Families Guide Southcoast’s Maternity Services

Parents can have the birthing experience they want right here in their community hospital

“Patient safety is our top priority,” emphasizes Dr. Michael A. Pepi, Southcoast’s chief of obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN). “After that, our message is about options. Parents today want to be more involved in the birth of their baby, and they each have their own birthing preferences.”

Southcoast’s three hospitals combined deliver roughly 3,500 babies annually. That adds up to a lot of parents preparing for a birthing experience. Southcoast is listening — and responding. “We’re doing everything possible to meet our patients’ expectations, so they can have the birthing experience they want right here in their own community hospital,” Dr. Pepi adds.

Center of attention

Expectations often focus on keeping the family together after delivery. In response, Southcoast’s room-in policy keeps baby beside mom rather than in a nursery, and there’s room for her partner or a support person to spend the night. In addition, all three hospitals have expanded their midwifery programs in response to more expectant parents seeking this family-centered birthing experience.

Southcoast has also added the gentle cesarean section (C-section) to its maternity services. “In the past, we had to refer families who wanted this procedure to a Boston or Providence hospital,” Dr. Pepi says.

A gentle C-section is about taking every step possible to duplicate the family-bonding experience associated with a vaginal delivery. “We place the baby immediately on the mother’s chest, with her partner standing right there,” Dr. Pepi explains. “Everything is done to keep the family together, help mom and baby bond, and initiate breastfeeding.”

Mom’s word

Southcoast is listening closely to the many mothers who want a greater voice in their birthing process.

Moms who choose to forgo an epidural can now opt for nitrous oxide. “This alternative helps lessen pain and anxiety while also letting mom control her pain relief during contractions,” Dr. Pepi says.

Responding to patient interest as well as American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines, Southcoast is carefully and safely weaving vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) into its maternity services. Currently, VBAC is performed exclusively at St. Luke’s, with a system-wide rollout planned for 2018.

VBAC is not for every woman who previously had a C-section, but it is an option for many, says Dr. G. Uma Harinarayanan, a Southcoast OB/GYN, who is known as Dr. Hari by her patients. “If a mom wants a VBAC, I consult individually with her, and we decide together if it’s a safe choice for her and her baby.” (Learn more about VBAC in a web exclusive article.)

Oh, baby!

Many of Southcoast’s maternity services stem from its commitment to helping mothers initiate and continue breastfeeding. Certified lactation consultants and nurses are available at every Southcoast maternity unit, and there are formal breastfeeding classes as well as Baby Café, where pregnant and new mothers can drop by and learn more about breastfeeding. (See The Fourth Trimester, below.)

Southcoast’s commitment to breastfeeding has earned positive patient reviews along with global acclaim. In 2011, Tobey Hospital received Baby-Friendly certification, an international honor awarded to hospitals and birthing centers that offer optimal care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. In January 2017, Tobey Hospital was re-designated Baby-Friendly. St. Luke’s is on track for certification next summer and Charlton Memorial in the fall.

“This recognition, along with everything we do for our families, proves our dedication to helping mom, baby and family get off to the healthiest start possible — right here at home,” Dr. Pepi says.

Learn more about Southcoast’s maternity services.

The Fourth Trimester

Traditionally, the OB/GYN sees a patient for prenatal care, delivers the baby, sees the mom six weeks postpartum, and that’s it,” says Dr. G. Uma Harinarayanan, a Southcoast OB/GYN, who is known as Dr. Hari by her patients. “At Southcoast, we support women during what some call the fourth trimester — the first three months after birth. That’s an important time for the entire family, and it’s why I initiated the first Southcoast Baby Café in 2014.”

Today, Southcoast offers Baby Cafés, in Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Fall River. Each is a free drop-in center where pregnant women and new mothers receive one-on-one assistance from trained lactation consultants as well as support from Women, Infants and Children (WIC) peer counselors.

“We encourage partners to drop by, too,” Dr. Hari adds. “In this way, we can help build the healthy family support system that helps moms continue breastfeeding.”

For more information about Southcoast Baby Cafés, call 508-973-2208 or email babycafe@southcoast.org.