RRH — where families are born

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

RRH — where families are bornLori Ochoa (left) and Agnes Majeed (right) pose with nurses and other staff members who help take care of new mothers and their babies — Courtesy photo

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When each of 415 newborns made their appearance to the world in 2018 at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, a fleet of staff was on hand to help mothers and fathers connect with the newest members of their family.

“Health care is ever-changing — new practices emerge, evidence-based care gets revised as studies yield results,” said Agnes Majeed, director of Maternal-Child Services at RRH.

“Laboring and childbirth are the same as they were hundreds of years ago.” However, she noted, safety regulations and modern insights have all helped drive to the forefront best practices for the safe and excellent care of patients.

“We are here for the patients, and we want to ensure that they have not just a safe, but a memorable experience as well.”

Majeed and Lori Ochoa, childbirth educator at RRH, took time to reflect on the changing trends in health care in general, and at our local hospital in particular, to examine how many of those innovations have benefited the families.

“I’ve been teaching classes for 20 years now,” said Ochoa. “When I began, it was usually just the mother, and her focus was learning how to ‘survive’ labor.”

Now, she said, the education process incorporates the support person in a much more significant way, “and I have noticed that our participants are not just thinking about labor — they really want to know how to be parents.”

Decades ago even prenuptial care was not always a constant for new mothers. And for some of those patients, their hospital experience began with labor. Now RRH spotlights education that starts in the beginning of the last trimester.

“A lot of women go through labor and don’t need a childbirth class,” said Ochoa.

“The key that is sometimes missing is the role of the father, or support person, during that process.

“We offer education for the mother, but I think it’s just as important to educate the support person so they understand what’s happening at every point in the process, and truly understand how they can support their partner when she’s ready to give birth.”

Class participants learn a variety of aspects from safety to nutrition to correctly reading labor signals.

“We also do a tour of the hospital, so that when they arrive for the delivery they are familiar with the environment.”

Even in the last five years, said Ochoa, there have been significant changes at the hospital. One of those changed practices is to accommodate the importance of skin-to-skin contact between mother and child immediately after delivery.

“This is important for setting up a mother for successful breastfeeding,” she said. “We don’t touch the babies for the first two hours unless it’s necessary.

“It used to be that babies were whisked away, which really defeated a lot of the benefits. Babies want to feed in that first hour, and understanding how important that was helped change our policy.”

Fifteen years ago, lactation consultants were almost unheard of in hospitals.

“In 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics came out saying they can no longer refer to breastfeeding as a lifestyle choice — it is now acknowledged as a medical decision,” said Ochoa.

She noted that RRH is No. 1 among Kern County hospitals for the percentage of mothers who choose breastfeeding.

Majeed oversees the numerous services that go into serving the mother and child.

“Just to be part of bringing a new life into the world is a privilege in itself,” she said.

“Helping moms and babies getting a great start is the key while they’re here, so we can send them home armed with useful information that gives them peace of mind.”

While nurses are all trained to help new mothers, Ochoa said the value of her role is that “I can sit in a room for an hour with a new mother who needs support, and our floor nurses have so many other things to do that they don’t always have that luxury.”

Majeed said that most new mothers spend between 24 and 48 hours at the hospital. “Nurses try to cram a lot of information into two days, which can be challenging because new moms are tired and they can’t always process all that information in such a short amount of time.”

This is one of the reasons the childbirth classes are so valuable, she noted.

Another positive trend at RRH has been the active recruiting process to boost the number of qualified providers — which now includes five OB/GYNs and several nurse practitioners.

“They’re all very knowledgeable, experienced and patient-care centered,” said Majeed. “We definitely have a great group of physicians here who are ready to receive patients and provide care.”

For more information about enrolling in childbirth education courses, visit www.rrh.org/services and select “Maternal/Child.”

“I think the truest test about how effective our class is always revealed after delivery,” said Ochoa. “One thing I try to do with each baby is visit the new parents and ask what they were not prepared for — what I didn’t teach.

“Every once in a while I get a good comment that helps me fill in any voids. But the vast majority of the time they tell us how well-prepared they felt. That’s important to us because our real focus is setting our families up for success after they leave us.”

Story First Published: 2019-02-08