Parents want choices — so hospitals offer amenities.

Julia and Josh Weinberg with their newborn son, Benno Alexander, in Beaumont’s Karmanos Center for Natural Childbirth

Seventy-five years ago, most American women gave birth at home without painkillers and often without the family doctor. By the 1950s, hospital childbirth became the norm. Pain was reduced by epidural anesthesia and the physician took complete control of the process. The popular practice then was to give the baby formula and to discourage breastfeeding.  Benjamin, Danny

That changed in the mid-1960s and 1970s. No longer did women want nurses to care for their infants in a nursery. Maternal infant bonding became an important part of post-natal care and breastfeeding was popular again.

Today, women want choices, whether it be natural childbirth or one with medical pain relief. Hospitals have adapted to these preferences by providing amenities that make the mother and family more comfortable — large private rooms with accommodations for the baby and father, hot tubs, massages and midwife services. Giving birth is a very personal event.

Natural childbirth has varying definitions. To some, it means traditional childbirth with no medications or epidural to numb pain. The concept is for the mother to keep control of her body. To others, it connotes any vaginal birth, with or without drugs. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 percent of women having a vaginal birth have epidurals.
Here’s a look at three hospitals with childbirth centers and some local couples who have used them.

Karmanos Center for Natural Birth at Beaumont Hospital

Julia Weinberg and husband, Josh, of Southfield planned a natural childbirth for their third child, Benno Alexander, born Nov. 25, 2014.

“Our research indicated that a natural delivery was generally healthier for mother and baby,” Julia said. “We learned about the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth during a Shabbat dinner with Steven Lefkowitz, a resident in OB-GYN at Beaumont Hospital. He told us about the spa-like environment and the nursing staff trained for natural labor techniques. After receiving the green light from my doctor, Hamid Banooni, my plan was to deliver there.

“The beauty of natural birth is that you’re more in control of your body rather than being hooked up to machines or forced to lie down the entire labor and delivery,” Julia said. “You can move around to manage your pain.

“I did end up asking for an epidural for this pregnancy when the pain became very intense,” she said. “My previous two deliveries were fast and natural. By the time I asked for relief for this delivery, it was too late; the baby was already coming. This was my third natural childbirth, just as I wanted.”

Josh, who slept on a pullout cot in Julia’s room for a few days, said, “I was pleased Julia couldn’t take an epidural. I think it’s better not to be woozy during and after delivery, and I feel better that all three children were natural childbirths.

Delivering a baby is not easy and every mother must do what works for her and her baby. In the end, all that matters is a healthy mom and baby.”

Nikki, Grayson, Jim
Nikki Budaj and her husband, Jim Chatfield, with their infant son, Grayson Edward Chatfield, at his first Shabbat dinner

The Weinbergs are active members at Young Israel of Southfield.
Nikki Budaj and Jim Chatfield of West Bloomfield also planned for their baby’s natural birth at Karmanos.

“My pregnancy was picture perfect,” Nikki said. “The baby grew according to schedule. We attended classes on childbirth and parenting. I didn’t gain too much weight, and there were no complications.

“Active labor was another story,” said the first-time mother. “I was in pain. My back and legs hurt, and I was vomiting from the pain. I tried walking, going into the tub, rocking my hips, but nothing worked. It was too much for me. At 3 a.m., I entered the hospital and had an epidural.

“At one point, the baby’s heartbeat didn’t show on the monitor and I was given an injection to stop all contractions. The heartbeat showed up again, but the baby never descended into the pelvic cavity and he wasn’t facing the right way. He was stuck.”
Her husband, Jim, said, “My role during her labor was to let her know I was there to support her and to act as the communication connection to the family.

Even with all this happening, Dr. Hamid Banooni waited another hour or so, hoping the baby could be delivered vaginally. When it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen, the decision was made to have a C-section. I held Nikki’s hand during the procedure, which we both found to be a peaceful time knowing no one was in danger.”
Grayson Edward Chatfield weighed in at 8 pounds 8 ounces on March 19.

“I tried for natural childbirth, but you can’t dictate what’s going to happen during labor and the baby’s birth,” Nikki said. “No matter how wonderful my pregnancy, not everything happens as planned. Even so, we were fortunate because modern medical techniques were available for my safety and the safety of the baby.”

fisher-1906 Beaumont
Dr. Jay Fisher

Dr. Jay Fisher, an OB-GYN at Beaumont Hospital, said, “Our primary goal is to focus on the health of the mother and baby. The nursing staff is highly trained in a variety of techniques to help the mother during labor. We don’t want a patient feeling she’s failed if she planned to deliver naturally and wasn’t able to reach her goal. Everyone is successful even when things don’t work out as planned.”

