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Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 08:00 AM

Low C-section rates for Marshall Medical's Labor & Delivery departments

Marshall Medical Center North had the lowest cesarean birth rate of any hospital in Alabama in 2020, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health. Also, mothers who have had C-sections are much more likely to be able to deliver vaginally at Marshall North, which had the state’s second highest rate of VBAC births, or Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.

The International Cesarean Awareness Network or ICAN of Huntsville recently commended the hospital on Facebook for reaching the milestone and praised efforts by labor & deliver nurses and obstetricians to help mothers deliver vaginally when possible.

“I am proud of the staff for obtaining the knowledge needed to implement the use of best practices and for the commitment they show every day to continue to provide safe patient care,” said Tammy Jennings, director of inpatient care.

Marshall South had a slightly higher C-section rate and a one-tenth lower VBAC rate.

Going through labor and having a vaginal birth can be a long process that can be physically taxing for the mother but C-sections come with risks from anesthesia, blood loss, infection and a longer recovery period.

“I have experienced firsthand the hard work, dedication and advocation both the nurses as well as the physicians provide to their patients at Marshall Medical Center North,” said Brandy Ross, RN and OB nurse manager. “They truly go above and beyond to ensure they are providing the best possible care. It is such an honor to be surrounded by a team who works so diligently to overcome challenges surrounding the birthing process.”

C-sections are generally considered safe and can be lifesaving but they do carry risks. The procedure is a major surgery. Because first-time C-sections often lead to C-sections in future pregnancies, a vaginal birth is generally the preferred method of delivery for first pregnancies. About 2 in 3 babies in the United States are born via vaginal delivery, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Ross and Leanna Dilbeck, RN BSN, director of the Women’s Center at South, cited practices used in their departments to help mothers deliver naturally. One is a peanut ball.

“We love the peanut balls,” Dilbeck said. “We have three different sizes and use them on most all of our labors and have seen progress much quicker with our deliveries.”

Similar to an exercise ball, the large peanut-shaped ball fits snugly between a woman's knees to keep open the pelvis, increasing the progress of labor and facilitating descent of the fetal head. Opening the pelvis is key to a baby more easily making its way down the birth canal.

Possible benefits of using a peanut ball during labor include:

  • reduction in pain
  • shortened labor time
  • reduction in rate of C-section
  • reduction in rate of other interventions, like forceps and vacuum extraction

Ross cited a study conducted to determine whether the use of a peanut ball decreased length of labor and increased the rate of vaginal birth. It found that women who used the peanut ball versus those who did not shortened their labor by 40 minutes. The intervention was found to significantly lower cesarean surgery.

Another practice used at Marshall North to help mothers is Spinning Babies, which is a physiological approach to preparing for birth. During birth, babies descend through the pelvis by turning to fit each curve in the passage, called fetal rotations. Spinning Babies shows moms what to do for an easier birth with practical and detailed preparation to help baby get into the best position to fit the pelvis. It offers solutions for long, painful labor or a stalled labor. And, proponents say, if practiced daily makes an easier labor and birth more likely.

“I am super proud of this accomplishment and recognition,” said Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Woodruff. “We strive to provide excellent care at Marshall Medical Centers and this is just one example of that. It takes everyone working together as a team to provide excellent care and have the best outcomes for our patients. This recognition is a result of the staff caring for our patients and working together for the best outcomes.”