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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Birthing Center Anticipating Deliveries

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A new NARH birthing center features three labor, birthing, and postpartum recovery rooms equipped with special lighting and a home-inspired atmosphere as shown here.
North Adams - The final touches were put into place at the North Adams Regional Hospital's new birthing center today and expectations are that women ready to give birth will be admitted to the state-of-the art, $2 million maternity unit soon after Thanksgiving.

"This is a dream come true, something many of us have waited for and are so proud of," said Billie Allard, NARH Vice-president of Patient Care Services and nurse director of maternal-child health services.

The second floor center is the final component of a $23 million renovation that covered nearly two years and included building a new critical care unit, short stay unit, two new operating rooms, major

Warm-water whirlpool birthing tubs are included with each labor, birthing, and recovery room at the NARH birthing center.
renovations of the hospital's surgical space and a new emergency department. The birthing center may be the most anticipated of the hospital's projects, said Allard and Director of Community Relations Paul Hopkins.

Private Rooms, Private Baths, Private Birthing Tubs

The center is bright and welcoming and hosts three spacious rooms dedicated to labor, delivery, and immediate postpartum recovery.

Each "birthing room" hosts a private, modern bathroom equipped with a warm-water birthing tub, shower, sink, toilet and gift set that includes a thick terry robe and bath and skin care items.

The birthing rooms also host single beds covered with homey linens, special laser-guided lighting installed in the ceiling that allows light to be directed at specific areas of the body with precision, a print of a window opening to an ocean view that is meant to represent the cervix widening, and a television. A crib, chair, bedside stand and bedside table are included in the rooms.

The center also hosts eight private rooms outfitted with flat-screen television, private bath facilities, and a small dining table. Six of the rooms are limited to private use while two rooms may be used as double occupancy rooms if necessary, Allard said.

Dinner For Two By Candlelight

The dining table has special significance.

"We're going to do the candlelight dinners again," Allard said, and explained that if requested, hospital staff will serve a candlelight dinner for two during the evening before hospital discharge.

"It's a nice thing to do, kind of a treat before bringing the baby home, a last-time before needing a babysitter kind of thing," she said.

Under consideration is adding room service to the center, Allard said. A room service option would allow mothers to order food from the hospital kitchen at any time. Nursing mothers may not be functioning in conjunction with the hospital's normal meal schedule and may benefit from a room service arrangement, Allard said.

Art prints camouflage medical gas connections. The prints may be raised to allow access to the medical connections if necessary, as shown by NARH Director of Patient Care Services Billie Allard.


A "Quiet Time" And New Visitor Policies

The nursery is surrounded by windows for infant viewing, with one side of the room accessible to family and the other side accessible by friends and acquaintances.

The nursery is equipped with an incubator and is able to care for 11 babies at one time, Allard said. The lighting may be bright for medical examinations or other needs and may be dimmed to a soft glow during sleep hours.

A separate room is available for circumcisions. The nursery is surrounded by muted colors and light wood-finished surfaces. All viewing windows are equipped with privacy curtains that can be closed when necessary.

Birthing and postpartum rooms contain medical gas connections, such as oxygen hook-ups, that are cleverly camouflaged by framed prints that can be raised upward to expose the connections and allow use.

The center will impose an afternoon "quiet time" from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Allard said, Visitors will not be allowed on the floor during those hours except under special circumstances, she said.

"We will try to be flexible with this," she said.


Candlelight dinners for two may be served on tables set up within the rooms at the birthing center.
During the birth process, visitors to the laboring mothers will be limited, Allard said. Previously, friend and family member entourages accompanied some women in labor and gathered within labor rooms or meandered through the hallways. The presence of such large groups were intrusive to women who had already given birth, Allard said.

"We heard from women that the large crowds were distracting," she said.

Husbands or "significant others" will be among the people welcomed in the birthing rooms, Allard said. There is a separate waiting area for friends and family members, she said.

New Security System

A multi-phase state-of-the art security system is installed at the unit, Hopkins said. The system is equipped with alarms at the unit entrances and another facet of the system allows a building lockdown, Hopkins said.

"It's the type of system that when you're here, you'll know how it works," he said.

Previous security measures relied on the discovery that a baby was missing; the new system is designed to activate if an unauthorized person attempts to leave the floor with an infant, Hopkins said.

Additional renovations include new nurses stations, an operating room for cesarean section deliveries, a small kitchen and an area dedicated to housekeeping supplies.

The birthing center nursery includes an infant incubator that can be used when necessary.


The birthing center offers a midwife program, a certified lactation consultant who is able to offer home visits as well as hospital consultations, pre-natal childbirth education that includes the Visiting Nurse Association of Northern Berkshire, and massage and Reiki.

During 2005, 320 babies were born at the hospital. That represents a 17 percent increase over 2004.

The entire NARH project added an additional 19,000 square feet to the facility and renovated about 30,000 square feet.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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