Safe childbirth and a warm nurturing environment go hand in hand

This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters.

Key takeaways:

  • For most women, pregnancy and childbirth go smoothly, without complications. The birthing team at Providence Saint Joseph is prepared for unexpected emergencies and high-risk pregnancies—around the clock.

  • An important factor in safe childbirth is a warm nurturing environment for both mom and baby.

  • Read about Christina Varteresyan’s experience in the NICU when her baby was born at one and a half pounds.

[4 MIN READ]

Christina Varteresyan was due to give birth on September 24, so she was shocked when she went into labor on May 30 and gave birth to a little boy weighing about one and a half pounds at 23 weeks’ gestation.

The first- time mom was consumed with worry for her little baby, David. “It was very hard for the first month, because everything was so unstable and we didn’t know the outcome,” Christina says. While she recuperated, her husband, Albert, reassured her by reporting that the nurses at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) were amazing and that their son was receiving excellent care.

David remained for about three months in the NICU, where he grew bigger and stronger each day. Today he is a healthy 9-pound baby who smiles and laughs and, according to Christina, looks like “an exact copy of my husband.”

She says she and her husband are thankful that she gave birth at Providence Saint Joseph, and they continue to text photos of David to the team of nurses who cared for him. “The nurses are amazing, each one of them,” Christina says. “We are so grateful to the nurses and doctors.”

At Providence, obstetricians, perinatologists, neonatologists, and nursing and respiratory staff are available for all deliveries—and are prepared for unexpected emergencies and high-risk pregnancies—around the clock.

For most women, pregnancy and childbirth go smoothly, without complications. At Providence Saint Joseph, obstetricians, perinatologists, neonatologists, and nursing and respiratory staff are available for all deliveries—and are prepared for unexpected emergencies and high-risk pregnancies—around the clock.

That’s why Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center is the best and safest choice for giving birth. “Our labor-and-delivery and neonatal intensive care unit can accommodate all the needs of expectant mothers and their babies through a comprehensive Mother Baby Program,” says Robert Gall, MD, a neonatologist and medical director of the NICU. “We help to ensure a successful pregnancy and delivery with a high level of expertise, care and compassion.”

Read Christina Varteresyan’s full story here.

What is A High-Risk Pregnancy?

There are five types of high-risk pregnancies, explains Dr. Gall: women who (a) have a history of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, (b) have gestational diabetes, (c) go into early labor, (d) are carrying twins or triplets or (e) are carrying a fetus with a congenital anomaly such as a heart defect.

Our obstetricians and labor-and-delivery staff do a fantastic job at controlling maternal high blood pressure and prolonging the pregnancy.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension, for instance, can compromise mother and infant, often leading to the need for a preterm delivery. “Our obstetricians and labor-and-delivery staff do a fantastic job at controlling maternal high blood pressure and prolonging the pregnancy,” says Dr. Gall.

Gestational diabetes can lead to premature delivery and an increased chance of respiratory distress due to underdeveloped lungs, Dr. Gall says. If you have gestational diabetes, it must be managed throughout pregnancy to ensure a healthy baby.

When you undergo fetal ultrasounds during pregnancy, your doctor is checking that the fetus is developing normally. If a defect is detected, your doctor will send you to a specialist, and in some cases, a baby may need surgery right after birth and require a transfer to another hospital.

Specialists and surgeons work with our neonatologists to arrange for timely transfer of newborns who need surgical support services after birth.

The Providence Saint Joseph team is fully prepared and equipped for these transfers. “Specialists and surgeons at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital work with our neonatologists to arrange for timely transfer of newborns who need surgical support services after birth,” says Dr. Gall. Once stabilized, babies can return to the Providence Saint Joseph NICU. “The goal is to keep the family in their home community,” Dr. Gall explains.

In addition, Providence Saint Joseph offers transport services from local community NICUs to the Saint Joseph NICU. The transporter is a mini NICU, complete with incubator, cardiac monitors, mechanical ventilator, body-cooling equipment and nitric oxide—that can be
loaded right onto an ambulance. A neonatal transport team from Providence Saint Joseph accompanies each baby during the transport. The composition of the transport team, which may include NICU nurses, respiratory therapists, neonatal nurse practitioners and neonatologists, depends on the clinical status of the infant.

