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Healthwatch 16: GCMC childbirth center

The first year for a new Geisinger childbirth center faced unique challenges during a pandemic.

SCRANTON, Pa. — The childbirth center at Geisinger Community Medical Center opened a little more than a year ago. That brought labor and delivery back to the hospital, something it hadn't offered since 2007.

More than 450 babies were born in the center during a year that, because of COVID-19, didn't look at all like expected.

Adorable little Colson, 3 weeks old, sleeping peacefully in his mom's arms, is the first child for Alexa Siderowicz and her husband from Archbald. He's one of the 475 babies born during the first year here at GCMC's childbirth center.

"I heard a lot of people say it was more personal there. They took a holistic approach. As soon as I got there, I was able to take some measures before we took more aggressive approaches," Siderowicz said.

Siderowicz says she was looking for a calm, comforting childbirth experience. She chose to deliver her son using midwife care.

"A midwife is there to support a mom and a family during their labor process.  Additionally, a midwife is there for a mom during her pregnancy, to have a relationship and continuity that will continue forward to her labor and delivery," said Karen Carbaugh, chief midwife for Geisinger Health System.

Carbaugh says midwifery is a more holistic model of care, meant for moms with lower risk and lower intervention level. She calls it a hidden gem within the Geisinger system.

"Geisinger has afforded moms a new level of care across the system. We offer midwifery services in all of our different platforms," Carbaugh said.

Dr. Manuel Arreguin, director of women's services for Geisinger Northeast, says that will continue at GCMC. But in year two, with projections growing, they'll be looking to bolster the more traditional medical model of care as well.

"We're going to start implementing more of a private practice model, something our patients have been asking about. We've hired three doctors who'll be stationed in the Scranton area, and that will put five, six doctors full-time in the Scranton area," Dr. Arreguin said. "Sometimes, you can't plan enough when it comes to having babies! So opening up a unit to deliver babies, sometimes that's a real challenge, but we're very pleased after our first year."

And what a first year it was, with the appearance of COVID-19. New mom Alexa tells us all of her prenatal birthing classes were done by video platforms.

And Dr. Arreguin says the birthing rooms, which were built to house entire families, saw only one visitor allowed alongside the new mom.

Officials used iPads, at times, to include everyone who wanted to be part of the process.