Helping New Parents Navigate Life With Baby
Mothers and babies—along with all of our patients—deserve the very best care. That’s why Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital features a number of specialized maternity offerings, including a state-of-the-art Family Birthing Center, expert breastfeeding guidance, and a variety of classes and support groups. Together, these services help families feel prepared for baby’s arrival and support them during pregnancy, through a safe delivery and beyond.
Getting Ready for Baby with Prenatal Education Classes
The Sentara Martha Jefferson Birthing Center offers a variety of prenatal education classes to help parents prepare for their new arrival, covering topics from what to expect during childbirth to how to care for your newborn.
To keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, most prenatal classes are currently being offered in a virtual format. While you can always find the latest updates on class offerings on the hospital’s website at sentara.com, current classes include the following:
Virtual classes and tours:
•Preparation for Childbirth
•Understanding Birth (a self-paced virtual class)
•Breastfeeding classes (free)
•Basics in Baby Care (free)
•Tour for Expectant Parents (free, with virtual question-and-answer session)
•Family and Friends CPR (currently offered in small groups, with social distancing and other safety practices in place)
Help for Moms Who Need Extra Support
New moms who need some additional help can request services from the Sentara Martha Jefferson’s Maternity Case Management team (a healthcare provider also may refer patients to the program).
This kind of maternity support comes in many forms. For example, moms with certain medical conditions may need specialized support for a safe delivery. And in some cases, support may be customized for a mother who has survived sexual abuse and is scared to have prenatal care or give birth.
“In such a situation, we can customize care for the mother to minimize any further trauma and support her in the best way possible,” says Laura Salvatierra, BSN, RN, CCE, team coordinator of Maternity Education Programs.
Providing support also includes being aware of any cultural differences or religious beliefs that might affect the ways in which expecting parents approach pregnancy and childbirth, and developing plans to best match these needs, adds Salvatierra.
Members of the Maternity Case Management team—which includes obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, pharmacists and other providers—collaborate regularly to develop individual care plans for each expecting mom who needs support. The team also ensures that the Birthing Center staff is fully prepared in advance of an admission.
“Our support program is pretty phenomenal, and I don’t think this level of service is offered in most hospitals,” says Salvatierra.
Family Birthing Center
The Sentara Martha Jefferson Birthing Center has been designed with the safety and comfort of families and babies in mind. Private, oversized labor-and-delivery rooms offer plenty of space for expectant moms to move around, while also comfortably accommodating a birthing partner. Rooms also include Jacuzzi tubs with showers.
Postpartum rooms have been designed to provide a calm, healing environment. Expectant parents also enjoy convenient covered parking.
Maternity Nursing Care
The maternity providers at Sentara Martha Jefferson know how important high-quality care is to expectant parents, and our warm, welcoming maternity staff is specially trained to do everything possible to support a unique birthing experience. The Birthing Center team also strives to maintain nationally recommended nurse/patient ratios—which means every mom in active labor has a labor nurse who is focused on her individual birth experience.
“We’re incredibly proud of the maternity services we provide,” says Jennifer Wray, MSN, RN, NE-BC, manager of the Obstetrics service line. “It makes such a difference for our laboring patients to feel that consistent level of support.”
The Golden Hour
Studies show that the first hour after birth, often referred to as the “golden hour,” is an ideal time for bonding. At Sentara Martha Jefferson, many new moms spend up to two hours experiencing uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with their newborn after delivery, as long as mom and baby are both doing well.
Although this precious skin-to-skin time is a relatively new focus at many hospitals, the staff at Sentara Martha Jefferson has been encouraging the practice for 15 years. According to Wray, golden hour time has a positive impact on maternal-newborn bonding, maternal and newborn vital signs, and breastfeeding success.
Low C-Section Rates
While Sentara Martha Jefferson’s labor and delivery team supports each mother’s desire and ability to have a healthy vaginal delivery, the hospital also has a dedicated maternity surgical team to deliver babies via cesarean section, when that is the best option for the safety of both mom and baby.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital’s C-section rate of 27% currently is well below the national average of 32%, according to Wray.
Newborn Nursery and Special Care Nursery
Bonding with a baby after birth is special, and the staff at the Family Birthing Center supports 24/7 rooming in for healthy moms and babies. The center also offers a fully staffed Newborn Nursery as an option for moms who may need brief periods of rest and recovery time after delivery. In addition, the center has a state-of-the-art Special Care Nursery staff, with neonatal nurses who provide care for babies born after 34 weeks who need extra care or monitoring.
