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Articles / 2013

Mothers push for birthing rule changes that speed newborn contact after C-sections

Ventura County Star
By Hannah Guzik

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg

Heather McGuire smiles at one of two ultrasound display screens showing her unborn son.

When Heather McGuire gave birth to her daughter via cesarean section at Ventura's Community Memorial Hospital in 2011, she didn't get to hold the infant until two hours later.

That felt like an eon to the Ventura podiatrist, and she doesn't want it to happen again — to herself or any other new moms — if medically possible, she said.

"A couple of hours does seem like an eternity to you when you're waiting to see a kid you've carried around in your stomach for nine months," McGuire said. "I had to go to another place in the hospital for recovery, and it took two hours for me to physically see, touch and connect with my baby."

McGuire, who is now pregnant with her second child and scheduled to have another C-section in March, has been working with hospital officials to allow for "gentle cesareans," or those in which the mother and baby aren't immediately separated after birth except in cases of medical emergency.

Hospital officials decided last month to amend protocols so that within the next 30 days, most routine C-sections will be "gentle" when medically safe for both the mother and baby.

"Within a minute of delivery, the baby will be skin to skin on mom's chest," said Megan Meeker, the hospital's director of maternal and children's health services. "The studies have shown that this has benefits for both mom and baby."

Research shows that babies who are held in a "kangaroo care" position on their mothers immediately after birth have better temperature regulation, more stable blood sugar levels, cry less and have increased rates of breast-feeding, Meeker said. Mothers see lower rates of postpartum depression and are better attached to their babies, she said.

Citing this research, the hospital changed its policies to allow for "kangaroo care" in vaginal births in 2008.

But the protocols hadn't been changed for C-sections, which account for about a third of all births at the hospital, roughly the same as the national average, according to Meeker.

Protocols for "gentle cesareans" are in place at some hospitals in Los Angeles, as well as other cities nationwide, mainly in the West Coast and Northeast, McGuire said.

The Ventura hospital will have a nurse in the operating room who can help the mother hold her newborn, because sometimes the anesthesia from the surgery affects the woman's upper body.

Mothers will be able to hold their infants for about 45 minutes while doctors stitch up their abdomens. Then the baby's father will hold the baby for a few minutes while the mother is transferred to a recovery room. Once there, she will most likely be able to hold her baby again, Meeker said.

The details of the new protocols are still being worked out, but often gentle cesareans also include doctors bringing the babies out more slowly to allow fluid to better drain from the lungs, softer lighting in the operating room and music of the mother's choice, McGuire said.

Most emergency C-sections, as well as those when the mother's or baby's health is compromised, will continue to follow the standard protocols, Meeker said.

"There will be some patients that will be excluded for safety reasons," she said. "The anesthesiologist, nurse or obstetrician could all bring any concerns forward."

Fillmore resident Cindy Maynard, who gave birth to a daughter last year via a gentle C-section as part of a pilot program at the hospital, said holding her baby immediately after birth significantly improved her recovery from the surgery.

"I think even more than the emotional aspect of moms deserving to stay with their babies and babies deserving to stay with their moms, there's this huge physical aspect and benefit," she said.

Maynard had a traditional C-section at the hospital in 2010 and had a panic attack while she was being sutured up, after her son was born, she said.

"I heard the baby cry, and I could see his face, and then he was taken away," Maynard said. "I had a really hard time and needed more anesthesia so it made for a very difficult closure for the doctor."

McGuire — who is scheduled for a C-section due to her baby's breech, or feet-first, position — said knowing that she'll be able to hold her infant immediately after birth will make the surgery seem easier.

"To know that I will have the same options regardless of how my baby comes into the world, is the biggest thing to me," she said.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg

The gender of Heather and Kevin McGuire's baby is confirmed via ultrasound at the office of Dr. Srisawai "Sis" Pattamakon in Ventura. Heather McGuire, a podiatrist, has worked with Community Memorial Hospital to change its protocols so mothers who have cesarean sections no longer have to wait to have contact with their babies after birth.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg

Heather McGuire tries to redirect the attention of her toddler Addison in the arms of her husband Kevin McGuire after an ultrasound at the office of Dr. Srisawai "Sis" Pattamakon. Heather McGuire has worked with Community Memorial Hospital to change its protocols so that mothers who have cesarean sections no longer have to wait to have contact with their babies.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg,

Heather McGuire is accompanied by her husband Kevin McGuire, who holds the couple's first child Addison McGuire during an ultrasound at the office of Dr. Srisawai "Sis" Pattamakon.

Photo by Karen Quincy Loberg

Obstetrician Srisawai "Sis" Pattamakon talks to patient Heather McGuire about the possibility of earlier bed rest after the flu dehydrated her.