Early Arrivals

Carrying twins or triplets has always been associated with increased risks to the mother and infants, including premature labor. If you deliver at Providence Saint Joseph and you go into early labor, the medical team tries to extend your pregnancy for as long as possible.

We can take care of babies born as early as 23 weeks gestation. We have a well-trained team and the most modern equipment available.

But when a baby is born early, the NICU team takes over. “We can take care of babies born as early as 23 weeks gestation,” says Dr. Gall. “We have a well-trained team that has been working together a long time, and we have the most modern equipment available.”

Every aspect of the babies’ health is monitored, including, of course, nutrition. If a new mother is not able to produce enough breast milk, the NICU can provide donor breast milk. “Breast milk is
the preferred nutrition for all infants, especially premature babies,” says Dr. Gall. In addition, physical therapists help babies learn to eat, and lactation consultants help moms and babies to begin breastfeeding.

When mothers can’t be in the NICU, they can see their babies 24/7 by way of a video camera above the incubator. Parents love to be able to log on and view their babies at home.

When mothers can’t be in the NICU, they can see their babies 24/7 by way of a video camera above the incubator. Parents love to be able to log on and view their babies at home and share the experience with family and friends.

Critical Treatments

Babies in the NICU are tiny and vulnerable. But luckily, Providence Saint Joseph is able to provide two critical treatments to help them thrive: body cooling with continuous EEG monitoring and the use of inhaled nitric oxide.

“Body cooling and continuous EEG monitoring are used when there is a complication in the final moments of delivery, leading to a lack of oxygen to the infant, with the potential of a serious and lifelong brain injury,” explains Dr. Gall. Body cooling decreases the infant’s core body temperature, reducing the chance of brain cell injury and death. The continuous EEG monitor provides a real-time evaluation of the infant’s brain’s electrical activity and ensures the body cooling is effective.

Inhaled nitric oxide is used for infants with respiratory distress syndrome. This naturally occurring gas allows the vessels in the lungs to relax so that blood can flow normally through the lungs.

Hospitalists: 24/7 Care

At Providence, you don’t have to worry if your doctor is with patients at their office or if it is the middle of the night as contractions intensify. Here, obstetrician-gynecologists are ready to care for women and their newborns 24/7 to ensure the best possible birth outcome.

At Providence, you don’t have to worry if your doctor is with patients at their office or if it is the middle of the night as contractions intensify. Here, obstetrician-gynecologists are ready to care for women and their newborns 24/7.

Providence Saint Joseph is fortunate to have laborists on our staff—doctors who work only in the hospital providing obstetrical services. “Most of our moms are low-risk; however, we do have high-risk patients with obstetrical emergencies,” says Kudzai Dombo, MD, an OB-GYN and laborist. “This morning I was in surgery, finishing a C-section, when I got the alert that a woman
was arriving who had delivered in the ambulance,” she says. Mother and baby— and a relieved father—are fine, she adds.

The nurses at Providence spend the majority of their time with patients—it’s a very personal experience.

The entire care team works collaboratively to provide the best experience and clinical outcome for patients. “The nurses here are amazing,” says Dr. Dombo. “They spend the majority of their time with patients—it’s a very personal experience. They advocate for patients and always make sure our plan of care is in the patient’s best interest.

Providence Saint Joseph is proud to achieve the standards set by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC). “It’s a team effort,” says Dr. Dombo of the doctors and nurses.

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Find a doctor

If you have questions about your pregnancy, talk to your OB/GYN or another member of your care team. If you’re thinking about starting a family and want to speak to a professional, you can find a compassionate expert through our provider directory or search for one in your area.

Related resources

7 things to do before you get pregnant

Early pregnancy: So many choices

7 bodily changes to expect during pregnancy

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Women's Health team is committed to providing useful and actionable insights, tips and advice to ensure women of all types can live their healthiest lives.

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