Setting the tone for your baby’s healthy arrival can be easier when you have lots of options.
When it comes to deciding where to deliver a baby, it’s nice to know that there’s an award-winning option right here in Woodbury. The Birthplace at M Health Fairview Woodwinds Hospital has been racking up the recognition for years now and was named one of America’s Best Maternity Hospitals in 2023 by Newsweek. It’s held a 4-ribbon rating for two years in a row.
Laura France, MD, vice president of medical practice in the women’s and children’s service line at Fairview, says the sustained success of the Birthplace at Woodwinds is due to providers acknowledging that it’s important to learn new skills in order to best serve their patients. She says, “Sometimes, things change, and the way we always did things isn’t always the best way. Being accepting and receptive to new ways of doing things and being willing to give a good try is really important to us.”
Acknowledging that all births are unique, the Birthplace at Woodwinds offers a wide range of care options for people who are expecting a baby. It’s had midwives since the hospital opened in 2000. Additionally, doula support is accommodated for anyone who wants to have a doula as part of their labor and delivery process, and there’s a volunteer program with doulas on call for patients, who are interested, or those who are experiencing financial barriers but would still like that type of care. Further options include nitrous oxide and water birth. Having these types of options available creates an atmosphere in which patients have the opportunity to choose how to make their birth experience unique and comfortable.
France emphasizes that providers are looking at the patient as the center of the experience and promoting what’s best for the patients. Two system-wide, long-term goals were established last April to continue identifying ways to promote the utmost care and overall health of birthing patients and families. They want to reduce the rate of cesarean section (C-section) births and reduce the number of readmissions for people who have hypertension. France says, “We want to look at the national data and improve local care.”
Why is a natural birth (medicated or unmedicated) preferable to C-section birth from a provider’s perspective? For one thing, France says that the first delivery can set the tone for someone’s reproductive life. “If we have a C-section with the first child, it’s much more likely that we will have a C-section as we have more children,” which she says can lead to a series of potential risks. “If we can avoid that first C-section, we reduce all those risks and decrease recovery time.” Additionally, she says, “It’s better for babies. They like vaginal birth, too.” C-sections cannot and should not be avoided at all costs, but turning to alternatives in the labor process and educating patients and providers with the right information can lead to avoiding unnecessary surgical intervention.
Education has been at the forefront of accomplishing these goals, with all providers receiving new and updated information on how to provide the best care. On the goal of reducing C-sections, France emphasizes that nurses are educated in more options of how to support people in labor. They are equipped to suggest different positions, offer movement and alternative forms of pain relief. Additionally, they’ve begun using physical models of the pelvis with a doll of the fetus inside to demonstrate what happens during labor and delivery. France says, “Several nurses said that showing that model created an aha moment in the patient, making them more receptive.”
Birthing Plans and Educational Opportunities
France acknowledges that, especially for someone having their first child, it can be hard to know what to ask for or how to develop a plan that will result in the desired labor and delivery process. One of the patient education pieces recently developed is a process of defining labor and birth wishes for patients to go through with their obstetrician around the time that they are 32 to 36 weeks into pregnancy. (Patients can also complete this process with a midwife, family practitioner or other provider.) Considerations include questions about analgesics, what positions sound comfortable and appealing, and whether a doula will be present. Involving the nurses throughout the process is important, too, as they should know the answers to the following questions: What mood, lighting or snacks should be available? Who will be in the room during delivery? France says, “That communication piece, especially with a provider beforehand, is a nice resource for people.”
Setting expectations and creating educational opportunities for both patients and providers is essential. Patients are receiving more materials on prenatal care and preparing for what labor can be like, plus they are offered support throughout the whole process. Providers spent the months preceding the rollout of these efforts learning new skills through simulations and drills, getting comfortable with how to achieve these goals. It will take at least one or two years to start seeing the fruits of this labor. France says they’re just now starting to see some data come in, but that the efforts of the staff at the Birthplace at Woodwinds are strong.
Support at Every Stage
France adds that having a united team of professionals for each stage of pregnancy—including childbirth and postpartum—adds to the overall strength of the services at the Birthplace at Woodwinds. The lactation program includes lactation consultants and nurses trained in lactation care and breastfeeding for both parent and baby. The option for water birth, which includes midwives trained in how to facilitate a successful water birth, is appreciated among patients. Should complications arise, there is a neonatal advanced care provider available, and staff utilize a program called teleNICU, which allows the providers at the Birthplace at Woodwinds to connect with a neonatologist at all times. Moreover, pediatrics colleagues work with families after delivery as well, setting families up for long-term wellness after birth.
At the Birthplace at Woodwinds, emerging services and new goals are only as valuable as the people who are behind them, implementing them with care for the patient and belief in the work. As France says, providers have one unified goal that leads the way for everything else they do: “Promote what’s best for our patients.”
The Birthplace at M Health Fairview Woodwinds Hospital
1925 Woodwinds Drive; 651.232.0022