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Baby Boom at SNMH Family Birth Center

Jenny Jordan, RN, and Michelle Strambi with baby Giuliana. Strambi is grateful for the support of SNMH's nursing team during Giuliana's delivery.
Submitted photo |

Last year, 442 babies were born at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH), and those numbers are on the rise, according to Ann Erdmann, MSN, RNC, Director of the Women & Infants Care Unit/Nursing Administration.

“We saw a 22 percent increase in births at the hospital in the second half of last year,” Erdmann said.

Erdmann shared that one of the reasons for this jump is the addition last February of patient-controlled epidural infusions. These epidurals offer a controlled dose of analgesia to numb the spinal nerves in the lower back. The moms-to-be are fully awake, aware, and in charge of their own pain relief at the push of a button.



“Evidence has shown that the type of epidurals we provide, where patients control what they’re getting, not only provides good pain relief, but also reduces the amount of medication used during labor and delivery,” Erdmann said. “Expectant mothers have responded very positively to the offering of patient-controlled epidurals.”

Laboring mothers also have access to other pain management tools, including natural options like walking the halls or soaking in a Jacuzzi tub. If a woman needs medication she can also request intrathecal analgesia (similar to an epidural, but with a one-time administration).




According to Michelle Strambi, who recently gave birth at the hospital without the use of epidural, the patient-centered care at the Family Birth Center made a difference.

“All the nurses were so attentive and caring. They took time to sit with me and find out what my birth plan was, and I felt very supported throughout. Even after I left the hospital, I received several follow-up calls at home, including one from the lactation consultant,” Strambi said.

The follow-up phone calls are an important part of SNMH’s patient-centered care, according to Erdmann. 

“We always like to give a phone call to make sure everything is going OK for the new mother and to find out if she has any questions or concerns,” Erdmann said.

SNMH’s focus on providing the best possible care for mom and baby has received statewide recognition. In mid-January, the California HealthCare Foundation released hospital perinatal performance data on its site, CalQualityCare.org.

The study observed four metrics: Cesarean (C-section) birth rate among low-risk first births; episiotomy rate; vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC) rate; and breastfeeding rate. The study included all 272 California hospitals that offer maternity services.

SNMH ranked ninth in the state for Cesarean births among low-risk first births. Erdmann said the hospital makes a great effort to keep this percentage low because by avoiding surgery, they are also avoiding the risk of post-surgical infections and other complications and improving the overall health outcomes for both mother and baby.

“We are always looking for ways we can improve quality of care and positive outcomes,” Erdmann said.

SNMH ranked fifteenth in the state for breast-feeding rates, with 89.8 percent of newborns fed only breast milk before discharge from the hospital. Breast-feeding has been shown to reduce a baby’s risk for disease and infection during infancy as well as later in life.

New moms receive support from SNMH Family Birth Center nurses trained as lactation educators. There is also a lactation consultant available.

“We really work with the new moms so they feel successful at breast-feeding before they’re discharged,” Erdmann said.

The hospital also offers support and education prior to a birthing experience, including tours of the Family Birth Center and its newly renovated labor and delivery suite and nursery. Prenatal classes provide information about what to expect during the hospital stay and what pain management options are available.

For parents who already have children at home, SNMH offers the “My Mom’s Having a Baby” class, which helps younger siblings make the transition to being a big brother or sister.

Strambi said the exceptional care and the compassion the Family Birth Center staff showed to her and her family helped to make her birth experience a positive one.

“I definitely recommend the Family Birth Center,” Strambi said. “Everyone I’ve talked to is so happy with their experiences there.”

To request information about the Family Birth Center classes or tours, call 530-274-6089.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.


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