here is a sea change under way in how women give birth in the United States.
More and more women are choosing to have their babies naturally without
Understanding this, Barnabas Health has introduced a new birthing suite
at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, a hospital where more than 5,500 women
choose to have their babies each year.
The suite, which was opened in January, will accommodate the growing number
of women in the area who wish to have a natural childbirth experience.
It has been made larger to allow women to walk around while in labor—
and that’s also facilitated by the use of mobile monitors. There
is an immersion tub for women in labor, which can help relieve their pain
and help them relax. Nurses specially trained in natural childbirth will
be on hand. A refrigerator can be stocked with favorite foods and drinks
for the mom-to-be’s birthing partner, doula or whomever is invited
to join in.
“And this birthing suite is offset from the main labor and delivery
unit, so it’s quieter,” says Michelle A. Aristizabal, M.D.,
an obstetrician/gynecologist who is very involved in alternative births.
“Women can have the best of both worlds—giving birth at a major
hospital... but in a comfortable, homelike environment.”
—Michelle Aristizabal, M.D.
“We have always supported natural birthing options, and this makes
it more formal,” says Richard Miller, M.D., chair of the
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. “This is one more way to meet the needs and desires of patients
looking for a natural birth setting.”
Michelle A. Aristizabal, M.D.
Over the past couple of decades, for a variety of reasons, the national
rate of deliveries by C-section has risen, though it registered a slight
decline nationally from 32.9 percent in 2009 to 32.2 percent in 2014.
In our state in recent years a roughly 40 percent C-section rate has prevailed,
according to Dr. Aristizabal.
“Everybody is working on ways to change that,” she says, “because
we should not be delivering almost half of all babies by C-section.”
Home births are increasingly popular, but physicians still believe the
hospital is the safest place to have a baby. The new birthing suite, says
the doctor, creates a “middle ground,” where women can labor
in an environment more like the home, but with advanced medical help at
the ready just in case complications arise.
“There has been bad press about hospitals being a cold place to give
birth, but building this type of space shows that is not the case here,”
says Dr. Aristizabal. “Women can have the best of both worlds—giving
birth at a major hospital with all its resources, but in a comfortable,
Richard Miller, M.D.
For many women, the immersion tub is a welcome option for pain relief.
“Hydrotherapy is a nice alternative to an epidural, because submersion
therapy takes the weight of the baby off the pelvis,” the doctor
says. “That is what women complain of most, even more than the contractions,
which they can work through.” If the tub is not appealing, large
showers help with muscle relaxation, she says. Other therapies, including
aromatherapy, acupressure and hypnosis, are also available. And a woman
can give birth in any position she feels most comfortable in.
Though not necessarily mainstream yet, natural childbirth is increasingly
being accepted by the medical establishment. “It’s not true
that only midwives use the natural approach,” Dr. Aristizabal says.
“My practice and others at Saint Barnabas actively work with patients
in this model.”
And now she and her colleagues have an optimal setting in which to assist
women who make this choice. Dr. Miller explains: “The new birthing
suite shows our commitment to serving our patients’ needs.”
If you're considering natural childbirth...
Women have been having babies “naturally” for millennia, but
in the last several decades modern medicine has taken over. That change
has improved safety, but in some women’s view it has also made the
experience more clinical than it needs to be. If you wish to give birth
without unnecessary intervention, you need to prepare accordingly, says
the advocacy group
Consider these tips:
- Choose your health care provider carefully, asking questions and changing
to another care provider if necessary.
- Choose your birth place wisely, understanding that some hospitals and birth
centers will provide options that make a natural birth a more reachable goal.
- Learn comfort measures and coping techniques that will help you handle
the stress of labor. Examples include massage, hypnotherapy and a warmwater bath.
- Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goal of a natural birth.
- Some groups recommend that you agree in advance with your birthing partner
on a specific code word, just in case. Say that word, and it means you’ve
changed your mind about the natural approach and want immediate pain relief.
To find out more about maternity services available at Saint Barnabas Medical
Center, call 973.322.5360 or
visit our website.