Childbirth center offers ‘welcoming, homelike atmosphere’

July 5, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Little fingers and little toes will soon be a common sight at Swedish/Issaquah hospital.

The new childbirth center will have eight labor, delivery and recovery rooms, each with its own Jacuzzi and foldout couch for napping partners.

Two operating rooms are available in the labor, delivery and recovery section in case the mother needs a Caesarean section.

Once a baby is born, the mother and infant will be taken across the window-filled hallway to the postpartum unit, where she and her partner will learn about baby behavior, such as feeding cues, and have the opportunity to ask nurses questions about the newest member of the family.

Having a childbirth center is integral to any hospital, according to Penny Simkin, physical therapist, doula, Seattle childbirth educator and author.

“I think that from a business point of view it makes a lot of sense for a hospital to have a birthing center,” Simkin said. “It’s the first association that healthy young people have with a hospital when they’re giving birth, and if it’s a positive experience they’ll go back there in other realms.”

When an expecting mother first comes into Swedish/Issaquah, hospital staff members will direct her to a triage bed. Medical professionals will examine the mother-to-be, and move her to a labor, delivery and recovery room if she is in labor.

The rooms are 471 square feet, including the bathroom.

“We want it to be a very warm and welcoming homelike atmosphere where patients and families can be as comfortable as possible, but still have the technology available if they are experiencing any kind of complications,” Wendy Colgan, inpatient nurse manager of obstetrics and pediatrics, said.

Some childbirth centers have Jacuzzi tubs in the bathroom, but Swedish/Issaquah put the tubs in the main room, so family members can be together with the pregnant woman.

Studies have shown that offering hot water baths, more technically called hydrotherapy in labor, helps most women during labor.

In a 2004 paper she co-authored with April Bolding in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, Simkin noted that women who immerse themselves in water deep enough to cover their abdomen often find enhanced relaxation, reduced labor pain and better labor progress.

“Having water available in labor is a wonderful way to help a woman relax and to help her deal with the pain of labor,” Simkin said. “A roomy tub is very desirable. A tiny little home-type bath doesn’t allow people to stretch out and enjoy the water.”

Between 15 and 20 obstetricians will be on staff at Swedish/Issaquah, as well as family-practice physicians who have obstetrician privileges and certified nurse-midwives.

Depending on their needs, the mother and child, or children, could have varying lengths of stay at the hospital. Women who give birth vaginally usually stay for between 24 and 48 hours, Colgan said. Women who get C-sections typically stay at least 72 hours.

In addition to the eight labor, delivery and recovery rooms and the postpartum unit, Swedish/Issaquah will have eight pediatric beds that will open Nov. 1 during the hospital’s second phase.

Children who have medical issues, such as those fighting a respiratory infection or having their appendix removed, can stay at the pediatric unit. Children with more acute medical problems will likely go to Seattle Children’s.

“We are very proud that we can provide pediatrics care in the community so they’re not having to travel into Seattle,” Colgan said.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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One Response to “Childbirth center offers ‘welcoming, homelike atmosphere’”

  1. Melissa on April 1st, 2013 10:17 am

    This is an amazing direction for Swedish. It would be wonderful to see this movement at other Swedish facilities. As a doula who completed doula skills and childbirth training at the Simkin Center at Bastyr, its so beneficial for my clients, and their babies and families to have some of those comforts of home, the space to move around, and wonderful things like large jetted tubs to help with relaxation and manage labor pain in a hospital setting. Additionally, the shift in the way we support our laboring moms is extremely helpful and benefical. When women are supported lovingly and respectfully and alowed the time and space to labor naturally and make informed decisions, we see shorter laboring times, lower cesarean rates, and more satisfied customers overall. Looking forward to working with the staff at Swedish in Issaquah soon!

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