Karmanos birthing center
A Karmanos birthing suite at Beaumont

The Danialle & Peter Karmanos Jr. Birth Center at Beaumont opened Nov. 2, 2014, and was created with a $6 million gift in celebration of the Karmanos’ four sons, all born naturally. In addition to other amenities, the center also features an indoor walking path as well as a rooftop garden that opened recently.

“In addition to providing an opportunity for healthy movement and relaxation for the mothers who labor at the center, we hope the garden and its intentional design elements will have an inspiring and calming influence throughout the hospital,” said Danialle Karmanos, who said the vision for the garden was driven by her husband, Peter, a master gardener.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Birthing Center

HFWBH Birthing
A birthing suite at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Birthing Center

Aviva Elchonen of Southfield is a registered nurse in labor and delivery at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Birthing Center.

“I taught parenting classes at the center after I graduated nursing school, and I enjoy working there,” Aviva said. “My husband, Aharon, and I thought the center was the perfect place to have our baby because they provide several delivery options for women, like me, who are Orthodox Jews, including midwifery services. These women are not only well trained medically, but they also are instructed about the traditions and guidelines required to meet the needs of Orthodox families.

“In this program, it’s a midwife who admits the Orthodox woman to the center, stays with her during labor and helps her in whatever way she can,” Aviva said. “There’s a doctor on call 24/7, but it’s the midwife who holds your hand and helps the mother push the baby out.”

She gave birth to Faiga on May 20.

Registered nurse Sarah Friedman of Southfield also works at the center in labor and delivery, and also is Orthodox.

Aviva Davidson Pender Friedman
Aviva Elchonen shows off her newborn, Faiga, to Dr. Brent Davidson, certified nurse midwife Lorie Pender and registered nurse Sarah Friedman at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Birthing Center.

“I was fortunate to deliver [two of my four babies] there because the staff understands the Orthodox Jewish husband is not involved with the delivery,” she said. “Most of the time they’re not in the same room during labor and they don’t cut the cord. As a patient, I was grateful I didn’t have to explain any of this to the staff while in labor and that my husband felt no pressure to respond to questions that weren’t appropriate for us.”

According to the 2013 data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most new mothers gave birth in a hospital with the help of medical doctors. Certified nurse midwives attended close to 8 percent of all births, up less than 1 percent since the mid-1970s.

Friedman gave birth to Ayala on May 10, 2014.
Brent Davidson, M.D., service chief for women’s health services at Henry Ford West Bloomfield, describes the hospital’s birthing center as a family-centered environment that uses a collaborative approach.

“Physicians, midwives, nurses and lactation consultants work together as a team at the birthing center,” Davidson said. “Care is provided in comfortable, home-like suites during the mother’s labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum phases. Suites include specific areas for the newborn, the patient and family. Amenities include hydrotherapy tubs, special sinks with warming lights for the newborn’s first bath and sleep sofas for new fathers.

“Our highest priority is a healthy baby and healthy mother,” he said. “We want to make the birthing experience safe, comfortable and individualized, recognizing and respecting each couple’s preferences for childbirth. The birthing center also includes two suites for those requiring a C-section for their baby’s delivery.

“Interestingly, many of our patients at the Birthing Center are Orthodox Jews because our staff is trained to work with the cultural and religious needs of this population. In addition, kosher food is available. Because we offer these services, we also have a significant number of Muslim patients who deliver at the birthing center.”

DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital Harris Birthing Center

“Our daughter, Whitney Drew, was born at the Harris Birthing Center,” says Brooke Lasky-Margulies of West Bloomfield. “I chose a traditional birth and found it to be non-stressful. The nurses were very accommodating, but what really made the experience more wonderful was that the nurses talked to me in a language I could understand.”

She gave birth to Whitney Drew on May 21.

Benjamin, Danny
Dr. Danny Benjamin

Danny Benjamin, M.D., OB-GYN, said, “I haven’t seen a trend toward more natural childbirths or home births that aren’t medically supported, but I have observed that women want more choices for their baby’s delivery. Patients spend time carefully creating their birthing plans, which provide guidelines for what procedures and support they want during labor, delivery and recovery. We go over those plans with them during their last month of pregnancy, making sure our goals for keeping the baby and mother safe are met and that everyone is on the same page.”

The large private rooms at the Harris center are arranged in a circle around the nursing station so that medical staff has easy access to all patients.

“We’re a smaller suburban hospital with a culture of community that we extend to our patients by giving them our local personal touch,” Benjamin said. “For example, the women who work at the hospital use the birthing center to deliver their babies and can give patients firsthand accounts of their experience.”

The good news about having a baby today is that a wealth of information is available from physicians and on the Internet. However, it’s important to discuss the proposed tests, treatments or interventions with your doctor or midwife. This means researching the possible plans for care and treatment options and becoming a full participant in making decisions during your pregnancy and birth so you can identify which technology and birthing approach will give you and your baby the best outcome.

By: Ruthan Brodsky, Contributing Writer

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