Birth is not predictable. Just when you start to get a feel for its normal ebbs and flows, the next birth will present as white water rapids and the next a trickle of a stream (to stick with the analogy).
A hospital remedies this problem by having staff on standby at the nurses’ station. They’re trained to come running when there’s a problem or give the patient’s nurse a lunch break. They get refreshed every twelve hours with a new team. In community-based birth, there is no standby staff at the nurses’ station. There’s not even a nurses’ station!
Enter the specially trained Wichita Falls Birth & Wellness Center Birth Assistant. She has had experience in unmedicated birth, usually as a doula, she follows the midwifery philosophy of birth not being a medical event but a family event. She is a specialist at normal, physiological birth. She is trained to help the midwives watch for signs of problems while helping to monitor mom and baby throughout the labor and postpartum process.
Birth assistants help with the following:
- Obtaining vital signs on mom and baby at the appropriate intervals
- Helping the client and her support people with anything they need to be comfortable
- Labor support tips
- Non-clinical tasks such as filling the birth tub, steeping herbs for the herbal bath
- Reassuring and helping the partner
- Charting for the midwife
- Assisting the mom to the bathroom for the first time postpartum
- Education for the family prior to going home with baby
- Assistance with pictures and hoisting the flag outside
- Checking the baby’s car seat prior to departure
- Cleaning and laundry
- Resetting the room after a birth
- If there is a transfer over to the hospital, the birth assistant will help the family transition to the hospital while the midwife is printing records and calling the hospital.
- In an emergency, she is trained to help resuscitate a baby who needs help breathing (she is NRP certified) assist the midwife in procedures to resolve the problem (position changes,starting an IV, preparing injections)
In a community-based birth setting, it’s very rare for your team to change shifts (we don’t even have shifts) during your care. Since birth can indeed be unpredictable, your team could be with you for over a day if you have a long labor. In order to stay fresh and safe, the midwife may need to rest in a nearby room. The birth assistant can keep her eyes on you and alert the
midwife with any problems.
The midwife doesn’t know if she is going to have another mom call in labor while you’re pushing so it’s important for her to delegate tasks to her team so she has energy for all the moms and babies she may see that day. Her clinic day may be full or may have one mom who is having issues and can’t be rescheduled. The birth assistant(s) can stay near the birth suites while the midwife tends to the clinic task(s). If needed, the midwife can be summoned quickly.
Birth assistants are a critical asset during an emergency, and there are usually two present during a birth. Our birth assistants train quarterly for emergencies and are ready to help resolve a shoulder dystocia, fill a syringe and give an injection for a postpartum hemorrhage, and provide extra help through any emergent situation.
We know it can be uncomfortable for some moms to have strangers present at their birth. Periodically we have a brief event called Meet the Birth Assistant to allow any families who want to meet the team to have access to our little team. There are only 3-4 birth assistants and all of them bring a calmness and peace into the birth room. We think you’ll love them as much as we do-this part is quite predictable.