Childbirth 101: What to Expect from Labor and Delivery

Learn what to expect from the spectacular experience of labor and delivery—plus, get an inside look at Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital’s new mom and baby floor

SWEET FEET! Bendal Salley Jr. was born to Latoya and Bendal Salley in June 2019 at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital.

Written by Anna Miller

On October 4, a baby let out its first sweet cry at Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, becoming the first child born in a Berkeley County medical facility in more than 45 years. For half a century, area residents have been making the drive—suitcase packed, contractions timed, infant seat at the ready—to Dorchester or Charleston Counties for delivery day. But now, with the opening of Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, new parents can welcome their little ones to the world right in their own neighborhood.

So, what can parents expect from this new mother and baby floor? And what can any mom-to-be look forward to on delivery day? (Yes, according to Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated OB/GYN Christine Hunter, labor is an experience to be savored.) Get your cheat sheet here!

“It is our goal that you have an enjoyable experience during labor and delivery.” —Dr. Christine Hunter

New Digs for Delivery

At Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, the dedication to maternal care is evident from the moment you turn onto the main entryway, Callen Boulevard—which was named for Maude Callen, the nurse-midwife famed for her mid-20th-century work delivering babies throughout the county. Inside, the warm welcome continues on the labor and delivery floor. “It’s a lovely, relaxing space,” says Jennifer Crawford, chief nursing officer for Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital. “We chose comforting, nature-based colors—soft taupes and blues—to marry our light-filled interiors to the outdoors.”

The design team situated two C-section operating rooms and a nursery for babies needing medical attention at the heart of the floor. This afforded the family-friendly waiting room and each of the patient rooms—four for labor and delivery and 16 for postpartum care—positions around the exterior, where they benefit from floor-to-ceiling windows. “There’s tons of research to show that natural light promotes healing and wellness,” explains Crawford.

Patient comfort was prioritized at every turn, with labor and delivery rooms outfitted with private bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and peanut therapy balls. (The latter is an oblong, peanut-shaped exercise ball that can be tucked between a laboring woman’s legs, even with an epidural; studies show that use of one can help reduce labor times.) When it’s time to push, the latest in medical equipment comes out of hiding—think specialized lights tucked discreetly into the ceiling.

Within an hour or so of their infant’s arrival, families are moved into postpartum rooms. “Like its sister hospitals, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital and Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital will function under the principles required to be a Baby-Friendly Hospital,” explains Dr. Hunter. (Now that doors are open, Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital will seek official Baby-Friendly designation.) Backed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global accreditation effort aimed at providing parents education about and support for breastfeeding. Baby-Friendly hospitals allow little ones to “room in” with mom. “Babies simply do best when they’re with their parents,” says Dr. Hunter.

At Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, they can be closer than ever, thanks to clear Halo bassinets that swivel 360 degrees, gliding right over mom’s hospital bed or the cozy sleeper chair. The bassinet’s side rail goes down with a gentle press so that recovering patients can comfortably reach in to scoop up their new bundle. All procedures—including first baths—are done right in the room, and a lactation consultant visits each mother, ready with advice for newborn feeding.

Clear-sided Halo bassinets allow easy access to your in-rooming newborn.

Happy Birth Day

The one predictable thing about delivery day is that it’s unpredictable. Even so, understanding key terms and different paths labor may take can be helpful.

Most parents plan for what’s called a “spontaneous” vaginal delivery: strong contractions move the baby through the birth canal, with the mother ultimately helping push her child into the world. These patients will head for the hospital once they think they’re in labor. After an exam confirms that the time has come, they’ll be settled into a labor and delivery room. There, the obstetrician or nurse may begin gathering information about how she hopes her experience will go. “You can’t possibly plan everything, but I always encourage my patients to educate themselves—just attend a class or two—and have a ‘birth outline’ in mind,” says Dr. Hunter.

For example, most moms put some thought into pain relief. Do you aim to rely solely on non-medicinal methods, such as breathing techniques and movements like walking and massage, or do you plan to utilize medications? “IV pain medications can be offered during early labor,” notes Dr. Hunter. When active labor begins—meaning contractions become stronger and closer together—an epidural may be given via a catheter placed in the lower back. This form of regional anesthesia decreases sensation in the lower half of the body; the woman won’t be able to move from the bed after receiving it.

