When Jennifer Louis was pregnant with her first child, she wanted to try to deliver her baby as naturally as possible.
She and her husband, Josh, took classes to learn the Bradley Method of natural childbirth.
“Along that path we found the midwives at Elmhurst Hospital,” Louis says. “I wanted to try to have limited medical interventions and go into labor naturally, and so with the Bradley Method and finding the midwives, it was a good match.”
The certified nurse midwives (CNMs) with Midwifery and Women’s Health of Elmhurst Clinic are advanced practice nurses (APNs) who are nationally certified and licensed by the state of Illinois. They’re specialists in low-risk pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and women’s health. They also assist mothers with breastfeeding.
At Elmhurst Hospital, midwives offer alternative comfort measures such as hydrotherapy and warm water immersion for labor and birth — something that helped Louis during the birth of her first child.
When she went into labor with her first baby, Louis stayed home for hours until the contractions “started to get closer together and a lot stronger.” Around 9 p.m., they called their midwife, Mary Saracco, CNM, MM, APN, and left for Elmhurst Hospital.
First, Louis took a shower. Then, she got into a tub for a water birth.
“The shower was great. The tub was really comforting for me. It definitely helped with the pain management,” she says.
Through it all, her midwives, Mary Saracco and Michelle Jackowski, CNM, MS, APN, coached and encouraged her.
“The hardest part of my first birth experience was knowing how to push, when to push. (Mary) was a great supporter. They kept saying I could do it! I’m almost there!”
The Edward-Elmhurst certified nurse midwives have experience in more than 1,600 births at Elmhurst Hospital. Their cesarean section rate is less than 12 percent (national average is 31 percent), and their vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) successful trial of labor rate is 74 percent, greater than the national average.
The birth of Louis’s second child progressed more quickly.
“I woke up at 3 a.m. with pretty strong contractions,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh this is different than my first birth.’ My son was born at 4:48 a.m.”
This time there wasn’t time for a water birth. So Louis chose to lay on her side with an option to move around if she felt like it would help.
Her son’s birth was particularly notable, as he was born “en-caul,” or inside his amniotic sac. Josh and midwife Marybeth Waldorf, CNM, APN, witnessed this rare birth.
“He sort of kicked and then the sac broke around him,” Louis says.
Her third child was born in January 2019, and Louis was prepared for another quick labor and delivery.
“I went into labor with her around 11 p.m. and labored at home for about an hour. We left at 12 a.m. and she was born at 1 a.m.”
This time, Louis requested a birthing stool, which is a stool with a hole in the center of the seat so her midwife, Waldorf, could hold the baby when she was born. Louis wanted to be able to move around, and only pushed for 10 minutes or less before her daughter was born.
The ability to move around helped with pain management as well, Louis says.
“When you are lying on your back having contractions you cannot do anything about your pain.” she says. “Without an epidural, I was able to move around more easily, change positions, and be more comfortable. Those types of things are what the midwives provide, that space to manage contractions in a safe way because they are there and you have options throughout labor and delivery.”
Additionally, Elmhurst Hospital is the first in DuPage County to offer nitrous oxide as a pain relief option for women in labor. It has been adopted by both the hospital’s OB-GYNs and the Elmhurst Clinic midwives.
Unlike systemic drugs that can cause unwanted effects, nitrous oxide (a tasteless, odorless gas inhaled through a mask) is considered safe to use during labor and can be beneficial for both pain and anxiety relief. It has a quick onset and quickly exits both the mother’s and baby’s systems.
“The hospital is very understanding of the midwives practice and of what women want,” Louis says.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the nurses that deliver with the midwives. They are amazing,” she says. “The nurses and the midwives work so well together, you can tell they really get along, they understand each other, and they’re supportive of each other and of the women who want to have a natural birth.”
Midwifery and Women’s Health of Elmhurst Clinic offers compassionate and holistic care to low-risk pregnant women and delivers babies exclusively at Elmhurst Hospital. Our nurse midwives support your choices, cultural preferences and unique needs. The result is an empowering experience tailored to your birth plan. They also provide preventive healthcare and gynecology services for women in all stages of life, from adolescence to menopause and beyond.
Their offices are located in Elmhurst, Lombard and Oak Park. For more information, call 331-221-9009.
Learn more about midwifery services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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