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Giving Birth in Philadelphia

Where and how to deliver a baby in the Delaware Valley

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Nonclinical and natural support

The February ACOG statement recognized doula support as an underutilized resource in lowering the Cesarean rate. Independent pregnancy professionals who provide nonmedical support during the birth experience, doulas help women understand their delivery alternatives as well as facilitate conversations with medical staff. “We never tell them what to do but tell them what their options are,” says Jodi Green, a doula practicing at the Better Birth Network in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Doulas offer support in the setting of the mother’s choosing, whether at home, a hospital or at a freestanding birth center, where mothers with low-risk pregnancies give birth with no or minimal medical intervention under the supervision of nurse midwives.

Kathleen McCarthy, certified nurse midwife and co-owner of The Birth Center in Wilmington, DE has noted an increasing use of birth centers around the country, attributing the trend — a healthy, small-scale, rise from .25 percent of overall births to .39 percent since 2008, according to the National Center for Health Statistics — to the broader holistic movement and the power of Google.

“The younger generation are such researchers,” says McCarthy. “They look at all their options,” which leads some to choose an alternative to medical birth. Parents-to-be go to birth centers for the “low-tech, high-touch treatment” in a quiet environment accessed by “minimal people,” both in terms of staff and visitor flow, says McCarthy. Birth is treated as a “natural process, not a medical procedure.” As such, women are encouraged to move around, shower, eat and drink during labor; when it’s time for delivery, they give birth naturally in comfy rooms with double beds decked out to look like a bed-and-breakfast or in a spa-like suite with a tub dedicated to water births. Postpartum, babies are not taken to a separate nursery but stay with the mother skin-to-skin to facilitate the initiation of breastfeeding.

Postpartum pampering

For women who want such comforts in a medical setting, hospitals are attempting to re-create coziness in their maternity wards. Most hospitals have moved toward private rather than shared rooms, says Dr. Cohen; this helps with “the golden hour” of newborn-to-mom bonding immediately after birth, prevents the spread of patient-to-patient infection and makes more generous visitation policies possible — a feature Thallner says comes directly from patient request. “New moms want a lot of people to visit whenever they want,” she notes. Holy Redeemer, which recently completed a $10 million maternity center expansion, even offers overnight accommodations for guests in its hotel-like recovery rooms.

“Patients really want to be pampered,” continues Thallner. Post-delivery massage and mani-pedi services are available for an additional fee, and in-room aromatherapy options are coming soon. Additional perks at area hospitals include family photo shoots and on-site infant car seat checks. Important postpartum depression screening and support are also widely available.

Across the area, maternity care providers are seeing women ask questions and make more informed choices about everything from nutrition to health care costs. Says Green, “Women are invested in being active participants in their own care.”

Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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