the hospital has Krista DiBlanca to turn to. “I was so very happy with the level of care we received at the Family Birth Place,” she says. “If I could tell other women one thing, I’d say that they can have both the security and confidence of the hospital and the comfort of individualized care. That’s the type of experience they can expect right here in Kingston.”
Leading the Way in Pain Relief
The Family Birth Place at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus is not only an exceptionally serene environment in which to give birth, it is also on the cutting edge of pain management. It is the first faciliity in the region to offer nitrous oxide to women in labor as a safe, effective option for pain relief.
Nitrous oxide, a colorless gas with a slightly sweet smell, can work differently from one laboring woman to the next. Some say it instills calm and a feeling of well-being; others say it takes the edge off contractions. Either way, women remain alert and aware of their contractions. “A woman in labor simply puts a small face mask over her mouth and nose and then inhales the gas, which she feels immediately. She then naturally releases the mask as she begins to feel more relaxed,” says Martin Cascio, MD, President of the HealthAlliance medical staff. By the end of labor, the nitrous oxide has cleared the body entirely.
The gas is a helpful addition to The Family Birth Place’s wide variety of proven pain-management options, including a hydrotherapy tub or shower, birthing balls and spinal anesthesia upon request. “We’re pleased to take this leadership step,” says Robin Stevens, RN, The Family Birth Place’s director and a registered nurse certified in inpatient obstetrics. “It’s one of the many advances we’ve made to provide women and babies with state-of-the-art, individualized care before, during and after childbirth.”
Birthing Services at WMCHealth
The Family Birth Place: 845- 331-3131
Westchester Medical Center
Maternal/Fetal Center: 914-493-7000
Good SamariTan Hospital
Family Birthing Center: 845-368-5450
Bon Secours Community Hospital
Birth Center Tours: 845-368-5450
St. Anthony Community Hospital
The Kennedy Birthing Center: 845-987-5300