It might be hard for some to imagine that as recently as the 1970s, men were not always allowed to be in the delivery room with their wives. To say that there have been vast improvements in the birthing process would be an understatement. The U.S. Army Health Center Vicenza began a program about two years ago that is helpful not only for women in labor but their newborns.
The program called "Skin-to-Skin" was first introduced to the center by Capt. Shara Fisher, a registered nurse certified in obstetrics.
"When I first arrived here I recognized Skin-to-Skin was not implemented into routine care or was not routinely offered," Fisher said.
The program basics are that when babies are born, instead of immediately cleaning, weighing and placing them in a warmer, the baby is placed on the mother's bare chest. By doing this, studies have shown that it regulates the newborn's breathing, stabilizes heart rate and has shown increased breastfeeding success. The babies are with their mother for an hour, letting them bond.
Skin-to-skin in Vicenza has been used with vaginal deliveries since March 2011 and with only two cesarean section deliveries, one of them this past month at the center.
"I didn't know this was an option for me because I was a scheduled c-section, but it was mentioned in birthing class," said new mother Michelle Ortiz. "I felt more connected and it gave me something to focus on. I would recommend this for others."
If the mother is unable to perform skin-to-skin, fathers can step in. The staff at the health center are flexible and want new parents to be happy with their chosen birth plan.
"If a mother prefers to have the baby cleaned first, we can do that," Fisher said.