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Published December 08, 2012, 09:23 AM

Oh, baby: Births set record in Jamestown

JAMESTOWN - Jamestown Regional Medical Center’s baby boom is in full swing this year, with 340 births there in 2012 already, and another 30 bundles of joy expected by the end of the year.

By: Kari Lucin, Forum Communications, INFORUM

JAMESTOWN - Jamestown Regional Medical Center’s baby boom is in full swing this year, with 340 births there in 2012 already, and another 30 bundles of joy expected by the end of the year.

That’s a record, according to Emily Woodley, JRMC’s Family BirthPlace manager.

“People are just having bigger families,” she said, noting that JRMC saw fewer than 300 births last year.

For example, two of the new moms at the Family BirthPlace on Wednesday already had quite a bit of mothering under their belts.

Emily Houmann’s tiny daughter Freya was her fifth child, and fellow new mom Janine Homola’s expressive son Trent was her 11th.

Part of the reason for increased numbers could be the closure of other obstetrics units in the region.

“We do the baby well-checks after they deliver. We still do that,” said Brenda Rask, vice president of operations at the Carrington Health Center.

Carrington stopped delivering babies in 2005, when deliveries were at about 30 per year. Rask said some patients are going to Bismarck to deliver, and some are heading to Jamestown.

Oakes Community Hospital stopped delivering babies on July 1, 2009, said Kim Ketterling, its chief nursing officer. Their birth-count had gone down to about 50 a year, she estimated.

Mercy Hospital in Valley City was doing about 35 births a year before it officially closed its obstetrics unit in January 2009, said Keith Heuser, the hospital’s administrator.

If the birth rate remained the same, that adds up to about 115 babies a year that have to be born somewhere else. And at least some of those births are happening in Jamestown.

“I don’t know if the new hospital has attracted some people as well,” Woodley said.

The hospital’s new birthplace facilities include pull-out beds for families and warm décor resembling a hotel room rather than a hospital room. Plus, people can do their pre-delivery doctoring with their physicians and then have the delivery in Jamestown, which means less travel time.

The Oil Patch, too, might be a factor in the baby boom. Some people are working in the oil fields but living in Jamestown, leaving their spouses here full time.

Woodley is seeing some trends in the new mothers, beyond their larger families.

Generally, they are a little older than mothers have been in the past, having waited until they had careers to have children.

The rate of cesarean sections hasn’t increased at all — it’s still less than 30 percent. And about 65 percent of the mothers do get epidurals to help control their pain.

A capacity for babies

Whatever the cause, all the babies are filling up the Family BirthPlace, which has seven rooms. Several times, though, there have been eight babies at the JRMC, with the BirthPlace expanding into the patient care unit as needed.

“We couldn’t have eight babies all the time,” Woodley said, but often a baby and mom will leave in the morning and a mom in labor will turn up later in the day.

The Family BirthPlace has nine bassinets, but even that offers some wiggle room — twins can stay together.

There are also two exam rooms medical teams use to assess whether women are in labor or not, and those rooms, too, can be used for delivery.

Staff has been added to help out. Two unit clerks have been helping with the workload ever since the summer, which allows nurses to spend more time on the floor with patients.

“We do now have an extra staff member on call on weekends,” Woodley added.

New technology has also been enlisted in service of patient care — central fetal monitor units allow hospital staff to monitor patients who are in labor from the desk, and the helipad is available if patients need to be transferred to other facilities.

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