Women who are giving birth are accustomed to losing control when they check in to the hospital. These patients are forced to stop all food and drink, and by and large, confined to a bed. Once labor has begun, they can find themselves being shuttled from sterile room to sterile room, nurse to nurse, and procedure to procedure in order to conform to the hospital’s rigid set of guidelines for labor.
At Neugarten Family Birth Center, the staff believes giving birth should be different. They have been delivering mothers from this terrifying, alienating experience for over 20 years, offering patients all the advantages of being next door to Northern Dutchess Hospital, and all the comforts of home. Actually, patients say, when you take into account the lobster dinner, the massage, and the around-the-clock care you receive there, the center might be better than home.
“It’s like a hotel in some ways,” says Kate Kortbus. She had both her children at the center, and jokes that the experience was so pleasant, she can’t wait to get back: “It almost makes you want to have another child quickly.”
Opened in 1985, Neugarten was the first hospital-based birthing center in New York State. Over the last 23 years birth-giving procedures have changed a lot, but the center has stayed true to its mission of offering safe, comfortable, family-centered care.
The center staff includes skilled physicians, midwives, and a full nursing staff. Neugarten is also attended by mid-level practitioners from Health Quest’s neonatology unit, who assist physicians with high-risk deliveries, and who perform newborn exams and consultations.
Each year about 770 babies are born at the center. About 29 percent of these babies are delivered via Caesarian section, which is consistent with the national average, according to Gina D’Angelo-Mullen, director of public relations for Northern Dutchess Hospital. About 75 percent of the birth center patients choose to use some type of pain medicine during their stay. Hospital stays vary from two days for vaginal deliveries to three days for C-section. HealthGrades, an independent health care assessment, awarded the center five stars, and ranked it among the top 10 percent of the country’s hospitals.
With nine rooms and a couple of multi-purpose rooms, the center is intimate; it has room for only 11 patients, so the staff is able to provide friendly, personalized attention to all.
Patients who deliver babies here describe the camaraderie of the staff—some of whom have worked together at the center for more than 20 years—and how good it feels for this group of knowledgeable women to bring their collective attention to bear on your laboring figure.
For their own part, the staff describes the amazing power of its patients. Staff members say they want more women to reconnect with their own resilience, and to celebrate their strength. Too often, they point out, this power is taken away from women in traditional hospital settings by micromanaged, by-the-numbers deliveries. “Just because you can have a pain-free delivery, it doesn’t always mean that that’s a good thing,” says Anna Goyette, an RN at the center. Some theories say that there is a purpose to pain, Goyette says, and that this first painful experience bonds the mother to the child in a way that nothing else can. “I just feel like it’s something that’s being taken away from women, and they don’t even know it.”
At the Neugarten Family Birth Center, that power is being put back in the hands of women. According to the center’s philosophy, patients get to call the shots, customizing their experience as much as their medical circumstances will allow.
Here, patient comfort comes first, and that’s clear as soon as you walk into the cheery, yellow, one-story building with gingerbread trim and a porch full of rocking chairs—more like grandma’s house than a hospital. Inside, there’s a large waiting area that looks like a living room, fully furnished with couches, chairs, a TV, even children’s toys. The patient rooms are quiet and pleasant, and each has its own TV and private bathroom. Hardwood floors and trim make the rooms feel more homey, and the rooms have small closets and a fold-out chair for the spouse to sleep on. The rooms also have little amenities like hair dryers and DVD players, and patients can bring items from home to make themselves feel even more secure. The center also boasts a birthing tub, where patients can ease the pains of labor and delivery. When all the work is done, mothers can enjoy a relaxing massage and a celebratory lobster dinner.