News 'Incredible,' 'Respectful' Experience at Hospital for Mother Using Midwife

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AUSTIN, Texas - (Feb. 20, 2014) - Genevieve Piñon, born 7 pounds, 6 ounces, was Seton Medical Center Austin's first baby girl born in 2014.

While her mother Bernadette says her labor and delivery experience at SMCA was "seamless," delivering in a hospital was not part of her plan.

However, when a blood and urine analysis indicated possible pregnancy complications, Bernadette's nurse midwife at the Austin Area Birthing Center ("Austin ABC") recommended she be induced in the hospital.

Bernadette had her first child at the birthing center, so she was disappointed when she heard her midwife's guidance.

"But the hospital was incredible," Bernadette said. "They let me move freely in the room, I had a birthing ball, I was in the shower. Everyone at the hospital was very respectful."

By "respectful," she was referring to her choice for low intervention childbirth, meaning a delivery without pain medication and overseen by a nurse midwife.

This latter accommodation was not an option at a Seton Austin until recently. In the past, patients like Bernadette had all of their care transferred to the faculty physician.

Seton recognized this needed to change.

Under a new collaboration between SMCA and the Austin ABC, four nurse midwives have been granted privileges to continue overseeing their patients' labor in collaboration with the UT Southwestern physician staff.

This development recently led to news stories by several media outlets, including KXAN-TV and radio stations KUT AND KLBJ.

Meeting the Needs of Community Women

"We haven't offered an alternative birthing option for quite some time," said Dr. John Gianopoulos, Seton Healthcare Family president and chief operating officer of Perinatal Programs and Services who spearheaded the alliance. "For Seton, this is a big deal."

The number of women pursuing midwifery-attended birth is growing. A recent Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health study reported that midwife-attended deliveries in the U.S. more than doubled between 1989 (3.3 percent of all births) and 2009 (8.1 percent). Excluding cesarean deliveries, which midwives do not oversee, this rate jumps to 12.1 percent.

"We saw a significant population of women who were going elsewhere," Seton Austin Perinatal Director Trina Jellison said, "so offering midwives' privileges is a way to help accommodate these women's needs."

Continuity of Care is a Win-Win

The partnership didn't happen overnight. Seton conducted an extensive review of Austin ABC's policies, procedures and data to ensure they met Seton's high bar of perinatal safety and quality standards.

"They are the only accredited birthing center in the Austin area. They worked well with our attending physicians. They had great outcomes and tight protocols," Trina said.

An alliance is a way to maintain the continuum of care. Austin ABC patients have developed relationships with their midwives and the partnership allows them to extend that relationship when a hospital delivery is required - a significant patient care satisfier.

"It's the best of both worlds," Trina said.

Austin ABC transfers about 15 percent of its patients to the hospital and have long awaited a hospital collaboration.

"We can offer better continuity of care and with a hospital that has a great reputation," said Joan Doglio-Smith, Austin ABC certified nurse midwife. "It's a natural fit."

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Bernadette couldn't agree more.

"I remember birthing center moms speaking about how they had to go to the hospital and that they were very upset about the experience," she said. "But for me, everything worked smoothly. I'm very content how things happened. I was able to have low intervention and the extra care. It was meant to be."

Photographs courtesy of Bernadette's Piñon's sister, Ana Morris (www.anamorrisphotography.com)

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