Moms having a cesarean section at TAMC still have opportunity for active role in childbirth

Release Date: 03/06/2017

Nicole Thompson holds her newborn son Isaiah last February, enjoying skin-to-skin cuddling time while still in the operating room at TAMC, where he was delivered.  She and her husband Brandon were able to watch the delivery with the clear-drape option now offered at the hospital.  Dr. Joyce Hebert (left) and Dr. Rachel Swartz (right), providers at TAMC’s OB/GYN & Midwifery Services practice, delivered baby Isaiah.

Aroostook County  -  In recent years, studies have shown what mothers have probably known all along, that it is best for moms and babies to stay together after birth.  Going hand-in-hand with that understanding is the trend in recent years for more family-centered birth experiences.  However, for mothers who have their baby surgically delivered, these experiences have not typically been an option in the past. 
Nurses and providers at The Aroostook Medical Center have worked diligently over the past two years to ensure a better experience for mothers having cesarean sections.  They have taken steps to allow the immediate bonding between mother and baby as well as to help the parents truly be a part of the birthing experience, even though it is happening in the operating room.
“Interrupting, delaying or limiting the time that a mother and her baby spend together may have a harmful effect on their relationship and on breastfeeding success,” explains Pam Lilley, RN, manager of TAMC’s Women and Children’s department.  “Babies who have immediate skin-to-skin contact with their mother stay warm more easily, cry less and breathe easier. They also have more stable blood sugar levels and lower levels of stress hormones.  For mothers planning to breastfeed, their babies can get off to a better start.”
However, for generations, mothers who had their baby delivered by cesarean section didn’t have that option.  Babies were whisked away to be cleaned, weighed and tended to while their mothers were still in the operating and then recovery room.  Once the mother was back in her hospital room, she had the chance to hold her baby for the first time.  Oftentimes that was more than an hour after birth.  Thankfully, that is no longer the case.
“Unless there is a medical emergency, it is now common practice to give the baby to mom to hold immediately while still in the OR, and the mom keeps the baby with her through recovery,” says Lilley.
That makes a world of difference for mothers. 
Nicole Thompson of Presque Isle, a mother of four—all of whom were delivered by cesarean section, knows all too well what a difference this makes.
“My first two children had to go straight to the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center], so I had to wait days to touch and hold them.  When my youngest daughter was born three years ago, they weren’t doing skin-to-skin like they are now. I got to hold her for just a few seconds before she was taken away.  With my son, born last year, I was able to hold him and keep him with me in the OR and recovery,” recalls Thompson.  “I didn’t even realize how much it means until I actually got to experience those first moments.  It should be a mom’s right to hold her child before anyone else.  It is heartbreaking to lose those first moments.”  
Another change that was implemented at TAMC last year was the opportunity for clear- drapes to be used in the operating room during a delivery.  During a cesarean section birth, a plastic drape is hung above the mother's waist, obscuring her lower half in order to preserve the sterile environment necessary for a safe surgical delivery. In most cases that drape is opaque; however, TAMC now offers a clear drape option which changes all of that.
Thompson was the first patient to take advantage of this opportunity, when her son Isaiah Emmanuel was born on February 12, 2016.
“I was really excited to hear about the clear-drape option.  To really see your baby being born, that’s a moment that you never get when you have a c-section,” says Thompson.  “My husband was a little concerned initially about seeing too much, but he really didn’t see anything more than he wanted to.  What a different experience I had with our son’s birth!”
That is a sentiment echoed by Caitlin and Chris Helstrom, whose youngest son, Elliott Michael, was born just last week, on February 22.  Both Elliott and his older brother Miles were delivered by cesarean section, and both Helstroms noticed a big difference as a result of using the clear drapes.
“When they offered us the option, we were interested right away,” recalls Caitlin Helstrom. “When our son Miles was born, we had the normal blue drapes. My husband was able to stand up at the end and look over to see Miles, and it was an incredible experience for him, but not something I was able to share in.  This time around, not only did we get to see Elliott being born, which was amazing, but we got to watch while they cleaned him up and weighed him. We could clearly see what was happening and be a part of the process.”
Husband Chris agrees, “With the blue ones, it was like they did their own thing and we were alone on the other side of the drapes.  I didn’t even realize how many people were in the room until I stood up at the end. This time we were much more engaged.”
The clear drapes had an added benefit of being less claustrophobic, according to Caitlin. “The drapes are right there in front of your face. With the blue ones, it was just a wall of blue in front of you, but with the clear drapes, you see the doctor and nurses. It just makes you feel like you can breathe easier.”
According to Lilley, the clear drape does have a blue opaque side that can be raised if at any point the mom changes her mind about watching the delivery. It can also be raised if unexpected complications arise with mother or baby.
The addition of clear drapes and the change in protocols for immediate skin-to-skin contact allow families delivering their babies at TAMC to have a more active role in childbirth, even when that birth comes via surgery.
“Childbirth is such an incredible experience not just for the mother, but for the whole family, so it is really important that we have as many opportunities as possible to let mothers, fathers and other loved ones take part in this amazing journey together,” says Lilley.
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