When it comes to childbirth, there’s no question that today’s hospital delivery is worlds removed from that of the previous generations. Long past are the days of dad nervously pacing the waiting room during mom’s labor, with baby spending their first several days in the nursery.
As an OB/GYN, I’ve witnessed a complete 180 in the mindsets of both patients and providers regarding expectations in childbirth. In fact, practices once considered “alternative” – from water births to rooming in – are now becoming standard of care, merging ideals from both the natural and traditional medical communities. Hospitals are now embracing the long-overdue transition to a family-centered model of care in the delivery room, to emphasize bonding and emotional support as well as medical outcomes.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, whether vaginal or c-section, are undeniable. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, keeping baby belly-down on mom’s chest gives them the best start for breastfeeding, especially for babies delivered via c-section. Staying skin-to-skin over the first few weeks also helps parents better learn to understand baby’s signals and keeps him warmer and calmer, which helps maintain healthier blood sugar levels.
The Golden Hour
Ideally, mom and baby should have at least 60 minutes of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time immediately following birth. Unfortunately that notion doesn’t always sit well with extended family, which often are chomping at the bit to meet baby and congratulate mom. I strongly encourage mom and dad to spend alone time with baby during that “golden hour”, and set expectations for extended family early to avoid hurt feelings. What may seem like an insensitive move to some will ultimately increase a child’s likelihood of breastfeeding weeks and even months down the road.
Delayed Cord Clamping
Delayed cord clamping is another practice gaining popularity in American delivery rooms. In the past, the umbilical cord would be cut immediately following birth. Now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend waiting at least 30–60 seconds after birth, while many practitioners and midwives wait three to five minutes or until blood stops pumping through the cord. This allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby, increasing baby’s blood volume (and iron storage) by up to a third. The practice is believed to be especially beneficial for preterm infants.
Once considered an exception in US hospitals, the practice of rooming-in is becoming standard care in most OB units, with some hospitals eliminating nurseries altogether. As an OB/GYN I strongly encourage rooming-in when feasible for both mom and baby as the practice has been shown to increase maternal bonding as well as breastfeeding outcomes.
Because breastfeeding gives babies the best start, OB patients should have access to a lactation consultant seven days a week. Obstetricians are stronger advocates of breastfeeding than ever before, and can help connect patients to lactation consultants and classes before and after delivery. Breastfeeding is different for every mother and every birth, so I encourage moms to ask lots of questions and seek help when needed.
All in the Family
Dads are the primary support person for 99 percent of births, and I enjoy seeing fathers who become as vested in the birthing process as the mom, reading books and devouring research about the process. From sleeping in the room to providing skin-to-skin contact, fathers are now encouraged to be as involved as possible. Likewise, this is an incredible time for siblings who often have spent months preparing for their new role as big brother or sister. Offered at most birthing centers, sibling classes are a fun, memorable way to educate and prepare children for the arrival of a new baby.
About Dr. Rupe
Heather Rupe, D.O., is an board-certified OB/GYN at Women’s Group of Franklin. She has been delivering babies at Williamson Medical Center for more than a decade. Dr. Rupe can be reached at (615) 778-0010.Share this Article