Keeping Up the Caring Tradition During the Pandemic
While the pandemic has brought some temporary changes to maternity care at the hospital—among them, mask requirements and restrictions on visitors—families still receive the same high level of care for which the maternity unit has been known historically.
“Our outcomes and patient satisfaction rates demonstrate that our Caring Tradition has not changed despite the challenges of COVID-19,” says Wray. “We’ve continued to provide our patients the safe and supported birthing experience they seek.”
Since last spring, the team has prioritized the safety of all patients, while maintaining a special birth experience for every family. As part of this commitment, Sentara Martha Jefferson has created a separate area to care for COVID-positive mothers and their babies. The hospital also has supported mothers who choose to go home early, in cases where it’s safe for them to do so.
The Transition Home
Returning home with a new baby can be both wonderful and challenging. To help support parents during this time, the Sentara Martha Jefferson team follows up with a phone call to every mom who leaves the hospital.
“We want to make sure the mother is transitioning well to being home and has the support she needs,” explains Salvatierra. “We can talk about any issues she’s having and check on her physical and emotional recovery, as well as breastfeeding health.”
During these calls, the team also inquires about the baby’s health, ensures that follow-up appointments are scheduled, and connects moms with any needed community resources, such as postpartum doulas and psychiatric help.
Support Groups for Parents
Parenthood is special, but it certainly can be challenging as well. For parents navigating these complexities, talking to others who understand can be helpful. With this in mind, the Sentara Martha Jefferson Family Birthing Center offers several parenting support groups (all currently meeting online only):
•Welcome to Motherhood: This group offers a place for moms to meet new friends and share the joys and struggles of motherhood. It also includes a private Facebook group.
•Out of the Blues—a Postpartum Support Group: Intended for moms experiencing unexpected sadness, stress or worry after the birth of their babies, this group is run by other moms who have experienced postpartum depression or anxiety.
•Parenting Support for Survival: This group offers practical advice for all parents, including tips for eating, sleeping and returning to work. Local experts participate in each session.
•Empty Arms, Full Hearts: This group offers bereavement support for anyone who has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of a baby.
•Sentara Martha Jefferson Motherhood Facebook page: This private page serves as a gathering place for all of our mothers.
Sentara Martha Jefferson’s breastfeeding rates are still above the national average, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. International board-certified lactation consultants offer support seven days a week, and each family receives at least one visit from a lactation consultant while in the hospital.
“At Sentara Martha Jefferson, we’re passionate about providing quality care to our moms, so they can feel empowered to take care of their baby,” says lactation consultant Allyson Michaels, MSN, RN, IBCLC. “Our breastfeeding program has been in place for more than 25 years.”
Lactation consultants also offer in-person or telehealth visits for mothers who need extra support after they’ve left the hospital.
In addition, lactation consultants:
•Support the unique needs of moms whose babies are in the Special Care Nursery
•Work with mothers whose babies stay in the hospital after the mother is discharged
•Help breastfeeding moms who are admitted to other departments in the hospital
•Facilitate rental of hospital-grade pumps and assist mothers in getting pumps approved by insurance
•Refer mothers to complementary care, including support groups, chiropractors and private practices
According to Michaels, the lactation consultants and maternity nurses at Sentara Martha Jefferson love helping mothers have successful breastfeeding experiences.
“It is a real privilege to work with new families,” she says. “There’s nothing like seeing a mom smile when things go right.”
Need breastfeeding support? Call us at 434-654-8440.
Learn more or sign up for a class or support group! Visit sentaramjhmaternity.com.
Honoring Babies Born at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital
The Baby Wall at Sentara Martha Jefferson is a special way to celebrate or remember a child, while also supporting the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation’s Mother-Baby Fund.
Located in the third-floor lobby outside of the Mother-Baby Unit, the Baby Wall features three kinds of sea turtles that can be inscribed with a child’s name and birthdate. Gifts support the Mother-Baby Unit and Newborn Nursery, funding projects such as soft rocking chairs for parents and bottle warmers for premature infants.
Family or friends may purchase a turtle at any point during a child’s life. The wall honors children born at the current hospital and at our former location on Locust Avenue.
To purchase a turtle on the Baby Wall, visit mjhfoundation.org/donate-babywall or call Kimberly Skelly, Executive Director of the MJH Foundation at 434-654-8258. Featured above are Skelly's sons ages 9 and 12, who were born at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and have turtles of their own.