Having a baby is a major, life-changing experience. SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Madison Director of Women and Children’s Services Robbie Sonnentag says quality care spanning pregnancy, labor and birth is vital to giving families their best start.
As soon as a woman thinks she is pregnant, she should call for an appointment with her primary care provider. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports early and continuous pregnancy care can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications for both mom and baby.
“Developing a strong relationship with your care team is important,” says Sonnentag. “Your care team will assess your health and identify any risk factors or family history that could impact the pregnancy or the health of mom and baby. Pre-pregnancy and early prenatal care can provide better health and education for the mother and can optimize the health of the baby.”
This early care helps moms better manage potential health complications or existing health conditions that could impact baby’s health. This could include high blood pressure, diabetes or even smoking. Routine prenatal exams with your care team will include heart rate monitoring, measurements of the baby’s development and tests that can help identify potential complications or health conditions for both mom and baby. If a mom develops pregnancy-related complications like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, her doctor can help her manage these conditions. If a health problem is discovered for the growing baby, any potential treatments or care decisions can be made with the care team before the baby is born.
Additionally, St. Mary’s offers many classes to help the family prepare for their new arrival. Class topics range from general baby care, like changing a diaper and breastfeeding; to helpful medical training, such as infant and child CPR techniques. You can find the full range of courses and register for classes at stmarysmadison.com.
When it comes time to deliver your baby, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Madison offers a wide range of low intervention options to help moms and their families experience birth together in a safe, home-like environment.
Staff is highly skilled at helping a laboring mother manage her pain. Nurses are trained to help her move into more comfortable laboring positions and can provide laboring aids like birthing balls or birthing bars. Staff can also teach a birthing partner how to help with positioning and muscle massage that can relieve some of the pain a woman in labor experiences. For stronger pain management methods, the mother’s physician can discuss all available options.
For low risk deliveries, a laboring mom is not always confined to the bed. When appropriate, mom can wear a wireless fetal monitor or be taken off of the monitor so she can walk around, try standing positions or even labor in a special laboring tub, or the shower or tub in her room.
“Our staff is here to help laboring moms be as comfortable as possible,” says Sonnentag. “By offering these low intervention options – as well as new comforting options like aromatherapy – we are able to provide every mother with the birth experience she wants.”
While many women write out detailed birth plans, sometimes medical conditions or unexpected situations arise that require a change to the birth plan, such as a need to induce labor, change planned pain management methods, or a cesarean delivery is deemed necessary. Staff and doctors will then discuss the situation and all available options, walking the laboring mom and her support person through the steps needed for the safest and healthiest delivery method for both her and her baby.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states vaginal birth is the safest, healthiest birth for both mom and baby. Sometimes a cesarean birth is medically necessary for a variety of reasons related to the health of either mom or baby. Cesarean birth is major surgery and staff at St. Mary’s is highly trained to make sure the entire family is well cared for during the procedure. The rate of cesarean deliveries at St. Mary’s is lower than the national average.
Regardless of the method of delivery, staff at St. Mary’s works to provide mom and baby multiple options for post-delivery care that encourages bonding and is supportive of successful breastfeeding.
“Delayed umbilical cord clamping and skin-to-skin contact for mom and baby are our standard of care for vaginal and cesarean births,” says Sonnentag. “These practices provide the healthiest start for baby and support both successful breastfeeding and bonding.”
ACOG recommends both techniques. When clamping of the umbilical cord is delayed it can help improve blood circulation, better establish red blood cell volumes and decrease the need for a blood transfusion for some babies. Skin-to-skin contact has multiple benefits for mom and baby. By placing a newborn directly on mom’s uncovered chest, there is a greater likelihood for early breastfeeding and the pair can begin to bond. Skin-to-skin contact can also help regulate the baby’s body temperature, heart rate and breathing.
Preparing for life at home
The specialized care and help from St. Mary’s staff continues through recovery. Mom and baby will receive personalized care from staff, including help making a strong connection through additional skin- to-skin contact, learning how to breastfeed, baby’s first bath and any other needs the family has while in the hospital.
One of the most important skills a new mom learns while at St. Mary’s is how to breastfeed her baby. While some families choose to use formula, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and the World Health Organization all recommend breastfeeding as the best nutrition for babies.
“Breast milk provides perfect nutrition for babies,” says Sonnentag. “A mother’s milk provides immunities only she can give to her infant. Breastfed babies tend to have fewer allergies, fewer ear infections and a lower risk for childhood obesity.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is also shown to provide many benefits for mom including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancers. Other benefits can include an easier recovery from childbirth and the release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin can create a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows mom to relax and focus on her child. Oxytocin can promote a strong sense of love and attachment between mom and baby.
St. Mary’s staff is highly skilled in helping mom learn her baby’s hunger cues, as well as multiple ways to hold baby in a position that makes breastfeeding easier. Many of the hospital’s registered nurses are also certified lactation consultants. In addition, the hospital staffs lactation consultants every day to provide advice and support.
St. Mary’s staff understands that some women have concerns about breastfeeding and may not have a strong support system to help them be successful at breastfeeding once they leave the hospital. To help with that support, St. Mary’s offers a breastfeeding help line that is staffed daily by a dedicated lactation consultant, nurses are trained to help answer a new mom’s questions about breastfeeding and the Best Start breastfeeding support group is free to all mothers every Thursday from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm.
SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Madison prides itself on being an award-winning hospital. In 2016, the hospital’s birth center was chosen as a Women’s Choice Award winning hospital. As the only hospital in Madison to be chosen, this award shows that we offer safe, quality care for our patients and their families. With patient safety and satisfaction scores ranking higher than others in the area, it’s easy to understand why women have been choosing St. Mary’s for their baby’s delivery for more than 100 years. By carrying the Women’s Choice Award seal, SSM St. Mary’s Hospital Madison signifies its commitment to the mission to empower women make smart healthcare choices for herself and her family.
St. Mary’s nursing staff is also recognized for its excellence in patient care. The hospital’s Magnet Hospital designation means that it meets strict standards for demonstrating excellence in patient care in more than 35 areas of focus throughout the hospital. St. Mary’s has received this prestigious designation three consecutive times, placing it in the top 1% of U.S. hospitals.
This article was first published on The Madison Times.