Choices for Childbirth

Maternity services and care have evolved over the years with pregnant women now having more choices than ever when it comes to childbirth.

   “There’s been more focus on providing more options to women and their partners,” says Dr. Janet Matthews, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Hampton Roads OB/GYN Center in Norfolk, Va. “These options can range from low or no intervention birthing experiences to an experience that is more medically supported to accommodate women with more complex health issues.”

   Though some women may prefer a home birth, a water birth or using a midwife during labor and delivery, most pregnant women choose hospitals for their care.  Midwifery in a hospital setting is growing in popularity. Currently, Bon Secours offers the region’s only Midwifery Center at DePaul Medical Center in Norfolk.

   “The risk of maternal or fetal injury in child birth is the reason for hospital care,” says Dr. Jeff Morrison, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group, or TPMG, in Newport News. “The issues are rare, but the risk of injury in the rare cases is high. In those rare emergencies, being at a hospital that can provide the needed care can make the difference between a good or bad outcome.”

   Dr. Renee Morales, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Western Branch Obstetrics and Gynecology in Portsmouth, agrees.

   “You want to be in a place where you can address any medical needs immediately,” she says.

   Women also want to be as comfortable as possible during the labor, delivery and recovery process. Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton kept that in mind when reintroducing its maternity services in December.

   At the new Sentara CarePlex Hospital Family Maternity Center, pregnant women remain in one room throughout the entire process. Each room is equipped with an adjustable bassinet and baby warmer, a fridge and coffee maker and other amenities as well as plenty of space for women to labor. There’s even a corner where dads-to-be have their own access to television controls. The setup — known as the labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum model — is similar at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. Maternity amenities at Bon Secours facilities, meanwhile, include private family suites and jacuzzi tubs for relaxation.

   “It is important to also keep in mind that no two pregnancies are alike and moms and families deserve a delivery experience that is unique to them and based on their preferences,” says Jackie Jones, clinical manager of the Sentara CarePlex Maternity Center.

   Amy Peters and her husband, William, welcomed the first child to be born at the new maternity center on Dec. 31st. Third-time mom Peters, who had a girl, Clara Rose, was pleased with her experience.

   “I was impressed with the security measures in place for visitors, so I felt very safe delivering there,” Peters says. “I was impressed that I was able to hold my baby immediately after she was born. I was able to hold her the entire time they were finishing my surgery, and that was something I hadn’t experienced with my first two daughters. I really enjoyed that time. My nurses were also very attentive and made the recovery process easy.”

   Jones and her team say they strive to customize each pregnant woman’s experience from the moment she shows up to bring her new little one into the world.  

   “To help us provide this for them, each mom has the option to complete a personalized profile that helps us understand her lifestyle, comfort and experience preferences beyond the typical medical options,” Jones says. “From knowing food sensitivities, their preferred calming methods and cultural and religious beliefs, to simply knowing how they would like to be treated while in the hospital, this form enables us to understand the mom as an individual and anticipate her needs.”

   No matter how a woman decides to give birth, she should be sure to turn to her support system for guidance.

   “Finding a provider or group that offers flexibility is important,” Morrison says. “Also, developing a good rapport with the providers can make for a very enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Mothers should feel comfortable to ask questions and understand the choices they are making around their care.”

About the author

Brandy Centolanza

Brandy Centolanza is a freelance writer who has contributed regularly to The Health Journal since 2005. She covers health, travel, parenting, education and community issues for several publications in Hampton Roads and Richmond. Brandy lives in James City County with her husband, two children and two cats.