Caring for babies and educating families

April 15, 2019

By Carrie Vittitoe

Childbirth practices have changed dramatically over the past 100 years. Long gone are the days when women used ether or twilight sleep to manage their labor pain or had their healthy babies whisked away after delivery. Using evidence-based research and the skills of compassionate staff, Clark Memorial is showing expectant mothers its array of birth options on the sunny side of the Ohio River.

The seven-bed Family Birth Place provides two birthing tubs and the option of using nitrous oxide to help women cope with pain during labor. Clark Memorial is affiliated with both obstetricians and certified nurse midwives for labor and delivery care so that expectant moms can select a provider who will guide them toward the birth experience they hope to have.

For newborns who are premature or experience birth complications, Clark Memorial provides a Level II NICU. “A lot of people are not aware that we have a NICU here,” says Judy Stewart, director of women’s services at Clark. “[At one time] we were transferring babies to Norton Children’s Hospital that we could have easily taken care of here. We have neonatology and nurse practitioner coverage on a daily basis.” (A Level II NICU cares for babies that may have feeding or thermoregulation issues, require oxygen or antibiotics, or are 35 weeks gestation and greater than 1500 grams.) If room permits, mothers with babies in the NICU are allowed to board in a postpartum unit until the baby is released.

Judy and her staff are striving to make Clark Memorial as baby-friendly as possible. One way of doing this is by delaying newborn bathing by six or more hours following birth, which Judy says has been shown to improve breastfeeding rates and babies’ blood glucose levels. Clark Memorial has instituted a hypoglycemic protocol that utilizes glucose gel for babies with blood sugar levels of less than 40. “Within 30 minutes to an hour, the glucose comes up to a normal level, which keeps that baby from being separated from Mom in the NICU and being put on IV fluids,” Judy says.

The hospital is working to increase its breastfeeding rates and exploring the use of donor breast milk. Judy says Clark does have a milk bank where moms can donate milk, and the hospital contracts with the Indiana Milk Bank to pasteurize and send it out. “What we want to do is have a turnaround where we can have donor milk here so instead of giving formula, we could give donor milk,” Judy says.

Part of Clark Memorial’s mission is to educate the public on a variety of birth and infant care topics. The hospital regularly offers childbirth, sibling, and breastfeeding classes to help parents-to-be make informed decisions. It is also working to reduce the incidence of sudden unexplained infant death. “Clark County leads the state in SUID,” Judy says, “and a lot of this has to do with education.” The hospital provides sleep sacks to all its newborns, as well to pediatrician offices and to mothers in substance treatment centers. “The best way to keep babies safe is to keep them alone on their backs in a crib,” Judy says.

As part of its initiative to both educate the public and celebrate the exceptional care it provides mothers and babies, Clark Memorial is hosting a Baby Shower for expectant mothers on April 18, 2019 from 6-8 pm in the main lobby. Booths will be staffed by a variety of vendors, including pediatricians and breastfeeding consultants. Cake and refreshments will be served. Call 800.424.DOCS to RSVP.