In the grand scheme of things, having a baby at the hospital is a relatively new development.  A hundred years ago, most childbirths were performed in the home. The shift to hospital births began in the 20th century with the allure of a doctor’s presence and expertise in the delivery room. But even at the hospital, best practices continue to evolve.

Ann Smith, Director of Women’s and Children’s Health at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center shares five ways the hospital delivery process has changed and what you can do to be better prepared.

Baby stays in the room

One of the biggest changes: No longer is the baby taken away from the mother for cleaning, weight checks and nursery observation.

“In the old days, parents had to wait four-to-six hours to see their child after birth,” Smith said. “We discovered however, that it is better for mom and dad and baby to all be together. The best thing we can do is to put that baby on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact.”

The first 60 minutes after delivery is referred to as the “golden hour,” an important time for mothers to bond with their child by way of direct skin-to-skin contact. This is also considered to be the first step to a successful breastfeeding experience.

After this hour is complete, all of the standard checks are then performed in the room, so mother and baby can remain together for their entire length of their stay at the hospital.

‘No men allowed’

Until the 1970s, fathers were not allowed to be in the delivery room. It was also common for mothers to be so heavily sedated that they missed the birth of their child.

“At one time, doctors and nurses would really control all aspects of the environment,” Smith said. “But today, it is all about the inclusiveness of that family and adjusting the environment to make them feel relaxed and ready for the process of birth.”

This shift in thinking happened as a result of the women’s movement in the 1960s. Essentially, women wanted to have more say in the birth process. A recent study across 22 countries confirmed that birth companions provide advocacy, practical and emotional support, and non-pharmacological pain relief such as massage and meditation for women in the labor process. 

Today, expectant mothers can have up to four birth companions in the delivery room. 

Baby friendly

Most Novant Health hospitals are recognized as a baby-friendly hospital. A baby-friendly hospital helps give mothers the information, confidence and skills they need to successfully breastfeed their babies. A hospital can be designated as a baby-friendly facility when it has successfully achieved the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding.

“Approximately 98 percent of our mothers do choose to breastfeed,” Smith said. “So, we have to have everything in place to make sure our moms are successful when they go home.”

This process starts with a special team of pink scrub wearing lactation consultants. These consultants work round-the-clock at the hospital to provide support for new mothers and their babies.

Mothers can also benefit from the Novant Health Baby Café. It’s there that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can connect with a lactation consultant and other new moms for support.

Take a class

Whether you’re a first-time mother-to-be, expectant father, or an experienced parent, education is an important part of a healthy pregnancy.

Smith encourages all parents to attend a birth class ahead of time. Novant Health offers a variety of Maternity education classes including hospital tours, childbirth preparation, breastfeeding basics and even a grandparenting 101 class. Online childbirth classes are also available.

Have a plan

Smith also recommends that parents should take the time to complete a birth preparation guide.

Birth plans grew in popularity during the 1960s and 1970s as a way for women to communicate their birth preferences with their healthcare providers. The goal, communicate preferences while preparing for the possibility of plan B. 

“Some people may want more pain management than others,” Smith said. “There are a lot of factors from medication to music and lighting that should be considered ahead of time. Having a plan is helpful, but I always tell parents to be ready and willing to adjust.”

Bonus tip for returning home

After discharge, parents are often exhausted and not quite sure what to do next.

“You spent nine months getting ready,” Smith said. “And then all of a sudden the staff and support (at the hospital) is gone. It is important to make a plan for support at home. Know that you are going to be tired and you will need to give yourself a break during this transition period.”

To help with the reentry process, new parents living in Forsyth and Davidson counties can take advantage of a free post-discharge nurse home visit courtesy of the Family Connects program. The goal, provide support for new parents at home while also connecting them with resources that can help.

For more tips about pregnancy, childbirth and children’s health, visit NovantHealth.org/healthy-headlines.

For more tips about pregnancy, childbirth and children’s health

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