St. Luke’s Women’s Center
Creating a Unique and Personal Birthing Experience
By Emily Avila
For some women in labor, a contraction is just that – “a contraction.” For others, it is a “surge,” evoking images of ocean waves that focus less on the pain. Helping a woman decide on the terminology she prefers to use in labor is just one of the many ways the six midwives and four obstetricians at CPMC’s St. Luke’s Women’s Center help to deliver a unique maternity and birth experience to women and their babies.
“We encourage women to wear their own clothes, to bring their favorite foods, or their own music,” says certified nurse midwife Rebecca Hess Amirault. “Some women even learn to use self-hypnosis to manage pain.”
The team members come from varied and colorful backgrounds, giving them an appreciation for diversity and each patient’s uniqueness. But they have come together under a common philosophy that focuses on low-intervention births.
“We believe a pregnancy is completely normal until it isn’t,” says certified nurse midwife Julie Vivalda, who recently had her own baby at St. Luke’s. “That is, we closely monitor the mother and the baby, and as long as things are running as planned, we let nature take its course.”
St. Luke’s Women’s Center boasts some of the lowest episiotomy and cesarean section rates in California. Additionally, both campuses have some of the highest breastfeeding rates among women when they are discharged to go home.
The sense of community also attracted the team members here. Certified nurse midwife Deena Mallareddy runs the Centering Pregnancy program there. Centering Pregnancy is an innovative group prenatal care program offering a health assessment, education and support. Led by a specially trained, certified nurse midwife, a group of eight to 12 women and their partners share their experience and discuss nutrition, fetal development, breastfeeding, parenting, pain management and postpartum adjustment.
“We believe pregnancy is a natural part of life, even if it is transformational. We give women the tools to move through that stage of life,” says Mallareddy, who lives in Bernal Heights.“This is not just my job, it’s my community. I love running into my patients at the grocery store or the park.”
The Importance of Teamwork
Despite the different training of midwives and physicians, the team is united in accommodating women’s personal choices, assuming no medical indications to the contrary. Among the tools and techniques available are birthing balls and stools, breathing exercises, wireless monitoring, hydrotherapy and visualization. The team also encourages the support of family members and doulas. If all else fails, more aggressive pain relief is available.
On the rare occasion that unexpected challenges arise and advanced interventions are required, neonatologists and critical care teams are available at both CPMC’s California and St. Luke’s Campuses.
“CPMC is committed to the highest level of care for our moms and babies,” says Jessica Eads, director of Women’s and Children’s Services at CPMC. “Regardless of which campus a family chooses, they will enjoy the highest standard of care and service.”
Pediatric hospitalist Karen Makely, M.D. believes that information is critical in ensuring the health of a family. “We endeavor to empower families to make the right decisions for themselves and their children,” she says. It’s also the intimacy of the hospital that draws her here. “We have all the tools and technologies of 21st-century medical care in the middle of a large metropolitan city, but we feel like a cozy community hospital.”
St. Luke’s, like the California Campus, has a team of pediatricians who staff the hospital 24 hours a day. They attend nearly half of all deliveries to provide immediate care for the newborns. “Our commitment to high quality and safety drive everything,” says Dr. Makely. “Our approach is personalized; what is right for one patient might not be right for the next. We take the time and interest in making your birth experience unique for you.”
For appointments at St. Luke’s Women’s Center please call 415-641-6996.
Improving Care for Moms and New Babies
In 2010, CPMC managed the births of more than half of San Francisco’s babies. Consistent with our commitment to being one of the best places in the Bay Area to have a child, this year we are enhancing the comfort of moms and babies even more with new, state-of-the-art birthing beds and infant warmers.
Acquiring ergonomically-designed birthing beds will make the labor and delivery experience more comfortable. Plus, the flexibility of the beds allows for exceptional safety, especially in emergency situations. In addition, new infant warmers feature a built-in scale that allows fragile babies to be weighed without moving them, and will automatically monitor and regulate their body temperature.
To help ensure these tiny patients and their mothers continue receiving the best care possible, please consider making a gift on their behalf by contacting CPMC Foundation at 415-600-4400 or by visiting the CPMC Foundation website.