With the rates of maternal mortality in the United States rising, clinicians are looking for ways to save mothers’ lives and reduce complications. One way is to reduce the incidences of Cesarean births, and a campaign called Team Birth Project looks to do just that.
In 2013, two women died after they had Cesarean births at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth Massachusetts. There was an intensive investigation, according to officials and doctors familiar with the cases, and though there was no evidence of any substandard care, the deaths of the mothers shook the hospital staff up. That’s how Dr. Neel Shah’s Team Birth Project came to be.
Team Birth Project is a pilot program that was created to improve both maternal and infant health rates, with one of its main goals to reduce C-section rates. The U.S. average for C-section deliveries is 25.7%, as of 2016. Team Birth Project’s goal is below 23.9% of first-time, low-risk moms to deliver via C-Section. Recognizing some situations do require the delivery method to save the life of the mother or baby, they also recognize that elective C-sections, or ones that come from little extra effort or birth plan change to have a vaginal delivery bring about too many risks.
Dr. Neel Shah is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs. He and his team members work with hospitals across the country to reduce what he calls an ‘epidemic of avoidable C-sections.’
Team Birth Project’s purpose in collaborating with all the parties involved in childbirth is a focus on reducing the ‘gray area’ of childbirth. Experts with the program call this the place where wants of family members are taken into consideration as they weigh the gravity of the situation with delivery, in an effort to allow the entire team to do what’s best for mother and baby.
Parts of the key components of Team Birth Project are fairly basic when analyzed. Mothers are not admitted to the hospital until they are in active labor, and mothers bring their preferences with them to share how they’d like their births to go. The preferences are noted on a whiteboard for all to see, and as a reminder for all to know no only goals but expectations for the birth.
One category of the three that address the progression of labor is the Next Assessment category. Often, mothers and their partners are not exactly sure of what is coming next, or anticipated to come, from both labor and the medical staff, and this whiteboard guarantees that mothers feel empowered and not as if medical professions are holding all the cards. The purpose of Team Birth Project is to make mothers and their partners feel equal parts of the birthing team.
The Team Birth Project Pilot began at South Shore this April. It is also being piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and in Kirkland and Redmond, Washington.
South Shore’s four-month progress has been quite encouraging. In just four months, the C-Section rate has dropped from 31% to 27% and that’s at least four fewer C-section deliveries a month.
Dr. Kim Dever chairs the OB-GYN department at South Shore and says that communication during birth is key. Communication allows mothers to have more informed and more comfortable birth experiences, but could also be life-saving for mother and/or child.
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