HealthAlliance’s Family Birth Place combines a family-centered environment with the highest standard of medical excellence and aids a newborn during birth.
By Laurie Yarnell
Last February 8 dawned cold and drizzly in Heather Blaikie’s hometown of Millbrook. Blaikie, 37, a park planner and mom of a 2-year-old son, was past her January 29 due date for the birth of her second child with husband Timothy Lynch. For the past few weeks, she had experienced several false starts with her labor, so when her contractions started that morning, she thought they might be more of the same. But when they began coming 10 minutes apart, Blaikie’s midwife advised her to go to the Family Birth Place, where she planned to deliver.
Located on the fourth floor of HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), in Kingston, the Family Birth Place was opened in June 2009, when HealthAlliance was formed. Since then, it has hosted nearly 4,000 deliveries. Dedicated to providing the highest level of care to expectant women, it offers a range of choices in a secure and family-friendly environment.
“Its establishment is in keeping with the trend to have more family-centered birth environments, as opposed to the traditional model, where you deliver in one room and move to another,” says Robin Stevens, MSN, a registered nurse certified in inpatient obsterics, as well as a certified diabetes educator and director of the Family Birth Place. “We follow the LDRP (Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Postpartum) protocol, in which the mom undergoes labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum in one room, with one nurse caring for her throughout, for greater consistency.” HealthAlliance Hospital’s eight spacious LDRP rooms and three private antepartum/postpartum rooms look more like they belong in a hotel than a hospital, with flat-screen TVs, wood-look floors, high-tech medical equipment camouflaged by cabinetry, wooden beds and rockers, and lounge chairs that convert to sleepers. There is also a family lounge, dining room and open kitchen with a refrigerator stocked with juices and snacks, and new parents are treated to a celebratory gourmet dinner.
The Family Birth Place is staffed with doctors, midwives, nurses and obstetrical technicians; many are certified lactation consultants. The first hospital in the area to be certified Baby-Friendly — meaning it offers an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding — all births are “rooming in,” where the baby stays with the mother with minimum separation, to encourage bonding and breastfeeding. The facility also encourages a skin-to-skin protocol, in which the newborn is placed on the mother’s chest right after birth, supporting optimal mother-baby bonding. In addition to offering childbirth and breastfeeding classes, the Family Birth Place provides such proven methods of low-intervention labor management as birthing balls to coax the baby into an optimal position, a hydrotherapy tub and nitrous oxide.
The couple arrived at the hospital in late morning. “We had toured the facility before,” Blaikie recalls, “and I remember liking the nice, big lounge area, which offers a spectacular view of the Catskill Mountains. It had a hotel-like feeling.”
On that particular morning, there wasn’t much time to enjoy the view. “They told us because he was a big baby, specifically the size of his head, this was not going to be a regular birth,” says Lynch. Indeed, Blaikie experienced a rare childbirth complication. One of her son’s shoulders became lodged at a joint at the pubic bone, so only his head had emerged. Called shoulder dystocia, it occurs in only 0.2 percent to 3 percent of vaginal births. Fortunately, the medical team successfully delivered David, who weighed 9 pounds 7 ounces, at around 7 p.m. that evening.
David was quickly delivered by staff trained to recognize shoulder dystocia, then he was stimulated to breathe and cry by clinicians certified in neonatal resuscitation. Because of the team’s rapid intervention, David is not at risk for future problems. “The longer it takes to get the baby out,” says Stevens, “the greater the likelihood of complications.”
Blaikie also had a postpartum obstetrical hemorrhage, with a loss of more than a pint of blood. “The staff were wonderful and got the bleeding under control,” recalls Blaikie. “There were a lot of people, and I was impressed with how efficient the whole process was,” adds Lynch. “Everyone seemed to know their own job and exactly what to do. They were very experienced, calm and professional.”
“There is a tremendous amount of preparation and continuous training the staff does to prepare for obstetrical emergencies and compromised new-borns and to recognize risk factors and problems so that we can react in a timely manner,” says Stevens. “Quick recognition and intervention led to mom and baby being fine.”
Blaikie is grateful for how well the staff took care of her and her newborn. “Even though there were other things happening on the floor and other babies being born,” she says, “I felt like I was the only patient. It was very individual and caring.” Best of all, today David is a happy, healthy and active baby, busy grabbing at everything, she adds.
Maternity Care at WMCHealth
HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus 845.331.3131
Westchester Medical Center 914.493.2280
Good Samaritan Hospital 845.368.5450
St. Anthony Community Hospital 845.987.5300
Photos By Teresa Horgan