Hospital strives to make expectant mothers comfortable, regardless of the pandemic
Editor’s note: This story is has been updated to correct the spelling of Dr. Laura Howell’s name.
FRISCO — When Joanni Linton was giving birth to her now 2-year-old son, Bodhi, she had to have an emergency cesarean section surgery.
Linton, who delivered both of her children at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, felt scared at first about the surprise surgery. However, the doctor and the nurses who were helping her deliver her baby quickly explained what was going to happen and made her feel at ease.
“My son, his heart rate kept dropping during labor,” she said. “My husband was with me, and they were not only really caring for me but also making sure that he understood what was happening throughout that entire process and (was) supported.”
The hospital recently was recognized as one of the best maternity care hospitals in the country. St. Anthony, along with four other Centura Health-owned hospitals, was included in Newsweek’s 2020 list of best maternity care hospitals, which gathered data from The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transparency in health care.
The hospital demonstrated low rates for elective deliveries, C-sections and episiotomies. According to the Leapfrog Group website, St. Anthony had a zero percent rate of elective deliveries, a 21.7% rate of C-sections and a 4.7% rate of episiotomies in 2019. The hospital’s birth center also screened more than 90% of babies for jaundice and prevented over 90% of women from developing blood clots after receiving a C-section that year.
Dr. Laura Howell — who is an OB-GYN at Centura Health Physicians Group High Country Healthcare in Frisco, and works in the labor and delivery department at St. Anthony — said the team focuses on education for mothers, which is more important now during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Both our emergency staff and our providers do a really good job of educating and trying to prepare the patient for what is to come and what they should expect in labor and delivery,” she said.
When Linton gave birth to her daughter, Story, on June 26, she said she never felt anxious about labor during the pandemic. This time around, Linton had a scheduled C-section, so she knew when she’d be giving birth.
“A week before I was scheduled to go, the nurses reached out to kind of explain exactly what the process was going to be and what was allowed just to make everyone feel comfortable,” she said.
Linton said doctors had her take a test for the virus before she went in for the delivery. While everyone around her was wearing personal protective equipment, Linton and her husband weren’t required to, which made the experience feel more comfortable, she said.
Howell said the biggest change brought on by the pandemic has to do with visitors. While the hospital has allowed fathers and labor-support people in the room during delivery, other visitors aren’t allowed in the hospital, which helps to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Because we are a small labor and delivery unit, we have a lot of control of our situation there, and so I think that allows us to have a little bit more ability to allow that labor-support person and father of the baby in the room,” she said.
During the pandemic, Howell has been encouraging her pregnant patients to social distance as much as possible and follow all of the health guidelines. Most of all, she has encouraged her patients to stay calm.
“Their life is going on as the pandemic is among us, and we want to do the best that we can to keep our moms and babies healthy,” she said. “I think there is reassurance in that we have had a really healthy community up here, we have had healthy labor and delivery, and we can safely deliver babies in this time period.”
St. Anthony doctors also have the unique experience of delivering babies at high elevation. Howell said Summit’s elevation can sometimes create complications but that the doctors and nurses are prepared for that.
“We have some unique things that happen with elevation, especially with babies and their respiratory status,” she said. “The first thing that our babies need to do is learn to breathe, so learning to breathe at 9,000 feet can be a little bit difficult for a baby to transition.”
Howell said doctors are always prepared to give babies and mothers oxygen when it’s needed, which helps babies acclimate.
Linton said she wasn’t surprised that the hospital was recognized for its maternity care.
“They just make it special,” she said. “You’re nervous at the same time that you’re excited, and they’re just really caring and giving.”
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