When pondering that “birth outline,” it’s also helpful to understand interventions that are called on for a small number of vaginal births. Most common among them is the vacuum-assisted delivery, in which a doctor applies a cup with a vacuum pump to the baby’s head to help guide her out of the birth canal. “It may become necessary to ask for a woman’s consent to use this, like if the baby is very close to being born and his heart rate begins to drop, or if mom becomes too exhausted to keep pushing,” Dr. Hunter says.

In most cases though, newborns arrive with no medical intervention. For first-time moms, labor usually takes 12 to 24 hours; women who have given birth previously may be in active labor for six to eight hours.

Thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the spacious postpartum suite are filled with natural light.

In certain situations, a spontaneous vaginal delivery is not in the best interest of the mother or child. “An induction can be necessary for patients with conditions like diabetes or chronic hypertension, or if baby is not growing well,” explains Dr. Hunter. “Most OB/GYNs will also want to induce a patient if they have not gone into labor by 41 weeks.” A mom may be admitted to the hospital for cervical ripening (to soften and thin the cervix), and/or administered a medication such as Pitocin, a version of the natural hormone oxytocin, which induces contractions.

And when a vaginal delivery simply isn’t the safest option—perhaps because of a medical condition experienced by mom, because the baby’s bottom or feet are facing down or because labor isn’t progressing as it should—a C-section may be performed. Anesthesia is used to numb the lower part of the woman’s body so that she remains awake, yet can’t feel a thing as surgical incisions are made in the abdomen and uterus.

“These patients generally need to recover in the hospital for two or three days, compared to one or two days for a vaginal delivery,” says Dr. Hunter. “But don’t worry—a C-section isn’t going to stop you from seeing your baby right away, doing skin-to-skin or breastfeeding.” When appropriate and with provider consent, Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital will offer the option of choosing a “gentle C-section,” during which mom can see her baby at the time of birth through a clear drape and then do skin-to-skin with her new baby in the operating room.

Ultimately, Dr. Hunter urges, parents should aim to revel in the incomparable event of childbirth. “It is our goal that you have an enjoyable experience during labor and delivery,” she says. “And remember that you’re in the hands of trained professionals who have your best interests at heart.”

Ladson resident Latoya Salley gave birth to her happy, healthy son, Bendal, on June 23, 2019, at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital. “At the end of the day, when you see your precious baby, it’s more than worth it,” she says of labor and delivery. “It’s a blessing.” Though she had a great experience at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, Salley says that, had it been open, she would have loved to have given birth at Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital, now located just minutes from her home.

CLASS NOTES

Roper St. Francis Healthcare offers an array of classes for expecting parents. Check out some of the offerings below (note that this is an abbreviated round up!), then visit rsfh.com/childbirth for a complete list of classes, times and locations, along with additional educational offerings like e-books and virtual tours.

Breastfeeding Basics
Roper St. Francis Berkeley Hospital – October 12, November 2, December 14 (9-11 a.m.) & October 10, November 14, December 12 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) 
Gather information on the benefits of breastfeeding, different techniques and positions and community and professional resources available in the area; free for two adults.

Infant CPR
Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital – October 22, November 12 & 19, December 10 (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
New parents, grandparents and siblings alike can learn CPR skills as well as how to respond if an infant chokes on food or another object; $25 per two attendees.

Baby Boot Camp
Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital – November 14 & December 12 (6:30-8:30 p.m.)
Learn about infant safety and get tips on bathing and diapering; $25 per two adults.

Childbirth Preparation
Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital – October 12, November 9, December 14 (9 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Study up on techniques for managing labor and tour the hospital where you’ll deliver; $50 per two adults.

Grandbaby! A refresher for Grandparents
Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital – November 2 & December 14 (9-11 a.m.)
Learn about recent changes in childbirth and early infant care, including baby care and feeding, infant safety and how you can support the new parents.

 

Photographs by (Latoya & Bendal) Mira Adwell; (Dr. Hunter) Mary Martin Harper & (family in hospital, 3) Scott Henderson

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