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Penn State Health St. Joseph Breidegam Family Birthing Center: Families welcome personalized approach to care

Following a tour of the Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Breidegam Family Birthing Center, Kelsey Seyler quickly decided that the center, which is nestled inside a hospital wing on the Bern campus, was where she wanted to deliver her first child.

“It doesn’t even look like a birthing center. It looks like a hotel,” says Seyler, whose son was born two years ago. “It felt more comfortable, more like home.”

Moms and their support person stay in the same room during labor, delivery and recovery. Each room also includes a whirlpool tub that can be used during labor or after delivery, something that appealed to Seyler, whose goal was to deliver naturally.

“I didn’t want to take any drugs,” she says. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wanted to be as open as possible.”

Seyler and her husband would learn everything they needed to know about the services available to their family from Kimberly Hunter, the center’s OB nurse navigator, who serves as a personal concierge for moms-to-be.

“I provide an added layer of education and support for a woman throughout her entire pregnancy,” says Hunter, explaining that she meets with moms at various points to understand their needs and concerns and get them comfortable with what to expect. “You don’t realize how valuable that role is until you are in it and need it. So many women never have that added connection or support. I value that opportunity to be that for them.”

Having moved from Colorado a few years prior to her first pregnancy, Seyler had yet to establish a strong support system in the area and welcomed the help.

“I really didn’t have a community. I didn’t know that many people,” she admits. “When Kim suggested enrolling in the Centering Pregnancy program, I thought that sounded like a cool way to meet other moms.”

The unique program allows women to experience pregnancy with other women due about the same time and to support one another through the pregnancy journey. Together they attend 10 prenatal sessions that include individual, private exams with a midwife. After the exams, they come back together for group discussions on pregnancy-related topics, such as common discomforts, stress management, labor and delivery, nutrition and breastfeeding.

“It is a way of streamlining and centering care in a group model. The women absolutely love it,” says Hunter, explaining that the same midwife runs the sessions. “Unless something arises in the pregnancy where the midwife recommends seeing the doctor, the midwife will provide the care.”

For Seyler, the true value in choosing the birthing center to meet her needs was evident when it was time to deliver her baby. With her labor stalled, she found relief by sitting on a birthing ball, which opens the pelvis and allows the baby to drop.

“At one point, they thought they may have to give me Pitocin, but they were able to move my labor along naturally by hooking me up to a breast pump,” she says. “My contractions were pretty consistent after that, and I went and sat in the whirlpool tub. The hot water really helped me.”

True to her plan, Seyler delivered her son without the use of pain medication, following her midwife’s instructions to trust her body.

“I felt very empowered and proud of myself for doing it,” she recalls. “It was such a beautiful experience.”

Now pregnant with her second child, Seyler is once again participating in the Centering Pregnancy program and hopes to deliver the same way.

“I had such a great experience the first time. Everyone was so nice and so attentive,” she says. “I feel confident that I can trust the team to listen to what my birthing needs are. If something goes on that is not normal, I trust them to make the best decision for how to proceed.”

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