Water birth? Check. Internet? Check. Jacuzzi? Check.

So, you’ve found out that you’re having a baby. Congratulations! Unfortunately, the easy part is over. Now you have to make some serious choices, and one of the most obvious of the bunch is where you are going to give birth.

There are many considerations to be made when you choose to give birth in a hospital: Are you looking at water birth? Have you had a previous cesarean section, and are now considering a slightly higher-risk natural birth (called a vaginal birth after caesarean section, or VBAC in the industry)? Are you interested in LDRP (Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Post-Partum care rooms, which means that you don’t have to change rooms while staying at the hospital)? Have you given any thought to what will happen if your baby gets seriously ill immediately after birth, in which case the hospital may have to relocate you?

The following guide is designed to point out what’s available at the different southern Maine hospitals with regards to options.

York Hospital

15 Hospital Drive, York; 363-4321 or 877-363-4321

York Hospital offers weekly classes for moms-to-be on fetal growth, nutrition, childbirth preparation and parenting. The hospital is one of the few in southern Maine that features water birthing, which partially submerges the mother in a bath while she is giving birth. This is a process that has been praised for its stress-easing components, but also has its detractors due to the potential for infection and/or the newborn inhaling the water.

“We are an LDRP (Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Post-Partum care), single-room maternity care facility,” said Margaret Clifford, York Hospital’s leader for Family Care. “We are very baby friendly – our care is provided by a mix of midwives, family practitioners and obstetricians.”

In the event that a newborn became seriously ill, York does not generally treat in-house, and would likely transfer to Maine Medical Center. This is common practice for several of southern Maine’s smaller hospitals.

Goodall Hospital

25 June St., Sanford, 324-4310

Based in Sanford and founded in 1928, Goodall’s system treats approximately 144,000 patients a year. For expectant mothers, the hospital offers classes, fetal monitoring, and rooms that feature TV, DVD and wireless Internet access. The hospital also features the Hugs Infant Protection system to ensure the safety of newborns staying at the Goodall.

“We don’t offer VBACs or water births, but we do offer Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Post-Partum care rooms, so once you are at the hospital, you are in the same room the entire time,” said Kristen Hill, marketing manager at Goodall. “The only exception to that is if they had to perform a C-secton, in which case the mother might possibly have to be moved to another room.

“We do have a level II NICU, so we can keep infants for certain emergencies, but we also have a very close working relationship with Maine Medical Center, so we can transport there, as well.”

Southern Maine Medical Center

1 Medical Center Drive, Biddeford, 283-7000

Southern Maine Medical Center is a midsized hospital with a range of options. SMMC specializes in “couplet care,” where a single nurse treats and looks after a mother and child. Additionally, the hospital is the only facility in York County with a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which means that – in the event of complications for the infant – SMMC will generally attempt to treat the child in-house rather than transporting elsewhere. The hospital offers a wide array of educational classes, counseling, and even an infant alarm system.

“We don’t offer any water births,” said Melodie Mellette, childbirth unit secretary at SMMC. “But we do offer VBACs. We have a labor area and a separate location for post-partum recovery. If the baby gets sick, we basically try to care for them here, because we do have a very good NICU.”

Mercy Hospital

175 Fore River Parkway, Portland, 553-6363

One of two major hospitals in Portland, Mercy has the capability to treat all ranges of births, including those involving high-risk pregnancies. The Birthplace at Mercy features both certified nurse midwives, as well as obstetricians, and has two special cesarean section suites, which means that women having a C-section do not have to go to a surgical floor. Mercy offers LDRM care, VBACs, features tubs in every room, and will conduct water births.

“One of the really unique things we have here is a doctor named Brian Beck, who will perform osteopathic manipulation on post-partum moms,” said Doreen Brado, nurse manager of The Birthplace at Mercy. “I had never heard of that before starting here. After long, hard labors, many women have a lot of soreness, and he actually does some hands-on treatment to encourage relaxation.”

The hospital also features a level II NICU, so Mercy will usually endeavor to treat gravely ill infants without transporting.

“It depends on the situation,” Brado said. “We have a level II nursery, so we offer more than the rural community settings can. If it’s something fairly minor like breathing issues, or a baby antibiotic treatments under a hood, we will try to keep those babies.”

Maine Medical Center

22 Bramhall St., Portland, 662-0111

Known regionally for being the largest hospital in northern New England, Maine Medical Center starts by offering a wide array of childbirth classes to expectant moms. Doctors at MMC have consultations with women and often encourage them to plan ahead for their baby’s birthday by assembling calming music or oils to bring with them at the Family Birth Center.

Once they are in labor and at the hospital, women giving birth at MMC can soak in hot tubs or take a shower without immediate supervision thanks to telemetry monitoring that they can wear. MMC does not offer water birthing, although the hospital will perform VBACs.

“Those are a high-risk procedure, and a lot of hospitals won’t perform them,” said Karen Norton, who is a nurse for labor and delivery at MMC. “Many hospitals throughout Maine and New Hampshire will send high-risk gestational cases to us – the only time we would ever send a baby or a patient away from Maine Med was if the NICU was full, and that doesn’t happen too often.”

“In terms of what we offer, we have birthing balls, birthing stools, water injections, and we do perform epidurals, as well as offering a pain reducing medication called Nubain,” Norton continued. “Nubain can be given through an IV, and we often give that early in the labor, followed by an epidural. We do encourage natural childbirth, and we do ask women right up front what their plan is for pain management.”

Bridgton Hospital

10 Hospital Drive, Bridgton, 647-6000

Situated about 20 minutes east of Conway, N.H., Bridgton Hospital recently announced that it had been recognized as a Baby-Friendly birth facility – just one of 116 critical access hospitals nationwide to receive this award.

“We have two private birthing suites, including sleeping accommodations for the spouse or partner,” said Pamela Smith, director of development and community relations at Bridgton Hospital. “We do conduct VBACs, but we don’t do water births.

“But we are a Baby Friendly facility,” she said, “and we had to go through an extensive process to achieve that. We are one of the few critical access hospitals in the country that are Baby Friendly.”

Bridgton offers mothers-to-be a wide range of classes, including a breastfeeding support group, as well as classes for grandparents and siblings-to-be. Bridgton will also arrange to have a one-on-one between expectant parents and a special delivery nurse to discuss birthing options available at the facility.

Once mothers arrive at the hospital, they are placed in a suite, which includes a Jacuzzi bath, as well as a sofa where another expectant parent can sleep, as well as an in-room nursery. Bridgton boasts a modern security system, and also has 24-hour C-section capabilities.

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